Evan Longoria Trade a Good Start, But Shouldn’t Be the End for Retooling Giants
Option number one is without question unrestricted free agent J.D. Martinez. The Giants are going to have to open up their wallet if they want to lure Martinez to the Bay Area, facing stiff competition from a number of potential suitors including the Boston Red Sox. Then again, the Giants were apparently prepared to open up their wallet and take on the bulk of Stanton’s mega-deal, and signing Martinez as a free agent would also allow them to keep their prospects.
As lovable of a character as Hunter Pence is, it has become clear over the past couple seasons that he isn’t going to cut it in right field any longer. Pence’s bat has regressed significantly with age and so too has his health – once considered to be among the most durable outfielders in baseball in his prime, Pence has been placed on an alarming seven DL stints over the past three seasons due to injury. Now, the Giants should most definitely keep Pence around as a mentor for younger players and a consummate professional who epitomizes what the Giants organization is all about – he can still bring his abundance of positive energy to the clubhouse in a bench or platoon role – but it appears as though his days as an everyday player are over.
If unsuccessful in pursuing Martinez, the Giants could dive back into the trade market and look at a comparable bat in Domingo Santana of the Milwaukee Brewers. Santana is both younger and cheaper than Martinez, and is coming off of a breakout season with the Brew Crew. Given that Santana is just hitting his prime at 25 years of age, the Brewers would not cough him up for cheap, but the Giants surely wouldn’t need to give up as much as they were prepared to give for Stanton.
Santana slashed an impressive .278/.371/.505 with 30 homers and 85 RBI a season ago, while also walking 73 times and stealing 15 bases for the Brewers. This type of consistent production would be a welcome addition to the Giants outfield, but the possibility exists that Santana has yet to hit his ceiling. Despite the home run-depressing nature of AT&T Park, Santana would have a chance to take another step forward at the plate insulated by the likes of Longoria and Buster Posey.
The Giants could also get back on the phone with the Marlins and attempt to work out a deal for Christian Yelich, who is reportedly the latest Marlin to hit the chopping block. Like Santana, Yelich is relatively young and cheap, but the asking price from Derek Jeter and company is likely to be steep as a result. Good young players tied down on team-friendly contracts don’t hit the trade market all that often, after all.
An appealing aspect of Yelich is that he boasts a rare combination of speed, power, and versatility thanks to his ability to play gold glove caliber defense at all three outfield positions. That combined with his steady offensive output at the dish make him an extremely valuable all-around contributor. Yelich is probably a long shot, but the Giants would be well advised to stay up to date with the Marlins plans for the Thousand Oaks, California native.
Another intriguing possibility that has come up a handful of times over the past month or so has been Cincinnati Reds speedster Billy Hamilton. Hamilton has made slow but steady progress at the plate in recent years, but he doesn’t need to be the most fundamentally sound hitter to make an impact. Hamilton puts pressure on the defense every time he puts the ball in play, while shrinking the outfield gaps thanks to his speed patrolling center field. That latter trait is especially appealing for a club that calls AT&T Park home.
At 27 years of age, Hamilton is another player on the verge of his prime years, which is especially important for a center fielder that relies on speed. Given the work he has put into his swing and approach at the plate, Hamilton would have a chance to use his wheels to wreak havoc atop the order. He might even force the Giants to rename ‘Triples Alley’ in right-center to ‘Inside the Park Home Run Alley’. Worth a thought, at least.
The Giants are Retooling, Not Rebuilding
Ultimately, the Giants hopes for a resurgence in 2018 is going to come down to two factors. Number one is the impact made by their prospects as the organization attempts to integrate some youth into the big league roster. With Moore being shipped to Texas, the 24-year-old Beede will have a chance to crack the starting rotation in the spring, competing with Chris Stratton and Ty Blach for the final two rotation spots. Shaw will likely start the campaign in Triple-A, but a productive first half could see him be a mid-season call-up to play first base or one of the corner outfield spots. Meanwhile, Austin Slater will have an opportunity to earn an every day spot in the outfield with a good spring.
But despite the need for a boost from their youth, it’s unrealistic to expect prospects to turn the ship around on their own. That means that the remainder of the winter has to be a productive one for Sabean and Evans, bringing in at least one or two more established, impact players at the major league level. Ideally, this would include a power bat to the tune of Martinez or Santana and a speedster like Hamilton, but there are plenty of options on the table.
The Giants have made it abundantly clear that they are retooling, not rebuilding this off-season. In order to do that successfully, they can’t go half way in between. That means Sabean and Evans must commit to aggressively pursuing bona-fide everyday players that will make improvements to their club. Otherwise, it makes little sense to go the retooling route, and instead focusing on a complete tear-down would be the better option for the franchise’s long term prospects. For now, however, the Giants brass are locked in on a retool, which suggests that the rest of the off-season should be an eventful one in the Bay Area.
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