Now that Tim Lincecum is resigned, the Giants can focus on bringing in a power hitting Left Fielder, or a power hitting right handed bat, and move some people around if they have to. Lets not be mistaken, the Giants still have a ton of work to do if they want to compete in the west with the Dodgers. They need that one more power bat to do so. General Manager Brian Sabean has always been creative in his acquisitions of players, usually through trades, and sometimes through Free Agency, although, his record in acquiring Free Agents has been a bit dicey. The issue for the Giants is that they don’t have much to work with in terms of pieces to trade. They have Brandon Belt, who I don’t think they’ve given up on yet, and they have plenty of really good arms in the lower tiers of the minor leagues. The issue is, they don’t really have any major league ready prospects that teams covet in deals for major league players. Mike Kickham is really their only asset in that category, and asset is a strong word for Kickham. The Giants are going to have to make a splash via Free Agency this offseason, and they’ve already lost out on Jose Dariel Abreu, as the Cuban sensation signed a six year, $68 Million dollar deal with the Chicago White Sox (which for that price, they can have him!). Here are the five players in no particular order the Giants can realistically target now that they have 17.2 Million less dollars to work with.
5. Ben Zobrist – OF/IF – Tampa Bay Rays.
Ben Zobrist is the quintessential Giants player. He can play anywhere on the diamond, and he can hit anywhere in the order. He even played shortstop for Tampa Bay this year. But, for the Giants, the best thing about Ben Zobrist is that he will come cheaper than guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin Soo Choo. He’s not the big bopper they need, but Zobrist is a professional hitter totaling 12 HR 71 RBI and hitting .275 with a .354 OBP. Zobrist does have some pop, as he hit 27 HR’s with Tampa in 09, and hit 20 HR’s the two years before this one. Zobrist is one of the more versatile players in the game, and the Giants (along with every other team in baseball) love versatility. Bruce Bochy would love to pen this guy in as the starting left fielder, and a guy who can spell Marco Scutaro, or Sandoval or even Belt when needed, although, I still think Posey is going to be the one playing first base when Belt isn’t in the game.
I think the Giants take a hard look at Zobrist this offseason, and could emerge as one of the favorites to sign him. * Note: Zobrist has a 7 Million Dollar club option with Tampa Bay that they could chose to pick up (He has a 2.5 million dollar buyout as well)
4. Marlon Byrd – LF/RF – Pittsburgh Pirates
While Byrd was a major part of the Pirates first playoff run in 20 years this year, I would not be surprised if he tested the market looking for everything he can get from a team. He’s a journeyman type guy, who’s been with the Phillies, Nationals, Rangers, Cubs, Mets, and Pirates, and is finally putting it all together totaling 25 HR’s 85 RBI while hitting .291 with the Metropolitans and a .336 OBP. His number fell off when he was traded to Pittsburgh, but his clutch hitting, and veteran presence were a very big help the the Pirates. Byrd is 34 and will be entering his tenth year in the league. He will provide a much cheaper option for the Giants than a guy like Napoli (who the Red Sox aren’t letting go anywhere) or Ellsbury, or Choo. He is a right handed power hitter capable of 25 HR’s per year. He’s below average defensively, which, for the Giants is a red flag, as they struggled mightily last season catching the ball. However, the Giants have also shown a willingness to push defense to the side if the player can hit. And Byrd Can hit.
The Giants are going to, as Brian Sabean would say “kick the tires” on Marlon Byrd this offseason. I don’t think he’s a sure thing for the Giants, and I see him as a second or third option if they lose out on a guy like Zobrist, but he’s someone who should be looked at.
3. Jhonny Peralta – SS/LF – Detroit Tigers
This is an interesting case. Peralta is a guy who is going to have to switch positions no matter where he goes. He doesn’t have the range, or the arm anymore to be a shortstop in the major leagues, and I don’t think he can play second base either due to his lack of range. He’s either going to be relegated to the outfield, or first base. Peralta was one of the players who got suspended for 50 games due to PED use. He’s expressed his interest in returning to Detroit, but with Jim Leyland leaving, and Jose Iglesias emerging as defensive stud at the shortstop position, his time there may be up. Peralta can still hit. In 107 games (50 PED suspension) he hit .303 with a .358 OBP and slugged .450. He belted 11 HR’s and 55 RBI. As a right handed hitter, he could take advantage of AT&Ts shorter porch to Right Field (in relation to Comerica Park), and can be had on the cheap due to his suspension for steroid use. He is another guy, like Byrd who’s bat makes sense, but not necessarily his glove. Again though, if the Giants feel like they’d take his bat over his defense he’s another guy who I can see them making a move on. Especially if he is in the under 10 Million Dollar range.
2. Curtis Granderson – OF – New York Yankees
I know, I know, you’ve heard this from me a hundred times already. But Granderson is going to be had for much cheaper than the Yankees were paying him (15 Mil per season). While he only hit .229 with a .317 OBP and .407 Slg, he only played in 61 games due to a freak wrist injury after getting hit by a pitch. In those 61 games he hit 7 HR’s, drove in 15 and scored 31 runs. However, the season before this one he hit 43 HR’s and drove in 106 while hitting .232 and Slugging 492. Granderson is a left handed hitter, but he’s always hit for power. He hit 30 HR’s his last year in Detroit, and that isn’t the most hitter friendly ballpark either. Granderson seems a lot older, but is only 32 and could be on pace for a comeback season in 2014. His numbers diminished so much due to that hand injury, and anyone whose ever played the game knows that if you can’t grip the bat the way you’re used to, you’re not going have the same type of offensive numbers. That isn’t the type of injury that lingers either. Once its healed, its healed.
I think the Giants are going to be one of the favorites to sign this guy, and if they do, I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.
1. James Loney -1B – Tampa Bay Rays
I know, this one is out of left field (see what I did there?) and on the surface, this move doesn’t make sense. But when you think about it, what the Giants are looking for, it actually starts to be compatible to what they want. And I’ll be honest, when I started writing this, Loney wasn’t even a thought. But then I looked at fangraphs and saw that Loney actually had a nice season this year; hitting 13 HR’s driving in 75 while hitting .300 with a .360 OBP and Slugging .460 and is one of the better defensive first basemen in the league. In signing Loney, the Giants could either move Belt to Left Field, or they can try and trade him for either a LF or some pitching depth in the minor leagues. I am not advocating trading Belt, in fact, I like Belt and think he could be a major contributor next season, but they need to keep their options open. Remember, this list is in no particular order.
Ugh, that list was UGLY. The Free Agent market is slim pickins this offseason, especially now that the Giants have less money to work with. There were a few guys not on this list that I can see them being interested in, like Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli (who isn’t leaving Boston) or even CoCo Crisp (wouldn’t that be something). But due to inflated stats due to steroids and the ballpark Cruz plays in, I think the Giants will pass on Cruz. There may have to be a trade in the works, as this Free Agent class isn’t much to chose from. Again, the Giants have quite a few assets in the lower tiers of the Minor Leagues that they can trade, and I am sure they will listen on calls about Sandoval and Belt. I am sure that Sabean and the team have something up their sleeve and will be very active during Decembers Winter Meetings. They have to be.