Uncertainty is swirling around the San Francisco Giants and whether or not they’ll add to their roster in the coming days or weeks. The fan sentiment largely ranges from healthy and justified skepticism to downright emphatic pessimism. This is who they have and this is who they will continue to have until proven otherwise is the gist of that belief.
It’s understandable. But if we can detach ourselves from the emotional investment that only brought us heartbreak during Super Bowl Sunday, it seems objectively clear that the Giants are overwhelmingly likely to add a significant name to their roster soon. Perhaps even names, plural.
By now you’re surely aware of the situation, as first brought to our attention by Local Vinyl Enthusiast Grant Brisbee, that the Giants can move Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray to the 60-Day Injured List on Wednesday, thus opening a pair of spots on the 40-man roster. If you’re upset about recent inactivity, save your complaints for if that inactivity persists into Thursday.
More pertinent, however, is a very-recent nugget from Brisbee’s colleague, Andrew Baggarly:
They also remain engaged on a number of holdouts in the Scott Boras stable of clients — and might end up signing more than one of them.
It’s an innocuous enough sentiment in a vacuum. If I wrote those words, you wouldn’t think twice about them. Here, let me try:
This is a fully original and organically sourced statement, but the Giants also remain engaged on a number of holdouts in the Scott Boras stable of clients — and might end up signing more than one of them.
“Okay, sure, technically true,” you mumbled. “Thanks for doing the Giants PR.”
Fair sentiments when I say those words; not so when Baggs does. In addition to being the most reputable Giants reporter (in the eyes of this lowly blog boy), Baggarly never drops nuggets just to drop nuggets. He’s not one to say that the Giants “might end up signing more than one of them” because he can get away with clickbait on the technicality that yes, they MIGHT ... even if we all know they won’t. If Baggarly says that the Giants might sign multiple Boras clients — a crew that is comprised of Blake Snell, Matt Chapman, Cody Bellinger, Jordan Montgomery, and J.D. Martinez — it means there’s a very legitimate possibility of that happening.
One non-Boras client could supplant someone at that party: designated hitter Jorge Soler.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser first linked the Giants to Soler last week, and rumblings have only gained traction since. Baggarly mentioned Soler in his weekend column, and on Monday, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi offered up a few details, saying the Giants and Soler have “had a long conversation this offseason” that is continuing this week. Morosi noted that teams have been hesitant to give Soler a three-year deal, but that the slugger is holding out for that, and painted the situation between the Giants and the righty as “a bit of a staring contest.”
It’s slightly uncharted territory for the Giants, to be interested in a designated hitter. They’re clearly in on Soler, seem to at least have tabs on Martinez, and reportedly made a run at Rhys Hoskins before he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. This is a break from the script for the Giants, though certainly worth noting that it’s only the third year since the universal DH became the law of the land.
So it’s worth wondering how the Giants will make the roster situation work with a full-time designated hitter. And in order to do that, we must first start with the biggest obstacle that I’ve heard when the Giants have been linked to a player like Soler, who can best be described as “if Joc Pederson replaced his love of pusoy with a love of being able to hit same-handed pitchers.”
They already have too many DH types.
At the surface level, that’s a fair concern. Michael Conforto is far from a tire fire in the outfield, but he’s best served as a designated hitter, especially if Luis Matos is ready for an everyday role. Wilmer Flores is sneakily good at first base, but with both him and LaMonte Wade Jr. on the roster, one of those two should probably be manning the defenseless position whenever a righty is on the mound. Patrick Bailey is good enough defensively that he should catch as many games as his body can handle, but Tom Murphy is good enough offensively that the Giants cannot merely relegate him to 30-40 games of backup duty. J.D. Davis made strides defensively last year, but his best usage is probably to employ his glove on just a part-time basis.
I have a pretty simple answer to that so-called obstacle. It’s written below.
I don’t care. I don’t care one itty bitty bit.
The Giants are not good enough to be even slightly concerned with roster redundancies. “They should not sign Player A because they already have Player B, who is just like Player A, but worse” is a sound strategy if the Giants are actively trying to lose games, but last I checked they’re at least going through the motions of trying to win them.
Here are some harrowing stats. It’s where the Giants ranked among all 30 MLB teams last year:
Batting average: 28th
On-base percentage: 24th
Slugging percentage: 27th
Home runs: 19th
And here’s where Soler’s stats last year would have ranked among all Giants players (minimum: 100 plate appearances):
Batting average: T-5th
On-base percentage: 5th
Slugging percentage: 1st
Home runs: 1st
So the extremely basic — and yet most important — answer to the headline question of “what would the Giants do with a designated hitter?” is this: play him! He makes your baseball team better, so what’s the issue?
Still and all, there will need to be positional dominos that fall if the Giants sign a DH. Simply put, something’s got to go ... kind of. Without any additional positional player signings, a full-time designated hitter could slide in somewhat smoothly. Wade and Flores could platoon first, Flores and Davis could split time at third, and the team can move forward with Thairo Estrada, Marco Luciano, a backup middle infielder who can play center field, two catchers, and four outfielders.
Should the team do as has long been expected and sign Chapman, then things get a bit more interesting, as we move from a 500 to a 1,000-piece puzzle. My solution would be simple: trade Wade, make Flores a close-to-full-time first baseman, have Davis back up third and DH while filling in a bit at first, and proceed as normal.
You’ve perhaps noticed that I haven’t mentioned Conforto. Just as “I don’t care” was my very simple and emphatic solution to the “too many DH-types” problem, I have an equally simple and emphatic solution to the “what do we do with all these outfielders?” problem.
Let it handle itself.
It’s that easy and that simple. Conforto is often injured. Austin Slater is often injured. Mike Yastrzemski is often injured. If the need is to get Matos (or any other youngster) into the outfield despite those three and Jung Hoo Lee, the answer will, for better or for worse, probably present itself sometime in March with an injury. If it doesn’t, Matos can start the year in AAA and within a week either injuries or performance will open a door. Conforto, Slater, and Yaz are all easy enough to trade should the situation call for a forced opening.
If Conforto is hitting well enough to be a valuable DH, then he’ll be a valuable outfielder, and the Giants will take that eight days a week.
The Giants won 78 games last year. “How do we find playing time for all these good players” is not a question they should delude themselves into thinking they have.