I was deep into fumbling my way through this piece when a comment from Farhan Zaidi’s end of the year comments / press gaggle attached to the official announcement by the San Francisco Giants of the Taylor Rogers signing popped up on my glitchy Twitter timeline:
Farhan Zaidi on his experience this winter: pic.twitter.com/LFCAEWkXb9— Danny Emerman (@DannyEmerman) December 31, 2022
For me, whether it’s in season or offseason, there are ups and downs. Part of the fun is getting off the mat and living to fight another day. I still believe in this team and this organization. I’m still excited about the moves we can still make. I’m really looking forward to seeing what this team looks like come spring training.
So I really hope our fans stick with us as we kind of work through some of what’s happened this offseason. And continue to work for the next couple months.
Call me a weirdo, but that sounds like the Giants aren’t done making moves. Does that mean more bites of the free agency-flavored apple? That all depends on what the Giants might be looking for: a left-handed hitter with on base and power potential? There’s still Brandon Belt, Jurickson Profar (sub-.400 slugging aside, his 53 XBH would’ve led the 2022 Giants), and Tyler Naquin; pitching? No knockout starters left, but still a handful of relievers who fit their general pitching profile that I looked at earlier this month; and, as a third thing to complete the rule of three: why not read Grant Brisbee’s post on this same line of questioning (subscription required)?
But what about the trade market? That seems like a pathway for a big move or two that the team hasn’t really explored. At least in the offseason. Trading for Kris Bryant was the exact sort of move a “going for it” team like the 2021 Giants should be making at the trade deadline. What about a team that’s stuck in the middle — like the 2023 Giants?
The Giants might be the most stuck in the middlest team in Major League Baseball. In theory, they have an improving farm system, but not one that’s got enough sizzle to persuade other teams to trade them everyday major league talent or provide the Giants with everyday major leaguers directly. Theoretically, they have built up enough depth on their 40-man roster that it’s a bulwark against a losing season. The Giants have worked really hard to stack the roster with above replacement-level players and a couple of career seasons could really make it look really great. That’s the Larry Bird theory:
“I’ve got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end.”
And what if they’ve looked at all the money spent and concluded what most of us have: the team isn’t much of an improvement over last year’s team? So, I go back to Zaidi’s quote, see the list of available options in free agency, and conclude that any big on-paper improvement the team makes before Spring Training will come via trade. What could a big move look like? Here are three names, in order of “size”:
Joey Wendle - IF, Miami Marlins
A left-handed bat that can play 2B, 3B, and SS (in a pinch), who was an All-Star in 2021. That’s nice. A career OBP of .322? Eh. A former A and Ray? Yes. Good. +25 Outs Above Average and +27.8 FanGraphs defensive runs for his career? Humm baby. And he’s been especially great at second base. This is a player the Marlins should want to hold onto, even if he’s in his final year of arbitration.
He absolutely fell off a cliff offensively last year, and that could just be going from the Rays to the Marlins, so maybe the Giants could fix his swing. He’s never hit the ball especially hard, but his strikeouts and walk rates (career 18.2% and 5.6%, respectively) stand out and the shifting rules might actually help him.
But he’s also missed nearly 30% of all possible games since 2018 (his first full season) and his 2022 season was torpedoed by two hamstring issues — a right hamstring strain that wiped out his May and June and left hamstring tendinitis that ended his season. It’s Tommy La Stella territory, without the offensive profile. He wouldn’t necessarily fit with the Giants’ desire to get younger and more athletic, either. And the Marlins’ asking price, according to a report a week and a half ago, might be too high to consider. Thairo Estrada? Ehh. That’s giving up a projected 2-win player who costs less and figures to be healthier for a 2-win player who can hit left handed, plays better defense, but will almost certainly be hurt a lot.
That’s another part of this discussion that we ought to consider: the Giants’ appetite for risk. it’s the firmware in all their decision-making. Immovable and inviolable. Why give up anyone with control and low cost for one year of a guy who might not see the field? On the other hand, how exciting can a team be when it doesn’t take any risks? Not saying Wendle is the risk to take... that’s for the rest of the article.
Bryan Reynolds - OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
I went over a deal for Reynolds at the beginning of the month and while a lot of the reasoning there doesn’t hold up given all the free agency activity since then (lol making Marco Luciano available in the event they signed Carlos Correa), there’s still a case to be made that trading for Reynolds would be an exciting and acceptable gamble.
Offensively, this switch-hitting dude does not have a platoon split:
vs RHP as LHB: .281 / .364 /. 492 (.856)
vs LHP as RHB: .281 / .355 / .454 (.808)
I confess that I don’t know if he’s actually a bad defender or just had a terrible 2022 or if Outs Above Average is just a work in progress. He was +11 OAA in CF and +2.2 FanGraphs Defensive Runs in 2021. In 2022: -7 and -9.3. He was a 6-win player in 2021 and 3-win player in 2022. The Pirates are also 211-335 since he’s been on their major league roster.
