San Francisco Giants: 12 Dream Free-Agent Pickups for This Offseason
The San Francisco Giants' offseason plan thus far has been to keep their championship team intact. General manager Brian Sabean has re-signed Jeremy Affeldt, let formerly suspended outfielder Melky Cabrera depart via free agency and continued to negotiate with free agents Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan.
Other names the Giants have been linked to such as outfielders Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, Ichiro Suzuki and second baseman Hiroyuki Nakajima appear to be fallback options in case Scutaro and Pagan get away.
While Las Vegas thinks the Giants are the best bet to sign Josh Hamilton, the reality is that they have stayed away from large free-agent contracts since the signings of Barry Zito in 2006 and Aaron Rowand in 2007.
The team will likely stick to short-term deals as they've done in recent offseasons with the signings of Edgar Renteria, Randy Johnson, Javier Lopez, Miguel Tejada, Juan Uribe, Mark DeRosa, Freddy Sanchez, Pat Burrell, Jeremy Affeldt, Aubrey Huff and others.
The best bet for a long-term contract would be Buster Posey, who is in line for the type of contract extension that the team gave to Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner during spring training last season.
The Giants have won the World Series twice in the last three seasons; therefore, they just need to bolster the roster through free agency rather than rebuild the entire team. The core of the team is intact, but they do need help in the outfield, at second base and in the bullpen.
Here's a breakdown of 12 possible free-agent acquisitions for the Giants this winter.
Hamilton's durability issues, contract demands, past struggles with addiction and advancing age make him a risky gamble in free agency. However, he's far and away the best offensive player available this winter because he has 80 power and 70 hitting ability on the 20-80 scouting scale.
I have a hard time imaging the Giants forking over a $100 million-plus contract for Hamilton, but it would be a dream scenario to watch him hit in front of Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence.
Until Hamilton officially signs elsewhere, it will be fun and interesting to imagine him in a Giants uniform.
Swisher is not the type of player the Giants typically go after in free agency, but Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has linked the Giants with him this offseason.
Swisher is a patient hitter who gets on base at a well-above-average clip from both sides of the plate. He has some power, and offers versatility by being able to play all three outfield positions as well as first base.
He isn't a great pure hitter, and his power numbers would suffer with the move from Yankee Stadium to AT&T Park.
Heyman also reported last season that the Giants would be a probable suitor for Michael Bourn this winter.
Bourn, like Hamilton, is seeking a massive payday this winter, so he could be out of the Giants' price range.
Bourn has 80 speed, and he's built his entire game around that tool. He's an elite defender and baserunner, but he isn't a great pure hitter. He's used his speed to inflate his batting average.
He strikes out too much, doesn't typically walk enough and doesn't hit for much power.
He's been an extremely valuable player over the past few seasons, but his value could plummet in a hurry with the loss of any speed.
Pagan is somewhat similar to Bourn in that his game is built around his elite speed. He's not as patient as you'd want a leadoff hitter to be, but he makes a lot of contact and is a better, more powerful hitter than Bourn.
Bourn is younger, slightly faster and a better defender, so he's likely going to command a bigger contract than Pagan. If the choice comes down to Bourn on a five-year contract versus Pagan on a three-year deal, I would take Pagan in a heartbeat.
The Giants are confident that they can work out a deal to keep Pagan, which would make a run at Bourn, Hamilton, Victorino, Swisher or B.J. Upton extremely unlikely.
Even if the Giants keep Pagan, Victorino would still make a lot of sense as a replacement for Cabrera in left field. Victorino has become an underrated free agent because he had the worst season of his career before hitting the open market.
After hitting .279/.355/.491 for the Phillies in 2011, he slumped down to .255/.321/.383 last season.
He's a switch-hitter that makes a ton of contact with gap power, excellent speed and average patience. He can provide adequate defense in any of the three outfield spots as well.
An outfield of Pence, Pagan and Victorino would give the Giants a chance to defend their title.
Upton is the youngest and most talented of the free-agent outfielders available this winter.
He has excellent range, speed, power and a big throwing arm. However, his approach at the plate has gotten worse as he's aged, killing his batting average and on-base percentage in the process.
