Welcome back to our look at the Giants offseason to remember, a recap of the players the club have secured for 2023 (and beyond).
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: of course it was disappointing, nigh excruciatingly painful, not to have added Aaron Judge or Carlos Correa this winter. It’s not healthy to dwell too long on missed opportunities so in the spirit of moving forward, we’re instead focusing on players who actually did sign with San Francisco. They’re excited to be there and we’re excited to have them.
Part one reviewed the pitchers recruited to bolster the bullpen and rotation. Our second part focuses on the new position players, and one familiar face:
Michael Conforto – OF – 2 yrs/$36M (includes opt out)
Similar to Luke Jackson in part one, Michael Conforto also missed 2022 through injury; the former Mets man had surgery on his right shoulder in April. The 29-year-old outfielder has now been medically cleared and is expected to be ready for Opening Day.
Conforto should prove to be a fine addition and represents an upgrade defensively, something the Giants sorely needed. He’ll likely man one of the corner spots, enabling LaMonte Wade Jr. to focus on first base and Joc Pederson to be a full-time DH.
Conforto had many suitors this offseason but the Giants got their man. There is risk involved, as there is with all free agents, but with Conforto the risk could extend beyond just his health.
In 2021, Conforto’s last season, he slashed a disappointing .232/.344/.384 (BA/OBP/SLG) with 14 home runs. It was some way off the All-Star-worthy numbers he’d produced with the Mets in previous years; between 2017-2019 Conforto averaged .257/.363/.492 with 29 home runs and 81 RBIs.
The Giants are hoping Conforto can return to that level in San Francisco. Even if he doesn’t quite reach those heights, he’s still set to be an upgrade over the outfield options manager Gabe Kapler previously had at his disposal. The idea that Conforto possesses 30-homer potential should be enough to get Giants fans looking forward to his at-bats this year.
Mitch Haniger – OF – 2 yrs/$28M (+2025 player option)
Here comes Haniger ✍️
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) December 7, 2022
32-year-old outfielder Mitch Haniger was high on the Giants’ wishlist from the very beginning and the team made sure not to miss out on their man, offering him a generous multi-year contract.
The Northern California native struggled in 2022, hitting .246/.308/.429 with 11 home runs over 57 injury-plagued games with the Mariners. Despite this recent setback, there is hope that Haniger can return to the offensive force he once was; in 2018 he earned an All-Star selection, thanks to a career-best .285/.366/.493 slashline and 26 home runs. In 2021 Haniger crushed 39 home runs and 100 RBIs, and was a major contributor on a 90-win Mariners team that missed the playoffs by just one measly game. At pitcher-friendly Oracle Park, that sort of power is considered once-in-a-generation; no Giant has hit 30 or more home runs since Barry Bonds hung up his spikes. Haniger could change that.
Like Conforto, there are injury concerns attached to Haniger too. By now the Giants pattern of picking up guys with health issues is slapping you in the face – they don’t even try to hide their approach, but it has proven to be effective during Farhan Zaidi’s reign. Haniger’s injury troubles range from his ankle, to his back, to his testicles (yikes). The Giants feel much of Haniger’s issues were purely bad luck: being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or getting hit by the wrong pitch in the wrong place. They don’t feel Haniger’s history of missing games is necessarily an indicator of his future days in orange and black.
The Giants desperately needed a pair of proven outfielders, and together with Conforto, Haniger provides a much needed boost to the lineup.
Joc Pederson – OF/DH – 1 yr/$19.65M
Hey, wait a second, Joc Pederson isn’t a new face!
Well, technically, for a brief moment Pederson was a free agent. It didn’t take him long to accept the Giants’ $19.65 million qualifying offer and return to the fold. The club are happy to have him back after a largely successful 2022.
Last year Pederson took a one-year, $6 million flyer to join his hometown Giants and it paid off; the 30-year-old slugger enjoyed a .274/.353/.521 line (career-high batting average and OBP) with a team-high 23 home runs. His 144 OPS+ was a career-high as well, and put him in elite company, ahead of the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Mookie Betts and even Carlos Correa. Pederson was devastating against right-handed pitching, to the tune of a .894 OPS (ranked 10th best among all left-handed hitters with at least 250 plate appearances.)
Unfortunately, Pederson wasn’t quite as effective against lefties and was often platooned, exposed to just 57 plate appearances against southpaws all year. Since we mentioned the word ‘exposed’, we cannot ignore Pederson’s defensive limitations in the outfield last season; his shortcomings with the glove were revealed too often for the Giants’ liking.
Defensive metrics don’t always tell the whole story but either way, they certainly didn’t like Pederson in 2022: per Fangraphs, Pederson’s -10.0 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) was second-to-last in the majors among outfielders with at least 500 innings in the field.
Nevertheless, now that the Giants have added new outfielders in Conforto and Haniger, Pederson’s days roaming the open pastures of Oracle Park are likely behind him. He’s set to become a very valuable full-time DH that could thrive once more, especially now his defence is unlikely to be a factor.
Who’s to say the club will stop there? Additions could still be made. Depth at the catcher position certainly requires attention and no one would turn down the chance at a defensive specialist to man centre field. There is still plenty of time to address both if they choose to.
Should the Giants be content with their lot, then so be it. Seven major league free-agent acquisitions, including Pederson, would be considered a busy and productive offseason for most of us.
However, the dark and foreboding cloud that Judge and Correa’s absence has cast over the Giants is hard to shake, and may take a while to clear. And that is understandable; dreams were dashed after all, but I hope it won’t prove to be the defining memory of the 2023 Giants.
The players who did sign, the ones who’ll run out of the dugout on Opening Day, are quality additions. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll surprise you.
I’m certainly ready to see them in action. Bring on Spring Training and the start of another season at the corner of Third and King.
Ash Day is the San Francisco Giants writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29
Photo credit for featured image by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images.