And yeah, the Giants signed two corner guys — Haniger and Conforto — and have seemingly settled on Yastrzemski as their centerfielder, since he can work their defensively. But what we don’t actually know is how the team sees Bryan Reynolds’ defense in centerfield. We don’t really know how the team views a lot of players. They are looking at Conforto, who hasn’t played through a 162-game season since 2019 and is coming off shoulder surgery, as a key figure in their lineup. Mitch Haniger has missed 35% of all possible games since his first full season in 2017 (and omitting 2020, because he opted out for the COVID season).
We know they wouldn’t take on a 13-year, $350 million risk in Carlos Correa. That’s an obvious risk that even most of us wouldn’t take. We don’t know what the Pirates might want in return, how the Giants view their own prospects, or how the Giants value Reynolds’ profile — and even if they power washed the offices to remove all traces of the Bobby Evans era, they still might have some data from his prospect days to compare to today — so, hang on there before dismissing this trade out of hand. He is literally younger and more athletic, two qualities Farhan Zaidi sought this offseason. This would be a big move that could still, theoretically, happen and would definitely be exciting.
OF Trent Grisham and/or IF Ha-Seong Kim - San Diego Padres
This one is just my pipedream, I think, but let me walk you through why it’s not just pure fantasy. First — if you hadn’t heard — a Padres beat writer wrote for The Athletic the other day (subscription required) that the team might be motivated to dangle one or both of these players to shore up their starting rotation.
The most valuable starting pitcher on the Giants after Logan Webb is Alex Cobb, under contract in 2022 with an option for 2023. Besides being an analytics darling (3.15 xERA, 2.89 xFIP, 61.5% GB%, 3.5 K/BB), his 3.7 fWAR last year was better than Joe Musgrove’s 3.5 and tied with Blake Snell. Why would either team do this?
The Padres will be losing a lot of their top players to free agency after the season and so find themselves in the same situation the Mets found themselves this offseason: having to pay quite a lot just to keep the team together while spending still more for improvements:
- Manny Machado can opt out after the season. He was set to make $30 million a year through 2028.
- Yu Darvish is a free agent
- Blake Snell is a free agent
- Josh Hader is a free agent
- Juan Soto will be entering his final year of arbitration
- Padres will be paying $12.2 million in each of the next three seasons (2023, 2024, 2025) to complete Eric Hosmer’s contract
Kim’s 4-year, $28 million deal ends after 2024 but there’s an option for 2025. Grisham will be a first-year arbitration eligible dude this year, so the Giants could have both for three seasons, if they wanted.
For the Padres, it’s not really about the money, it’s about shoring up a rotation that looks a little wobbly. But if we are talking about money, a Cobb for Kim & Grisham swap would be a wash. If Grisham’s projected arb figure of $2.1 million winds up being correct, then they’ll combine for $9.1 million in salary for 2022. Alex Cobb will make $9 million in 2022.
And why would the Giants do this? What are the odds of the Giants being better than the Padres in 2023? Given the rebalanced scheduled, they’ll be playing each other five fewer times, so there’s a little more importance on being better against the field. Grisham is an elite defender in center field, even if his hitting profile is sub-Joey Wendle (.184/.284/.341 in 2022). He crushes the Giants. Just absolutely kills them. 12 of his 83 hits in 2022 came against the Giants, his most against any team.
Also that time he walked off the Giants in Oracle Park.
Trading for the guy who kills your team never really works out for the trading team, but the Giants wouldn’t need him to be a star, just a guy who makes their defense better.
And while it’s unlikely the Padres would lump Grisham and Kim together, maybe they might just to make it worth the trading team’s while. Kim would be a massive upgrade, defensively, over Thairo Estrada and would probably be the centerpiece of any deal. He’d be an extreme upgrade as a backup to and eventual transition from Brandon Crawford, as the two matched FanGraphs’ defensive run measures last year at +9.2.
The Padres’ additions this offseason and eventual return of Fernando Tatis Jr. (where he will probably play in the outfield) means they need Grisham and Kim less than the Giants do, and trading within the division could work in this case since the playoff field looks pretty well set:
It’s not really a risk for the Giants in this case. The risk would be for the Padres who’d be trying to get better while making their opposition better. The Padres would seem to have a more liberal risk profile driving their acquisition platform. They might want more in exchange than the Giants want to risk sending to a division rival, too. Or maybe the division part of this is less important. Maybe both teams believe they can be as good or better than the other, in which case they believe they can be as good or better than any team.
We won’t know until the calendar flips, and I think that’s when some fun begins.