SF Giants Are Just One Slugger Away from Big-Time NL Threat Status

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2016

MILWAUKEE, WI - MAY 26: Hunter Pence #8 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates with Buster Posey #28 after hitting a solo home run in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on May 26, 2015 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants' offseason shopping spree is almost certainly over. After adding outfielder Denard Span and a pair of starting pitchers in Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, the club has plugged its most glaring holes.

Oh, the Giants might go after a spare bullpen arm or some infield depth (Grant Brisbee at McCovey Chronicles recently floated old friend Juan Uribe). But what you see is likely what you get, roster-wise, for the Giants.

"I couldn’t ask for more," manager Bruce Bochy said, per Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. "It's been a terrific offseason."

Come on, Bruce, get greedy. You can always ask for more.

See, active as they've been, there is a missing ingredient that could propel the Giants from contender to legitimate National League favorite in thiswait for iteven year: one more big-time slugger.

The Giants offense was far from abysmal last season. They finished fifth in the National League in runs scored and led the Senior Circuit in team batting average. It was a dearth of starting pitching behind ace Madison Bumgarner, more than anything else, that led to San Francisco's distant second-place finish.

The Giants, however, didn't loom large in the power department, clubbing just 136 home runs—fourth-fewest in baseball. Partly that's a function of playing half their games at AT&T Park, with its spacious dimensions and long-ball-suffocating marine layer.

But it's also because this lineup isn't loaded with boppers.

Giants skipper Bruce Bochy called the club's offseason "terrific" after the Denard Span signing.
Giants skipper Bruce Bochy called the club's offseason "terrific" after the Denard Span signing.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

The Giants are flush with capable hitters. Span figures to take over leadoff duties with his combination of speed, contact and on-base ability. Joe Panik and Matt Duffy boast solid gap power. Brandon Crawford flashed surprising pop last season, cracking 21 home runs to pair with his Gold Glove defense at shortstop.

And the middle of the order—Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt—brings some thump.

No current Giants hitter, however, has ever hit 30 home runs in a season. Pence came the closest, with 27 in 2013.

That's not a prerequisite for success, as San Francisco has demonstrated with its recent trio of titles. But if there's one area where this club could use a boost, it's the game-changing ability to send the ball sailing over the fence.

And, look at that, a few star sluggers remain unsigned two weeks into January.

There's Justin Upton, a five-tool 28-year-old who hit 26 home runs last year while making pitcher-friendly Petco Park his home. There's Yoenis Cespedes, who bashed a career-high 35 home runs in 2015, to go along with 105 RBI and an .870 OPS. And there's Chris Davis, MLB's reigning home run leader, whose 47 home runs jump off the stat sheet in this power-starved era.

Chris Davis bashed an MLB-leading 47 home runs in 2015.
Chris Davis bashed an MLB-leading 47 home runs in 2015.GAIL BURTON/Associated Press

Upton and Cespedes both profile best as left fielders. Angel Pagan, the presumed left fielder after the Span signing, is a capable hitter when healthy. But he turns 35 in July and has missed 186 games over the last three seasons with hamstring, back and knee issues. 

Instead, imagine if San Francisco added Upton or Cespedes. Or Davis, who could alternate between the outfield and spelling Belt at first base.

Then there's the possibility of trading for a hitter. Like, say, the Colorado Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez, whose name has been tumbling through the rumor mill since before the offseason began, is coming off a strong bounce-back season that saw him club 40 home runs. And the two years, $37 million left on his contract make him a bargain in today's market.

He'd cost more than money, of course. Any deal would surely start with one (or two) of the Giants' top prospects, including right-hander Tyler Beede and shortstop Christian Arroyo, and possibly a big league player like backup catcher Andrew Susac.

Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez has been the subject of persistent trade rumors.
Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez has been the subject of persistent trade rumors.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

All right, what the hell, let's lay out this fantasy lineup:

1. CF Denard Span

2. 2B Joe Panik

3. C Buster Posey

4. LF Upton/Cespedes/Davis/Gonzalez

5. RF Hunter Pence

6. 1B Brandon Belt

7. 3B Matt Duffy

8. SS Brandon Crawford

Pair that with a bench suddenly bolstered by spare outfielders Pagan and Gregor Blanco, the Giants' revamped rotation and a battle-tested bullpen and you've got the makings of a world-beater. We're talking about a squad that would easily challenge the Chicago Cubs for NL supremacy and quite possibly leave Bay Area fans covered in more orange and black confetti.

Again, it almost definitely won't happen, and it might not need to. The Giants are a good group as currently constructed; they're more than capable of challenging the Los Angeles Dodgers and reloaded Arizona Diamondbacks for NL West supremacy.

But, hey, why not dream big? Remember, this is the franchise that set a National League record for the most consecutive sellouts. What's one more big contract?

With Pagan and Blanco both possibly exiting next winter via free agency and a thin hitters market in the 2016-17 offseason, the Giants would be setting themselves up down the road as well. And an ownership group that's already the most well-liked in baseball, according to a poll conducted by FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan, could make itself even more beloved.

San Francisco needs more power, and there are premier power hitters left on the shelf. As long as both of those things are true, it's acceptable to dream. There's a month left before pitchers and catchers. You got something better to do?

All statistics courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.


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