Every club’s focus is fixed firmly on the 2021 season. Except maybe Dodgers fans, who are probably still hungover. The rest of us have already begun our free agent watch, or The Hot Stove as it’s commonly known, scrolling Twitter for the latest scoop on where players might be headed next year.
The San Francisco Giants, considered to be of more-than-modest means, are expected to be somewhat aggressive in the free agent market this winter. Even with the uncertainty that 2020 has provided, and the financial hit to baseball’s income, the Giants are still in the conversation to upgrade their roster via free agency.
But who to pick? Who is available? Who could be tempted west to the Bay Area?
Let’s look at a couple of the leading candidates who could find themselves donning the orange and black in the not-too-distant future.
The recently-crowned NL Cy Young Award winner is considered the top pitcher on the market and would solve one of the Giants’ most pressing needs: starting pitching.
San Francisco’s rotation is sorely lacking an ace (although the re-acquisition of Kevin Gausman is very welcome). What better way to fix that problem than adding the reigning Cy Young winner to your team? This should be simple.
Well, not exactly. Bauer has stressed the importance of signing for a team that’s in immediate contention for a World Series. With all due respect to the Giants, they don’t fit into that category, not yet anyway. Bauer might look elsewhere for the promise of a championship, even if San Francisco could meet his financial demands.
We couldn't see it any other way…
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) November 11, 2020
Bauer also comes with a lot of baggage. Whether he’s getting into squabbles online, antagonising MLB authorities, or just generally being a nuisance, The Trevor Bauer Show is hard to ignore. And it is a legitimate show now; Bauer has been very successful in forming a considerable following on YouTube with his regular vlogs and engaging content.
If the Giants are able to woo him, would three years and over $80 million prove to be a worthwhile return? If Bauer can continue to be a Cy Young worthy pitcher during that time, then you’d find it hard to argue he’s not worth the money, even if it can be a bumpy ride.
His 2020 campaign was nothing short of sensational: over 11 starts and 73 innings of work, Bauer pitched an NL-leading 1.73 ERA with 100 strikeouts and just 17 walks. Bauer has never been shy to let his fans and critics know how much self-belief he has, and this season he really backed that up.
The question of whether or not Bauer can repeat that level of performance is a legitimate one. The yearly numbers in his career indicate some inconsistency, with only 2018 and 2020 standing out as being worthy of ace-level attention.
Whether the California native returns to the state of his birth remains to be seen. The Giants would certainly benefit from his enormous talent, and his arsenal of befuddling pitches. If they can endure the circus that comes along for the ride, they could finally find their ace.
We’ve looked at the top available pitcher in Bauer, but the top position player is also an attractive and suitable need for San Francisco that bears some consideration.
George Springer, the centre fielder formerly of the Houston Astros, would upgrade the Giants’ outfield immediately. Even at 31 years old, Springer is the type of graceful and athletic player you can envision maintaining his form well into his mid-30s. Naturally, his defence will decline in the coming years but many expect his glove will hold up to be more than adequate. If the National League adopts the designated hitter on a full-time basis, then the addition of Springer may prove to be of even better value.
A three-time consecutive All-Star heading into 2020, Springer largely escaped the filth and grime of the trash-can saga in Houston, and his 2020 numbers reflected this.
In 51 games and 189 at-bats, Springer was able to hit 14 home runs with a .265 average, to go along with a .899 OPS and 146 wRC+. His ability to hit for power and barrel the ball will play well in San Francisco’s Oracle Park, which enjoyed an offensive renaissance this year, thanks in part to the fence alterations in the outfield and the closure of the gates by the right field Portwalk.
Springer’s numbers were even more impressive over his last full season in 2019. A Silver Slugger Award-winner and MVP candidate, Springer smashed 39 home runs on his way to recording a 6.5 WAR and 156 wRC+, per Fangraphs. It’s exciting to think what he could with a full year in San Francisco.
Springer’s services won’t come cheap, and would command a sizeable investment, even in this strange 2020 market. Such is Springer’s supreme talent, it would be very surprising to get a player of his quality at a bargain rate. The Giants would also be forced to surrender a draft pick, as Springer recently rejected Houston’s qualifying offer, which is something the front office could balk at.
However, the club has the available finances to afford Springer, and need not worry about his potential addition blocking their outfield prospects. When Hunter Bishop, Heliot Ramos, and Luis Matos are ready for the show, Springer could naturally move to a corner outfield spot and still be a positive contributor.
Springer grew up with a father who idolised baseball legend and Giants icon Willie Mays, and dad made sure to pass that appreciation to his son.
Who better then, to follow in Mays’ footsteps, than Springer?
Ash Day is covering the San Francisco Giants throughout 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29