San Francisco Giants' Top Free-Agent, Trade Targets Post-New Year
Signing All-Star closer Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal was a necessary move for the San Francisco Giants, but it was one that has seemingly limited the team's ability to improve the roster elsewhere.
"I don't think there's anything more to ask of ownership," general manager Bobby Evans said, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's more what I can do with what we have."
That's understandable for a team with one of the game's highest payrolls, but if the Giants are going to put an end to Los Angeles' run of four consecutive National League West crowns, they're going to have to plug holes in left field and at third base.
What follows is a look at five players, both free agents and trade acquisitions, that the Giants could reasonably target to fill those holes—assuming that ownership is willing to stretch the budget just a bit more than it already has.
3B Todd Frazier
We took a shot at putting together a hypothetical Todd Frazier-to-the-Giants trade earlier this week, and while not everyone agreed on the pieces going back to Chicago, few challenged the idea that the slugger was a superior choice to Eduardo Nunez or Conor Gillaspie for San Francisco at the hot corner.
Not only would he be an upgrade over either of the team's incumbent options, but Frazier's arrival would push Nunez into a utility role, something he's far better suited for than an everyday third baseman.
His right-handed power plays anywhere, and while the normally sure-handed defender seemed to take a step back in the field last season, it's not as if he played the position with his eyes closed. Contrary to popular opinion, Frazier is still capable of playing a solid third base.
Adding Frazier's salary to the payroll wouldn't push the Giants over the luxury-tax threshold—they're already there, per Cot's Contracts projections. In his final arbitration-eligible season, he doesn't represent a long-term burden for the club financially.
But he can help the Giants, who are built to win now, do just that.
LF Brett Gardner
A solid defender who has some pop in his bat, speed in his legs and the ability to reach base consistently, Brett Gardner has long seemed like a perfect fit to fill San Francisco's void in left field.
Sure, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson could comprise a solid platoon at the position, but the Giants can ill afford to dabble in potential when the rest of the NL West—with the notable exception of San Diego—is trying to contend for a division crown.
As Bleacher Report's Jacob Shafer wrote last month, there's a lot to like about Gardner in a Giants uniform:
His gap pop would play well in AT&T Park's Triples Alley, however. His defense and plate discipline would slot seamlessly into the Giants' current roster.
He's not a savior, but he won't come at a savior price in terms of prospects or payroll. The Giants will have to budge from their no-more-spending stance. They'll have to cough up some minor league capital. But they won't have to back up the Brink's truck.
Due $25 million through the 2018 season, Gardner's contract isn't outrageous or overly burdensome. While the Yankees aren't going to give him away, they're not going to expect an Adam Eaton-like return in a trade, either.
There's a deal to be made that makes sense for both sides.
IF/OF Jae-Gyun Hwang
Jae-Gyun Hwang isn't a household name by any means, but the 29-year-old Korean star is firmly planted on San Francisco's radar, according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi.
A career .285 hitter over a 10-year career in the Korean Baseball Organization, Hwang has shown the ability to hit for power, smacking 26 home runs in each of the past two seasons with enough speed to cause problems when he gets on base.
Of course, the KBO is a notoriously hitter-friendly league, so those numbers won't necessarily translate to MLB success. That said, Hwang could be a low-cost, high-upside addition for the Giants, someone who can handle himself at third base, shortstop and, perhaps, in a corner outfield spot as well.
3B Trevor Plouffe
It seems like Trevor Plouffe has been around for ages, but he'll only be entering his age-31 season in 2017. He's not a game-changing talent by any means, but the seven-year veteran is still a solid, albeit unspectacular ballplayer.
San Francisco finished 28th in baseball with 130 home runs in 2016. While Plouffe is no Todd Frazier in the power department, he's averaged 17 home runs a season since 2012 and won't cost nearly as much to obtain.
On a relatively modest one-year deal, Plouffe could be a shrewd addition for the Giants, whether he's the right-handed part of a platoon at third base (where he's an adequate defender) or simply as an experienced, veteran bat to add depth to the bench.
3B Luis Valbuena
Luis Valbuena is a bit more versatile than Trevor Plouffe, as he's capable of playing second base in addition to the hot corner, but he's essentially the left-handed version of his free-agent counterpart.
The 31-year-old was in the midst of a solid year for Houston, hitting .260 with 13 home runs and a .816 OPS before his season was cut short in late July by a hamstring injury that ultimately required surgery to repair.
Like Plouffe, Valbuena isn't going to command a hefty salary on a one-year deal and would be a fine addition as a part-time player for the Giants as part of a platoon at third base and insurance for second baseman Joe Panik, who has yet to eclipse the 130 games played mark in any given season.