On New Year’s Eve, I wondered if the Giants signing Yasiel Puig this offseason was inevitable. My conclusion?
So, while this would seem like a decent move in a lot of ways, it’s not a perfect fit. But then again, we don’t really know what the Giants deem to be a perfect fit these days, and when it comes down to the 2020 season, throwing warm bodies on the field who have a vague idea of what they’re doing might be the only goal.
Happy New Year!
Ever since FanGraphs published the Giants’ ZiPS projection for 2020, the Giants have made moves that, on paper, look very much like minor transactions that can add a win or two to the team’s projected win total.
Not suggesting that the Giants saw that go up and felt pressured to make these moves, but it’s a fine coincidence that since we learned that one of the more accurate public projection systems showed the team going 71-91, they’ve added reigning AL second base Gold Glove winner Yolmer Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Nick Vincent, Brandon Guyer, Wilmer Flores, Hunter Pence (still not confirmed, but seems very likely); and now, they look to be in pursuit of Puig.
Sources: #SFGiants have interest in free-agent outfielder Yasiel Puig. Familiarity with Farhan Zaidi from their together time in LA.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) February 7, 2020
Interest doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, but let’s assume that it’s a lot closer to reality than a rumor. For one thing, they’re a decent match: the Giants’ outfield can use the upgrade. And then there’s the fact that both Zaidi and Kapler know what they’re getting in him, having managed him in Los Angeles.
And “managed” is all you can really do with him. He’s a bull in a china shop, after all. A 29-year old who will never stop being nine. I’m not really a fan of his energy and don’t think he’s one of those cases where “if he’s on your team, that stuff won’t bother you”. He plays with energy, though, and that’s undeniable.
Since the second half of 2016, the Giants have played like ash from a spilled urn. They’ve been less than lifeless, and I can appreciate Farhan Zaidi’s year of review determining that beyond all the contentment that comes with unbelievable success and players coasting on generational wealth-affirming contracts the organizational culture needs a jolt.
It’s probably still not a 100% certainty for, as Kerry Crowley notes:
When Zaidi met with reporters on Thursday, the discussion focused on finding platoon players that fit on the margins of the roster.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) February 7, 2020
Puig has reverse splits and is likely still looking for a guaranteed deal. Giants might do it, but I’d think a Pence reunion is a bit more likely. https://t.co/Y9BHCBUapE
But in that case I’d say it’s more likely that Pence receives a non-roster invite while Puig gets the guaranteed deal. His projection has him closer to a 2-win player. Pence is probably somewhere between replacement-level and one win. Wilmer Flores received a 2-year guarantee and he’s projected to be a 1+-win type.
The Giants kinda need Puig. Let’s go back to that 71.1-win ZiPS projection. Farhan Zaidi believes that the absolute worst possible win total for a team that follows “sound sabermetric principles” is 75. Why would the Giants even bother to win 75 games?
There are a lot of obvious and some non-obvious reasons for that. They can’t out-tank the Tigers, for instance, and there’s still a decent bulk of average-ish talent on the roster. Ownership won’t allow them to lose 140 games or whatever it’ll take to secure the #1 pick, either. And then there’s the possibility that Farhan Zaidi doesn’t believe in the full tank scenario and that a team can rebuild in other ways. One of those ways could very well be simply establishing sound sabermetric principles across the organization.
Let’s look at the list of players the Giants have added recently with their WAR projection:
- Yolmer Sanchez (0.5)
- Pablo Sandoval (0.1)
- Nick Vincent (0.4)
- Brandon Guyer (-0.1)
- Wilmer Flores (1.2)
- Hunter Pence (0.1)
There isn’t a ZiPS projection for Pence right now, so I’m rounding down to what his Steamer projection says, but ZiPS probably won’t be anymore bullish on him given his 2017 and 2018 and age. Taken together, that’s still a gain of +2.3 to the win total, with a chance to be greater. For example, Yolmer Sanchez’s last three seasons are a combined 5 fWAR (just +1 win last year, though) and he won’t turn 28 until June.
Meanwhile, Puig has a +2.1-win projection, and so adding him to this bunch gets the Giants to 75.5.
What does that mean for the other outfielders like Jaylin Davis, Chris Shaw, Mauricio Dubon, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater? Probably not much. Davis, Shaw, and Dubon figure to be riding their options back and forth all year long unless they each take a step forward. Yastrzemski and Slater could follow them, too. There’s enough uncertainty in that pool that adding a little certainty to the mix couldn’t hurt.
The Giants would also add an extra trade piece to the roster. Puig was involved in that three-team Trevor Bauer deal last July. That was a top-line deal wherein Cleveland gave up Trevor Bauer for Puig (although they also sent top prospect Taylor Trammell to San Diego, too). The Giants wouldn’t need to get someone quite that good — and commensurately, give up a prospect of Trammel’s ilk along with Puig — to make a sign-and-flip worth it.
Still, that means rooting for a player to be good for the team in hopes of getting prospects who probably won’t pan out. Will it be worth having him in a Giants uniform for a few months for the 10% chance of acquiring a prospect who could be a 2-win player in a few years?
Then again, maybe there is a silent majority of Giants fans who would be thrilled to have Yasiel Puig on the team.
Yasiel Puig high-fiving Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval after a three-run homer against Madison Bumgarner, as the background of the simulation flickers briefly and the scoreboard flashes your dad's career statistics— Grant Brisbee (@GrantBrisbee) February 7, 2020
Hmmm, you know what? Let me undo my tie and unbutton this collar and really loosen up a bit. If we can’t watch a competitive team this year or next, then maybe we should just . . . root for chaos.