Jason Heyward wants too many years. Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton want too much money. Alex Gordon is too old, and he wants too many years and too much money. The Giants are connected to all of them, at least in the rolling seas of Twitter. They won't get any of them. You pretty much figured that out a week ago.
Even though we like to make Gerardo Parra jokes around here -- maybe I have a prewrite going, maybe I don't -- the likeliest option for the Giants is easily Dexter Fowler. He's not Zack Greinke or Heyward, and he would make for a Very Giants Christmas. But don't start screaming yet: He's pretty okay.
We'll start by gathering evidence that he's the Giants' man.
In pursuit of LFer, Giants looking at options to play CF in '17 (or even '16) -- one year left on Pagan contract.— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) December 8, 2015
No one considers Yoenis Cespedes to be a viable center fielder next season, much less the season after that. He's Hunter Pence with a lot of center field experience, basically -- someone you start in center only if you need to. That leaves three center fielders on the market: Denard Span, Gerardo Parra, and Dexter Fowler. Span makes sense defensively, but he's helpless against left-handed pitching and coming off a serious injury. Edit: He's actually not bad against lefties. I was thinking about Parra. Carry on! He doesn't fit a team with Gregor Blanco as the fourth outfielder. Parra doesn't fit either, though his platoon splits aren't quite as extreme.
No, it's Fowler, a switch-hitter who is stronger against left-handers, who makes the most sense for a team with Blanco and Angel Pagan. When Pagan leaves after 2016, he can slide over to center, and hopefully Mac Williamson (or Christian Arroyo) will be ready for left field. That's the ideal plan, anyway, and now that the Giants have Jeff Samardzija, they aren't going to be as worried about giving up a second-round pick for Fowler.
The only problem, see, is that he isn't much of a defensive center fielder. That's not going to get better when he's 30 next year. It's not going to get better when he's 31 the season after that. And so on. If he's looking for a three-, four-, or, yeeps, five-year deal, the odds are outstanding that he'll move from "passable" to "untenable" in center. It's frustrating because the Giants' defense would be so very, very special if they had a Kevin Pillar-type out there, and yet they would commit themselves to Angel Pagan 2.0.
A younger, healthier Pagan isn't a bad comparison, though. Fowler gets on base. He has speed and baserunning acumen. He's been a two-to-three-win player for six straight years now, and there's a chance that where he's average or worse in center, he would be super in left. That assumes the Giants continue being weird and start Pagan in center, so adjust your expectations accordingly. Fowler went to the Barry Bonds Academy before last year and set career highs in walks and home runs, and he was trending upward by the end of the season.
When you focus on what he can do, Fowler would be a nice fit for the lineup. He's just not a perfect fit for the defense, and he's certainly not the perfect fit for the offseason of raised expectations. An offseason of Samardzija, Fowler, and Ian Kennedy would be so, so reminiscent of "if we had signed Guerrero or Sheffield, we would have been without ...."
An offseason of Samardzija, Fowler, and Wei-Yin Chen and/or Kenta Maeda would be pretty okay, though. Pretty, pretty okay. So there are options below the Heyward tier and the Greinke tier that would make the Giants better, even if they don't blow out the sexy-o-meter. My biggest concern, though, is that they're looking at Fowler as a long-term solution in center. He's an underwhelming solution there right now, and there will be less whelm as the years go on.
Considering that was also true with Angel Pagan in 2012, maybe it's too easy to focus on what Fowler doesn't do well. He doesn't scare me, but I'd have to wait until the Giants do for the rest of the offseason before enthusiastically approving that kind of commitment. All I know is that is that he's the most likely solution for the Giants outfield. You can kind of feel it in your bones.