Let this post serve as both a reverse jinx and an “I toldya so!” in the event that the San Francisco Giants don’t land their top priorities this offseason. This is not a post about the team’s chances of landing the the top of the market free agents, it’s merely an attempt to put together an offseason much like last season where, if all else fails, the team can use its payroll flexibility to overpay for 1-WAR players who might, if all goes well, do better.
We must simply acknowledge the franchise’s track record with the top of the free agent market and fold in the Correa near-miss as an exception to the rule — at least for the time being. There’s certainly plenty of hearsay and conjecture that the team could still land, say, Ohtani. Could the Giants be outbid for the posted players and Ohtani and Bellinger? Sure. It’s also possible they could have the high bid but be the low choice. The history of the 21st century Giants in free agency is overpsending by years if not dollars for players who are good to great but not the best players available (Ray Durham, Edgardo Alfonzo, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, etc.)
Then we have to consider the Juan Soto trade situation. It’s doubtful the Padres would trade within the division, even if the Giants took on another contract or two to alleviate the Padres’ payroll obligations even more, and there’s practically zero chance he’d sign an extension — not that that should hold back the front office.
Last year, Aaron Judge was Plan A, Carlos Correa Plan B, and Conforto + Stripling + Manaea + Rogers Plan C (if we’re believing that Mitch Haniger was always part of their plan). This year, Plan A is Ohtani, Plan B is Yamamoto/Bellinger/Lee/Snell/Soto. Who or what is Plan C? Let’s examine what a no Ohtani, no Bellinger, no Yamamoto, no Lee, no Snell, no Soto offseason might look like.
For this exercise, I’m figuring the team has an internal projection with their current 40-man roster of 75 wins. Who could they add to get them into the 85+-win range? Too, I’m figuring that the Giants would exceed the
salary cap competitive balance tax threshold ($237 million in 2024) to sign Ohtani and other players, but if they did not sign Ohtani then they would not exceed it.
This means that, given Cots’ CBT figure estimate of ~$169 million for team payroll in 2024, I’m thinking they’d perhaps try to unembarrass themselves by throwing $60 million at the marketing problem, basically spending to $230 million for their Opening Day payroll. Let’s look at a few moves they could make in lieu of missing out at the top of the market.
Matt Chapman, 3B (3-3.5 WAR)
A couple of weeks ago, I joked about the Giants spending a lot on Matt Chapman to the point that it could prevent them from adding any other big names or substantial deals, but now let’s look at Chapman as the centerpiece of the offseason.
This seems pretty obvious. You’ve got familiarity between coaching staff and player, a need on the roster for his skills. A few weeks ago, Brady put him in his Tier 3 of “Really good position player.” This post is 100% asking “What if the Giants could only get Tier 3 or lower players?” The projected deals for Chapman in Brady’s post ranged from $95-$150 million, and for the sake of argument, I’ll do my own projection and say 5 years, $130 million ($26 CBT figure).
Jordan Montgomery, LHP (3-3.5 WAR)
The Giants need a starting pitcher and they said they were interested in top of the rotation talent this offseason. Does Montgomery fit that description? At the end of the day, Farhan Zaidi is a baseball executive, and their defintion of what “top of the rotation talent” might have a broader definition than Max Scherzer, Logan Webb, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
In either another post or in some comment on this site I mentioned — more like relayed my podcast partner Doug Bruzzone’s thought — that the Giants could add Lucas Giolito on a pillow contract and pitch to fans that he’s just two seasons removed from being a Cy Young candidate in three straight years and he’ll start the season at age 29. He’s been as valuable (by wins above replacement) as Logan Webb during the past five seasons. But rather than be too clever by half, they could just pursue Montgomery, who has been just about — though probably even a little more — as valuable as Blake Snell, Sonny Gray, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, and Chris Bassitt over the past three seasons (and I mention this bunch because they’re either current or recent free agents reflective of the current market).
The best way to think of him is as a left-handed Logan Webb. Although their groundball rates are not the same (Webb’s was 59.9% 2021-2023, Montgomery’s 44.5%), they limit home runs and are more pitch to contact than strikeout guys (both have 8.3 K/9 over past three seasons). Webb has been better, of course, but Montgomery has been a top 20 pitcher in the past three seasons and pairing him with the team’s pitching plan will only make the World Series winner that much better. I’ll predict 5 years, $120 million ($24 million CBT figure)
Trade: Randy Arozarena (2.5-3 WAR)
This is based on a tweet from yesterday:
Can confirm what Jack is reporting here. That’s been the buzz this week. If traded, Randy is a huge get for whoever lands him. https://t.co/zMhctnRVcZ— Michael Marino (@MarinoMLB) November 29, 2023
He’s projected to earn $9 million in arbitration and still has two years of arbitration eligibility after that, so this would be a hefty trade situation. He can’t really play centerfield, but he hits the ball really danged hard. He’s a fun player who fits what the Giants need:
Now, what would a trade package look like for him? That’s a great question, perhaps one that can be examined in a future post. The Giants have pitching depth, they have some players who could probably feed into the Rays’ usage algorithm really well, but it’s true that MLB trades are extremely difficult to gauge these days.
The only thing that’s known is that no front office wants to make a trade because they’re terrified of the other side getting surplus value. In fact, I think most people running front offices don’t even believe “equal” trades are good or even possible because if they’re not diminishing their opponent in some way then they’re losing. If not Arozarena, there are likely other players out there who could be had because they have the misfortune of being on a team impacted by the Bally Sports bankruptcy.
These three moves would basically exhaust the currently available money (as I project it) and (a deal for Arozarena could) eat into their depth of — if not good, then at least interesting — prospects, but it’d get them where they want to be. At least, on paper.