The Giants have about $3 million or $4 million to spend on the rest of their roster. That roster looks like this:
C - Buster Posey
1B - Brandon Belt
2B - Joe Panik
SS - Brandon Crawford
3B - Evan Longoria
LF - Hunter Pence
CF - ???
RF - Andrew McCutchen
C - Nick Hundley
INF - Pablo Sandoval
INF - Kelby Tomlinson
OF - Austin Slater (or other)
OF - Gorkys Hernandez (or other)
SP - Madison Bumgarner
SP - Johnny Cueto
SP - Jeff Samardzija
SP - Chris Stratton
SP - ???
RP - Mark Melancon
RP - Sam Dyson
RP - Hunter Strickland
RP - Cory Gearrin
RP - Will Smith
RP - Derek Law (or other)
RP - ???
As of right now, the fifth starter would probably be Andrew Suarez or Ty Blach, and the last reliever would be the loser of that competition, although we all know that spring is when we read someone’s name like Todd Wellemeyer for the first time and get used to the idea over several weeks that he’s the favorite for the job.
But we have 22 spots secured and three spots open. They can all be filled with in-house options, but the Giants would like to spend at least $2 million to get read of some of those dastardly ???s. Do the Giants even know what they’ll do if they can’t find an agreeable deal for a starting center fielder?
They do! Bobby Evans confirmed it in an interview with Gary and Larry on KNBR on Wednesday.
“It wouldn’t be a guess, it would be Steven Duggar,” Evans said, when asked if he could make an educated guess about who would man the middle of the outfield if San Francisco didn’t add another player to its roster this offseason.
It’s possible to make a list of things that went wrong with the 2017 Giants that’s 100 deep before you get to Duggar getting hurt, but that’s on the short list of things that went wrong with the 2017 that are also affecting 2018. With a little better luck last year, Duggar could have received 200 at-bats and come into the season as the clear favorite. Or he could have at least wowed everyone with his glove and made us all feel less nervous about him being the offseason’s backup plan.
As it stands, though, he’s something of a mystery. He has a career .384 on-base percentage in the minors, but he’s played just 13 games above Double-A. Steamer projects him to hit .242/.315/.351, which isn’t ideal, but also not dreadful. It’s the kind of projected line that can make a team think it could do better.
Still, if the internal evaluations have Duggar as a plus-plus defender — not just a “yeah, sure, okay” defender, like Gorkys Hernandez — it wouldn’t be wacky to throw him into the fire. The Giants aren’t going to get a plus-plus defender who can hit if they want to stay under the luxury tax threshold, which means they aren’t going to get a plus-plus defender who can hit. If that’s already a foregone conclusion, and if they think Duggar can be that kind of defender, shouldn’t they just save the money? There’s at least a chance he can hit, after all.
This brings us to a larger point that probably deserves its own article: It’s possible the Giants would be better off spending money on a fifth starter than a stopgap center fielder. The Blach/Beede/Suarez trio with Jarrod Dyson makes me just as nervous as, say, Duggar and Chris Tillman. There are a lot of half-decent starting pitchers looking for work right now, and if the Giants can get one of them and stay under the luxury tax, they just might be a better team.
The idea would be to figure out if the difference between a name-brand fifth starter like Trevor Cahill and a will-work-for-exposure fifth starter like A.J. Griffin would be greater than the difference between Dyson and Duggar. This is the kind of conversation the Giants’ front office is having right now, and don’t be surprised if they come down on the side of the fifth starter.
It all depends on how good Duggar is, I suppose, and if the Giants would be patient with him through a slow spring training. But if you’re wondering what the team’s plan would be if Jarrod Dyson, et al go somewhere else, we already know that. It would be Steven Duggar. Depending on who would take the additional payroll room, this might be a good thing.