The answer to the question posed in the headline is simple: Wait for Hunter Pence to get healthy, first, then wait for Norichika Aoki to get healthy. The Giants started the season with four capable outfielders, and by the end of June, if not the middle, they should all be back.
Why have easy answers, though, when you can make things more complicated? And in this episode of McCovey Chronicles' "Rosterbation Junction", we talk about what the Giants might have to gain by acquiring another outfielder at the trade deadline. There are two camps.
Camp #1: Everything is fine. We just wish people would stop hitting our good players with baseballs
Here, you have Aoki in left with two functioning legs. Angel Pagan is in center, with a non-barky back and generally pain-free knees. Pence would be in right, with two unbroken wrists and a well-muscled thorax. Gregor Blanco resumes his hit role as an overqualified fourth outfielder, and Justin Maxwell is the solid defender and occasional dinger-monster off the bench.
The only problem with that arrangement is that other people keep hitting them with baseballs. If we could stop that, maybe lobby for a rule about that sort of thing, everything will be fine. Or maybe we could just wait and hope for the best in three or four weeks.
This was the Giants' plan before the season, and it was a very good plan. There was depth. There was quality. There was quantity.
Camp #2: Except that scenario will never, ever be real, and we have to accept it
It's a big ol' game of whack-a-mole, with one outfielder going down right when another one pops up. And within five seconds of Aoki uttering the magic words "私は健康です。", Angel Pagan will get his lips caught in a stamp machine. Depth is great, but considering that two of the three starting outfielders have missed time, their best reserve has missed time, and the only outfielder who hasn't missed time is usually the most injury-riddled of them all, the Giants should probably think of other options.
You can look at this as the "I don't trust Justin Maxwell or Travis Ishikawa in the lineup every day" camp, because when two outfielders go down, that's what happens. When one outfielder goes down the Giants are relatively set with Blanco, but acquiring another outfielder would give them the same sort of depth with Blanco that they have now when everyone's healthy.
And in the worst-case, best-case scenario -- where everyone's healthy and the Giants overreacted to a problem that was going to be resolved with time and improved health -- there would be an extra pinch-hitter on the bench to get between, say, Casey McGehee and Craig Kimbrel with the tying run on base.
Maxwell, after his hot start, is hitting .189/.218/.315 in 134 plate appearances over the last two months. Before you get offended by that skid, note that Angel Pagan has been just as lousy. The Giants wouldn't just get fourth- and fifth-outfielder insurance. They would ideally get someone who could slowly get more at-bats if Pagan doesn't break out of his slump.
The tricky part is finding exactly the right fit -- someone who can play center and hit a little, but not well enough at either that another team thinks of him as a starter. I don't know, Will Venable. Just give us Will Venable, you jerks, you're hardly even using him. Or, wait, wasn't Craig Gentry supposed to be one of the better fourth outfielders in the game? What in the world happened there, and is it worth it for the Giants to find out? And who's that fresh-faced fellow in the Phillies outfield with the OPS near .700 and a warm smile?
Oh, no. Wait. No, no, no, sorry. Focus elsewhere. Run.
More teams will trickle away from contention before the deadline, and maybe even an overqualified guy like Seth Smith will become available. That's the main point. And I'm obviously in the second camp. We have beans, here. Coffee, if you want it. But it's time to stop wondering when everyone is going to be healthy and start assuming that there's a little Murphy's Law at work with the Giants' outfield.
I'm not expecting much -- just the Marco Scutaro of 2015, in fifth-outfielder form. There's no sense in getting greedy.