In almost any other winter, Giants fans would riot at the notion of a $62 million closer being the entire offseason. That’s it? A pitcher who throws an inning every other game? Seems a little light. Seems a little lazy.
That’s because in any other winter, the question, “Oh, so the only thing wrong with last year’s team was they didn’t have a good closer?” usually can’t be answered with a wide-eyed, tearful nod. If the Giants had a merely decent closer last year, they might have won the NL West. That’s not a contentious argument. So, yeah, that was the priority. Another season like last year would have made us give up and watch the 49ers, if you could imagine such a thing.
At the same time, is this really it?
Seriously, though. Just a closer and nothing else. That’s ... no, really, come on, you’re just messing with us. What about the fifth starter?
Evans said Cain will get shot to win rotation job next spring. Blach is main competition for No. 5 spot.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) October 13, 2016
But you could certainly add some more relievers into the mix, right?
Evans: Core of SF bullpen is set for 2017 with Strickland, Law, Okert, Osich, Gearrin and Kontos. Said club will add nonroster competition— Chris Haft/SF Giants (@sfgiantsbeat) December 5, 2016
Uh, fine, so the focus is on left field. That’s fair.
And we’re out of obvious roster holes. Which is a good thing, considering that out of 25 roster spots, 22 of them seem to be spoken for in a mostly positive way. But there’s still the rash left by hot stove fever, and we have to scratchscratchscratch. It’s hard to believe that the Giants could walk into the offseason bazaar and leave with a single reliever.
This is your annual reminder, then, not to get hung up on the recorded words of a GM in the middle of December. The Giants might really be done. But there’s also no advantage to officially suggesting otherwise. Here, we’ll look at some different scenarios to prove this point.
Scenario #1: The Giants say what we’re all thinking
REPORTER: So any plans for the remainder of the offseason?
EVANS: Oh, we need a left fielder in the worst way. Look, Williamson and Parker might have their uses, but we really can’t wait around until July to find out if either one of them is a credible starter in this league. So we’re frantically looking at all our options. Free agents, trades ... we’re very open-minded and very, very desperate.
PRO: Makes you feel better.
CON: A GM saying that would sure suck all the confidence out of Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, both of whom will be needed in some capacity this year. And there is a realistic, reasonable scenario in which they have to be the starter. You don’t want to downplay their chances and be negative in December.
CON: This scenario also hoses the Giants when it comes to leverage. They shouldn’t rush into the Tigers Warehouse at 8:59 on Christmas Eve and start pawing through things, desperate because they know they’re in trouble if they don’t find anything. There would be price gouging in that scenario.
Let’s take a look at Dexter Fowler’s agent if he heard the Giants’ GM suggest he absolutely needed another outfielder.
PRO: Makes you feel better.
No, that’s it, that’s the only pro to this strategy.
Scenario #2: The Giants promise nothing, but keep looking
The Giants keep their mind open. They know they don’t want to trade Joe Panik and four of their best prospects for Andrew McCutchen, who just might be bad now. They know they don’t want to cough up a draft pick for Jose Bautista and give him four years, or even three. They know they don’t want to empty their entire prospect nest egg for J.D. Martinez, a free agent after next season.
They just know they’re up for something. When the offseason music stops, there might be a free agent without a chair, or a team still looking to move an outfielder. Or maybe one of these outfielders will go to a team that already has too many outfielders, and they’ll look to trade one of those other outfielders. Or maybe a team will suddenly decide to hold a fire sale that wasn’t exactly sure about it the week prior (looking at you, White Sox.)
(Not looking at you, Melky Cabrera.)
There are a lot of ways the situation can change for the Giants, and they’re listening and curious, open-minded and eager. But if nothing changes, and if they feel that Williamson/Parker is the best way for them to balance wins in 2017 with unfortunate payroll commitments in 2020, that’s a safety net they’re comfortable with.
So on the outside, they’ll be cool. What, me worry? We can take your left fielder or leave him. Yawn. No big deal. But, you know, keep us in mind.
PRO: This is the smartest way to do business.
CON: You don’t want to hear “we’re done” with several months left in the offseason.
There is no benefit to expressing a deepest, unquenchable yearning for another outfielder right now, other than to calm the fans the heck down. Which is priority #238, about 237 spots behind “building a better team.” If the offseason ends, and the Giants are still starting a pair of unknown quantities in their mid-20s, feel free to opine.
As is, don’t assume the Giants are done just because they say they are. There’s no benefit to them suggesting otherwise.