The headline isn't provocative or daring. It's pretty danged obvious. Angel Pagan will be 35 next year, and he's likely to leave after the season. Not only that, but there's at least a fair chance that he breaks down or repeats his 2015 season. The Giants need a center field contingency plan for center like they do for no other position, and it's not even close.
For 2015, the Giants have that contingency plan. It's the same contingency plan they've had for the last four seasons. Inside a manila envelope, locked in a glass case, the name "GREGOR BLANCO" is written in 40-point font. Every year, Bruce Bochy grumbles something, gets up, and shatters the glass. It's a fun annual tradition! Assuming the Giants get another outfielder, this plan will remain unchanged.
But if you're wondering why the Giants might prefer Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, or maybe even Yoenis Cespedes for their final offseason acquisition, consider the Giants' options in 2016 for center. It's not an appealing group of options, and let's dig into the particulars.
Next year's free agents are a gloomy bunch
The best CF free agents after the 2016 season, a power ranking:
- Carlos Gomez
- Colby Rasmus
- Gregor Blanco
- Peter Bourjos?
- Michael Bourn or something
- Jon Jay
- Cameron Maybin
- Alejandro De Aza
- Rajai Davis
- Angel Pagan
- Aaaand we're done here
Gomez would be entertaining. So entertaining. But he might get a lousy, six-year deal for too much money, and he'll be 31. That's not exactly the kind of player the Giants should plan their offseason around, and that's assuming Gomez would want anything to do with the Giants, or vice versa.
After that, Blanco is probably the most reasonable option and best fit. He's been great, but that can't possibly make your transaction gland tingle.
There isn't anyone coming up from the farm
Even if Jarrett Parker overcomes historically long odds and becomes a productive hitter despite his contact struggles, he's probably not the kind of defensive center fielder the Giants would want chasing balls into Triples Alley. They've been fine with Pagan for the last few years, so they might not be opposed to another offense-first center fielder, but it's not wise to assume that role will be filled by a 27-year-old right fielder, especially one who would almost certainly break the 200-strikeout barrier in a full-time role.
Mac Williamson hasn't even played an inning of center in the minors, so he's out. Kelby Tomlinson's outfield adventures in instructional league apparently weren't encouraging, so he's out. Let's check in with Roster Resource to see the Giants' minor league depth chart in center.
I ... I don't know who that is.
An intriguing bucket of tools! Who is very young and most certainly won't be ready.
Same. That doesn't mean that one of these players won't explode and force his way into the lineup. We watched Pablo Sandoval rise from Class-A to the majors after not making Baseball America's top-30 list, after all. But it's not something the Giants should expect.
We don't know what a year of baseball will bring, of course. The Pirates could lose 100 games next year and panic-trade Andrew McCutchen before he's a free agent. The Red Sox might trade one of their 30 different outfielders. Maybe there's a brilliant Japanese or Cuban centerfielder that we're ignoring.
But if you're wondering why the Giants might be interested in Denard Span, even though he seems like a bad mix of Scott Boras, injury concerns, and Blanco redundancy, this is why. We already knew that next year was going to be a nightmare for teams looking for starting pitching, and that's one of the reasons why the Giants spent $220 million on pitching this offseason. It's not much different for centerfielders, though.
The Giants know this, of course. We should probably wait for the eventual Span or Fowler signing. It makes sense for next season, but it might make even more sense for the seasons after that.