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Free agency fits: 41-50

Can we find some good mid-tier free agents for the Giants?

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants

A few days ago I consulted players 46-50 on Fangraphs’ list of free agents, to try and find some good options for the San Francisco Giants.

But I was in true offseason form, and did so before Fangraphs updated their list, and the players I wrote about are no longer in the top 50.

So it’s time to start over, and with the offseason already underway, I’m going to take these 10 at a time because players are going to start signing. So here are free agents 41-50 on Fangraphs list, sorted by projected Wins Above Replacement for the upcoming season.

A refresher:

  1. I am listing each player’s 2019 fWAR, 2020 fWAR, and projected 2021 fWAR. To make those numbers more meaningful, I am multiplying the 2020 fWAR by 2.7, so that it approximates a full season. This should be taken with a grain of salt of course, but it makes it easier to contextualize their production in 2020.
  2. I am listing the Giants interest on a scale of 1 to 10, but it’s worth noting the obvious, which is that the Giants are competing with 29 other teams to sign these players. So if I list a player as a “10” on the Giants interest level, that doesn’t mean the Giants will sign them, just that the Giants will want to sign them.
  3. The listed age for each player is the age that they will be when the Giants season starts on April 1.

50 — Marwin Gonzalez (UTIL)

Age: 32
Team: Twins
2020 stats: 199 PA, .606 OPS, 5 HR, 17 BB, 41 K
2019 WAR: 1.4
2020 WAR: 0.5
2021 WAR: 0.9
Giants interest: 8, with a caveat

Gonzalez projects as the perfect Minor League contract for the Giants. He’s a switch-hitter who, in the last three years, has played at every position except catcher and pitcher. He has, in the past, been a very good hitter, although that sample size is all of one season.

They will want no part of a Major League contract. But a Minor League contract to see if they can fix the swing and potentially have a mid-power bat who can hit from both sides and play anywhere? Yep, that fits the Giants philosophy.

49 — Asdrubal Cabrera (INF)

Age: 35
Team: Nationals
2020 stats: 213 PA, .753 OPS, 8 HR, 19 BB, 40 K
2019 WAR: 1.9
2020 WAR: 0.0
2021 WAR: 0.9
Giants interest: 6

At this point Cabrera is mostly just a corner infielder. But the Giants are kind of lacking those. They’ve got Brandon Belt at first and Evan Longoria at third, and with the Pablo Sandoval and Justin Smoak experiments not working, they don’t really have much of a backup option at either position.

Someone who can play third and hit from the left side seems to be a clear target for the offseason. On the flip side, 35-year olds aren’t the ideal fit for retooling teams.

48 — Rich Hill (LHP starter)

Age: 41
Team: Twins
2020 stats: 38.2 IP, 3.99 FIP, 17 BB, 31 K
2019 WAR: 0.9
2020 WAR: 1.9
2021 WAR: 0.9
Giants interest: 4

A good and likely affordable left-handed starter is highly intriguing. A 41-year old with injury issues? Less so.

47 — Brad Miller (INF)

Age: 31
Team: Cardinals
2020 stats: 171 PA, .807 OPS, 7 HR, 25 BB, 46 K
2019 WAR: 1.2
2020 WAR: 2.2
2021 WAR: 0.9
Giants interest: 8

Now we’re getting somewhere. Miller is not a good defensive player, but he can play anywhere in the infield, and he’s left-handed. If the Giants think last year’s 14.6% walk rate is sustainable, they’ll be all kinds of interested.

46 — Alex Avila (C)

Age: 34
Team: Twins
2020 Stats: 62 PA, .641 OPS, 1 HR, 11 BB, 22 K
2019 WAR: 1.3
2020 WAR: 0.5
2021 WAR: 1.0
Giants interest: 7.5

Farhan Zaidi has already said that the Giants will explore catchers in free agency, and if they do decide that they want someone more established than Joey Bart, Chadwick Tromp, or Aramis Garcia to backup Buster Posey, then Avila is a pretty perfect option.

He’s left-handed, extremely strong defensively, and for his career has walked almost half as many times as he’s struck out.

45 — C.J. Cron (1B)

Age: 31
Team: Tigers
2020 stats: 42 PA, .894 OPS, 4 HR, 9 BB, 16 K
2019 WAR: 0.3
2020 WAR: 0.8
2021 WAR: 1.0
Giants interest: 2

Cron is a solidly above-average bat, but he also doesn’t represent anything the Giants need. In his seven years at the MLB level he’s never played a position in the field other than first base. In 2020 Brandon Belt proved he should be playing every day, and Wilmer Flores proved he should be playing every time a lefty is on the mound.

A right-handed hitter who can only play first is quite possibly the thing the Giants least need right now.

44 — Jake Lamb (INF)

Age: 30
Team: A’s
2020 stats: 99 PA, .635 OPS, 3 HR, 8 BB, 25 K
2019 WAR: 0.0
2020 WAR: -0.3
2021 WAR: 1.0
Giants interest: 6

I am 100% in favor of the Giants signing Jake Lamb just so they don’t have to play against Jake Lamb. Even if they don’t want to play him, just match whatever contract offers he gets, throw in a lease on an island home, and send him on his way.

Lamb feasts on the Giants, and I’m not going to look up the stats because I’m afraid I’ll find out that the narrative exists solely in my head and I’m not yet ready to part with it.

More importantly, he’s a lefty who can play third base and the Giants need one of those. He’s a high power option who has struggled in recent years. Could be worth a flyer.

43 — Mike Leake (RHP starter)

Age: 33
Team: Diamondbacks
2020 stats: Did not play (opted out of season)
2019 WAR: 1.0
2020 WAR: N/A
2021 WAR: 1.1
Giants interest: 3

Oh hey, look at this former Giant! Leake is a decent but wholly uninteresting option, and I don’t particularly expect the Giants to have interest. I can’t quite say why, other than I don’t want them to.

42 — Liam Hendriks (RHP reliever)

Age: 32
Team: A’s
2020 stats: 25.1 IP, 1.14 FIP, 3 BB, 37 K
2019 WAR: 3.9
2020 WAR: 3.8
2021 WAR: 1.1
Giants interest: 4.5

This one is entirely context-dependent. If we’re judging the Giants interest in Hendriks’ skill, then it’s 10 out of ... /glances at Sam Coonrod ... uhh, 11 out of 10.

That said, in the last two years Hendriks has been worth 5.3 WAR in just 110.1 innings. He’s been more valuable than the average number two starter, despite coming out of the bullpen. Even in a depressed market, I doubt that what Hendrik’s commands and what the Giants are willing to pay for a reliever are all that close.

41 — Tyler Flowers (C)

Age: 35
Team: Braves
2020 stats: 80 PA, .673 OPS, 1 HR, 8 BB, 34 K
2019 WAR: 2.4
2020 WAR: 1.1
2021 WAR: 1.1
Giants interest: 4

Flowers is similar to Hendriks in terms of the Giants interest. An offensively competent catcher who provides tremendous defense? The Giants would love to pair that with Posey. But will he be available at a price they’re willing to match for a backup while one of their top prospects knocks on the door? Doubtful.