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Ranking the free agent shortstops

Last week, Jim Bowden pitched landing spots for the top four free agent shortstops, with the Giants being one of the teams listed. Is he right?

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It would be unethical to scrape whole sections from articles behind The Athletic’s paywall, so, if you’re not already a subscriber, I’ll keep this brief. Last week: disgraced former GM Jim Bowden wrote a piece that chose landing spots for the top four free agent shortstops: Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson.

Nothing wrong with a free agent prediction article, and very soon, this site will no doubt contribute our own thoughts to the offseason discourse. But for now, I’m in full on, “Oh really, is that what you think, distant observer?” mode with these, and so Bowden’s pitch for Correa to wind up on the Giants thanks to a 10-year contract just stands out to me as being beyond ludicrous from a San Francisco Giants perspective.

Their new general manager, Pete Putila, was with Correa in the Astros organization, and he has already discussed his interest in the star with team president Farhan Zaidi. Correa is represented by Scott Boras, who will aim for a contract that’s a bit higher than what he secured for [Corey] Seager last December.

I’m sure that has absolutely happened, and Bowden’s industry connections that no doubt gave him the intel about that conversation is why Bowden remains such a valuable insider to The Athletic, but as seemingly straightforward as that all is, Carlos Correa would be another in the line of distressed assets the Giants would be trying to spit shine into something they can get the fans to stomach, no matter the assurances they might make or the kind words former teammates might have for him. The Giants would have promised their fans some big moves this offseason and then asked them to give the new guy a chance. Again.

Am I referring to the Astros Baggage? You’d better believe it. And as a consolation prize for failing to land Aaron Judge, it would be interesting to see if the fans would actually embrace him just as much as they seem poised to do with Judge. There’s a rich vein of Giants fandom that believes fans will accept anyone the front office forces down their throats and/or that it doesn’t really matter what the fans think, but that doesn’t really seem like an argument that would make sense in this case, because these marquee-level player signings are intended to be for the fans – for marketing.

I just don’t see a scenario where the Giants offer a massive contract to one of the guys from the Astros’ banging scheme, at least not on the level of one Farhan Zaidi worked on for Bryce Harper, who was a free agent All-Star heading into his age-26 season. So, in two ways, I just don’t see the Bowden prediction being in the realm of probability, even if it is, factually, plausible. And if you read the article, he also cites some other character-related reasons why having Carlos Correa in the organization would actually be a good thing, and I accept those statements as true – I just don’t see the Giants going ten years on any free agents this year or in the near-term.

So, then, how does a guy like me see the free agent shortstop situation from the Giants’ perspective? Well, I’m still thinking that as halfway out the door as Brandon Crawford’s Giants career might be, he’s still on the team unless something happens. Maybe he announces his retirement this offseason. Doubtful he’d walk away from $16 million, so that would mean 2023 would be his final season. Maybe that helps sell a long-term deal to Correa, Turner, Bogaerts, and/or Swanson. Which of these guys would be able to share shortstop and play elsewhere a couple of times a week?

Here now are my rankings, by least likely to most likely, for the free agent shortstops landing on the Giants:

4. Xander Bogaerts (tie)

The Red Sox seem committed to not further alienating their fans and making re-signing their star a top priority (should he opt out, which he almost certainly will), and just as in the case of Aaron Judge, if a star player’s current team shows genuine interest, it’s hard to predict the player would leave. The Giants would have to offer someone with no relevant ties to their organization a massive contract to make it worth his while, and 2023 would be his age-30 season.

4. Dansby Swanson (tie)

The Braves and Swanson were reportedly already into extension talks late this season, so his return there seems almost a fait accompli, but if there’s still a very slim chance he doesn’t return to Atlanta, it wouldn’t be because he left for San Francisco. The financial hit, even if he got the exact contract he appears to want (5 years, $100-$110 million), would be significant playing 95+ games in California every year (81 home games + 7 at Dodger Stadium + 7 at Petco Park).

4. Carlos Correa (tie)

Carlos Correa offers a lot of things baseball teams need, but it all comes down to what other teams want to give him. The Giants are not one player away from being a good team and signing this one player will very likely prevent them from landing the three or four or five or six they need to be “good” again (that number comes straight from Zaidi!) Brandon Crawford’s best days are behind him, but swapping out a famous Giant for an infamous Astros seems like the PR misstep they can’t afford. That it would be a massive financial commitment that would seemingly go against all sound sabermetric principles also makes the Giants landing him go beyond the improbable and past the implausible.

4. Trea Turner (tie)

Now, look, Trea Turner could play second base on days Crawford plays shortstop and he could also help the Giants not be embarrassed every time they play the Dodgers, but if he doesn’t want to re-sign with the Dodgers or they choose not to pursue him, it doesn’t follow that he would be open to signing with the Giants, because that would be a huge step back for him on a competitive level. Plus, rumor is that he prefers an east coast team.

So, at the end of the day, the Giants might be able to offer some interesting contracts to all four of these free agents, but from the players’ standpoints, they could probably take home more money signing elsewhere and be on teams that are much more competitive right away. That means the Giants are just as likely to land any of these free agents as they are to strike out on any of them. Of course, nobody knows anything, including whether or not the longstanding tradition of the Giants’ best offers to top of the market free agent hitters being rejected will continue into 2023.