I don't know why we're all so weird about this. The Giants were never favorites to sign Zack Greinke. They weren't favorites in 2014, when the opt-out clause was but a glimmer in his eye. They weren't favorites two months ago, when he filed for free agency. They weren't favorites on Friday, when Greinke decided to spend the next half-decade in a sand-swept underworld. The Giants were fighting against the richest team in the world, and they were also fighting against a mystery team on bath salts. Jeff Samardzija was always a more likely target.
You can call the Giants cheap. You can call them pragmatic. I'm going with frustragmatic, myself. The Giants put a price on their targets, and they don't get that December 23rd look in their eyes when the bidding gets outlandish. It's admirable. It's frustrating. And next year if they lose the division by a game, we might have other words for it. But it's not an incompetent or unreasonable organizational philosophy.
It's just frustragmatic.
Fine, so the Giants are in the market for another pitcher. Or an outfielder. Maybe both. What can they spend?
First, we'll update the payroll, noting that Samardzija's deal is backloaded just a bit.
|Matt Cain||$21 million|
Now, this is just raw salary. The exact calculation for luxury-tax purposes is fairly byzantine, using the average annual value of the deal, including bonuses, as well as benefits and other things that aren't usually included in what fans consider "payroll." Players like Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo actually count less toward the luxury tax this year than that table would indicate because their contracts are backloaded, but Samardzija, Brandon Crawford, and Buster Posey would count more because of their signing bonuses and AAV.
Considering the Giants aren't completely against going over the tax, I think it's safe to use the $148.5 million in current commitments as a rough estimate, and the $189 million limit before the tax as a soft cap.
That all means the Giants probably have something like $30 million to spend, even after Samardzija. That's assuming they fill their bench with players making the minimum, or close to it. The difference between the raw payroll and the cap is $40.5 million, but let's round down to $30 million and account for the bonuses, benefits, and backloaded deals, just to be safe.
You can buy some nice players for $30 million. Say, like ...
Kenta Maeda and Gerardo Parra
Now that we know Maeda is going to be posted by the Hiroshima Carp, allow me to mention him every five seconds until you get sick of him. He's a teammate of Nate Schierholtz, you know, so by the transitive property, he's basically a Giant already. He is my white whale, now, and I'm desperately hoping the Giants can sign him.
Parra is a stand-in for whichever sub-$10 million outfielder you prefer, a pool that includes Mac Williamson or Jarrett Parker.
Ben Zobrist and Doug Fister
This isn't just pie-in-the-sky wishing. There are actual rumors.
Sources: Zobrist scheduled to visit #SFGiants. Remains high on priority list.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2015
Zobrist would play left, mostly, but he would allow the Giants to take it easy and rest Joe Panik at second every so often. Zobrist is a high-OBP switch-hitter with incredible versatility and no platoon splits, and he would make a deep lineup even better. The last couple years of his deal would probably be a Scutaro-like drag, but we're worried about 2016 around here, mostly.
Which is why Zack Greinke, sweet Greinke, was such a beautiful dream.
Forward! We must move forward! And an offseason with Zobrist/Fister/Samardzija would represent a lot of risk, but plenty of upside.
Justin Upton and Bartolo Colon
Dingers! And relative youth, at least with Upton. There's an argument to be made that Upton is overrated, considering his lackluster defense, but he's young and still filled with potential. The Giants would take another risk in the rotation, but they'd plan on outscoring their opponents in this strategy.
I like dingers. But I also like defense. So maybe they could do ...
Alex Gordon and (younger pitcher acquired in trade)
They would certainly save money with Gordon over Upton, even if Gordon is older. The younger pitcher acquired in trade is a nebulous concept, but let's assume it's something like what the Blue Jays did to get Jesse Chavez. Maybe the Braves and Giants really could match up for Julio Teheran, who's an interesting buy-low candidate.
Jason Heyward and Chris Heston
Oh, maybe the Giants could afford a Colon/Fister type, too, but if they're paying Heyward the salary he'll likely oh my god I shouldn't put those two pitchers next to each other like that, hold on.
Oh, maybe the Giants could afford a pitcher like Bartolo Colon, or former Nationals pitcher Douglas W. Fister, but if they're paying Heyward the salary he'll likely command, that would probably end the offseason.
I could get used to that being the offseason.
What the Giants probably can't do, at least if they want to stay under the luxury tax, is sign one of the premium left fielders (Gordon, Zobrist, Upton, Yoenis Cespedes) and someone else from the second tier of pitchers, like Wei-Yin Chen, Yovani Gallardo, or Mike Leake. Really, a combination of Chen and Gordon would probably be worth going over the tax, but that's coming from someone who isn't expecting a dividend check from the Giants next year.
Indeed. Either way, the Giants still have some interesting options. They can still add to an already-strong lineup, and they can still add another pitcher.
The Giants are frustragmatic when it comes to getting the top free agents, but they still have me cautiomistic about the rest of the offseason. Bring me Maeda and Zobrist, please. Bring them right here and let them hold up some jerseys for the cameras.