If he could regain the plate discipline he showed earlier in his career, he would be a perennial MVP candidate. Alas, that isn't likely to happen given how long its been since he last showed any patience at the plate.
Upton is still a good player, just not the great one he appeared to be when he hit .300/.386/.508 with 24 home runs and 22 steals as a 22-year-old six years ago.
He currently appears to be on the radar of the three contenders in the NL East: the Braves, Phillies and Nationals. If Pagan bolts, the Giants could use Upton's speed, power and defense in center field.
Ross, the postseason hero for the Giants in 2010, is reportedly seeking a three-year, $25 million contract according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
That might seem like a reasonable contract, but Ross is really a fourth outfielder best used as a platoon guy against left-handed pitching.
Over the past three seasons, Ross has hit .276/.352/.530 against lefties, but only .254/.315/.402 against right-handed pitching.
He's an adequate defender in a corner, but not good enough to play center.
If the market bottoms out for Ross, he would be the ideal platoon partner in left field with Gregor Blanco for the Giants. Blanco can't hit lefties, but he's hit .272/.355/.372 over his past 441 at-bats against righties.
A Blanco-Ross platoon would potentially replace most of the production the Giants lost in Cabrera.
At 39, he's not the elite hitter that he once was, hitting just .277 over the last two seasons. He hardly ever walks and he doesn't hit for power, so he has to hit well over .300 to be a valuable offensive player.
He showed signs of rebounding with the Yankees during the second half by hitting .322, right in line with his career average.
Ichiro is still an excellent defender, baserunner and contact hitter, so if he can get his batting average back up above .300, he can be an extremely valuable player. However, if he remains a .270 hitter who doesn't walk or hit for any power, he'll be better used as a bench player.
Scutaro was a godsend for the Giants last season, hitting .362 after they acquired him from the Colorado Rockies. He hit .500 during the NLCS on his way to MVP honors, then he knocked in the game-winning run in the deciding game of the World Series.
He's an elite contact hitter who rarely swings and misses, so he should have no problem maintaining a .300 average even at the age of 37.
He isn't going to walk or hit the ball out of the ballpark much, but he isn't a hack at the plate, either.
He's willing to work the count, hit with two strikes and move runners, which makes him Bruce Bochy's ideal No. 2 hitter.
If the Giants cannot retain Scutaro to play second base, Hiroyuki Nakajima could be a possible replacement. The Yankees won the bidding rights to Nakajima last winter, but were unable to work out a contract with him.
He hit .311/.382/.451 for the Seibu Lions in Japan last season, and he's hit .310/.381/.474 during his professional career. It's unclear how well those numbers would translate into American professional baseball, however.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit .304/.379/.443 during his career in Japan, but hit only .215 in two seasons with the Twins.
On the other hand, Kaz Matsui, Ichiro, Hideki Matsui and Norichika Aoki are examples of Japanese hitters who have had varying degrees of success in Major League Baseball.
With a limited supply of middle infielders available this winter, the Giants have few options available to them outside of Scutaro and Nakajima.
Stephen Drew is another option that the Giants could consider at second base if they lose out on Scutaro, though he would have to accept a positional switch from shortstop to the right side of the infield.
Drew looked headed for stardom when he hit .278/.352/.458 for the Diamondbacks in 2010, but he got off to a slow start in 2011 before a leg injury derailed his career. He hit just .223 in 79 games last season after finally returning from the leg injury.
He's only 29 years old, so he could sign a one-year contract to rebuild his value next season before hitting the open market again. The Giants have had good luck with first-round draft picks out of Florida State (i.e. Buster Posey), so taking a flier on the talented but inconsistent Drew could be a gamble worth taking.
One of the biggest strengths for the Giants during their run of success has been their excellent bullpen. They've already retained Affeldt, and will bring back Lopez, Jose Mijares, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and George Kontos as well next season.
However, with Brian Wilson's status unclear after undergoing a second Tommy John surgery last season, they can use another right-handed reliever at the back end of the bullpen.
Jonathan Broxton, Kyle Farnsworth, Jason Grilli, Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom are some other free-agent right-handed relievers that would bolster Bochy's bullpen.