It's no secret that the Giants struggle when it comes to signing free agents. The team has drafted and signed some elite amateur players, and acquired even more talent via trade, but free agency has more often than not been a swing and a miss.
This is the 45th season since Major League Baseball began granting players free agent status (in the 1976-77 offseason), and I count 47 muti-year free agents the Giants have signed in this time. Of these 47, 12 (25.5 percent) accrued negative rWAR during their time wearing orange and black, while only six (12.8 percent) averaged at least 2.0 rWAR per season. Hopefully Tommy LaStella can reverse the trend.
But enough of the negative; I'm here to compile a roster filled with the best Giants free agent signings of the last 45 years. For starters, let me clarify some of my conditions for a "free agent signing" (and therefore who was omitted):
- The player must have accrued at least six years of MLB service time prior to the signing; minor league free agents don't count (so no Gregor Blanco or Andres Torres)
- The player must have signed a major league contract (Juan Uribe is out)
- I didn't count re-signed free agents (my apologies to Darrell Evans and Hunter Pence)
- I limited signings to two or more years (one year with a team option didn't count, but player option did) to only include deals where the team took on a risk (so no Aubrey Huff or Brett Tomko, but yes to Moises Alou)
- I only counted a player's first contract in San Francisco; if he signed a second free agent contract or extension (e.g. Barry Bonds in 1997 and Ray Durham in 2006), those numbers weren't considered
It's also worth noting that I didn't factor in contract amounts in my evaluation. For starters, it's hard to find reliable salary data from before 2000, and it was hard enough to find quality free agents without factoring in whether they may be overpaid.
So without further ado, here's my 25 man all-free agent roster for the San Francisco Giants.
|#||Pos.||Bat||Name||SF Debut||Years w/SF||OPS+||rWAR|
It certainly doesn't hurt that the greatest free agent signing of all-time is anchoring this lineup. But it also features one of the best leadoff hitters in MLB history, nine MVP awards, and six former All-Stars (or in Butler's case, a future All-Star). I even had to move a Hall of Famer off his preferred position to fit quality players.
|Pos.||Bat||Name||SF Debut||Years w/SF||OPS+||rWAR|
The drop-off after Anderson is pretty severe, as the IF options include five players (Edgardo Alfonzo, Rich Aurilia, Mark DeRosa, Edgar Renteria, and Rennie Stennett) that were below replacement level as SF free agents. I had to omit Darryl Hamilton because the OF candidates were so strong.
|#||Thr||Name||SF Debut||Years w/SF||ERA+||rWAR|
Ouch, that is painful to look at. You get a couple of All-Star seasons from Cueto and Hudson, but mostly average to below average pitching. To be fair, Cueto is the only Giants free agent (other than LaStella) who has the ability to improve his numbers in 2021.
|Pos.||Thr||Name||SF Debut||Years w/SF||ERA+||rWAR|
The numbers paint Righetti in a much worse light than I recall, especially given his long tenure with the Giants as a coach. Since the Giants have rarely given out a free agent deal to a reliever (none to non closers), it was between him and Mark Portugal for the final bullpen spot.
There are several periods where the Giants invested in free agency (1991-93, 2005, 2016-17) to capitalize on a contention window, but little activity prior to 1987. I think part of that is because the team wasn't competitive in the late 70s/early 80s, but may also have to do with poor initial results in free agency.
In 1980, the Giants signed three free agents to five year contracts: May, Stennett, and Jim Wohlford. None of them produced at a league average level, and Stennett is often referred to as one of the first "busts" of free agency. The team didn't sign another deal longer than three years until 1991.
Considering San Francisco's home stadium has always been more favorable to pitchers, and healthy pitchers tend to retain more value in their 30s, it's surprising that the Giants have yet to have any luck with pitchers in free agency.
Did your favorite Giants free agents make the list?