The offseason is in full effect, the Hot Stove is here. I love this time of year. The speculation, the rumours, the uncertainty, and the hope. Fans want the best and brightest free-agents to join their ballclub. Is Shohei Ohtani going to sign for your team? Probably not. But for a brief period, you can dream about it. It’s a possibility.
With that in mind, I thought I’d discuss my free-agent wishlist for the San Francisco Giants:
I can’t leave him off the list, can I? He’s the generational superstar every team in the league wishes they could have, and the Giants will be in contention for his signature. How close they realistically are to acquiring Ohtani is anyone’s guess but attempts will be made to bring him to the Bay.
Even if he won’t pitch in 2024 (Ohtani had September surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow), he’s still the most elite hitter in the game and about to be crowned AL MVP (again). His production on the field is only matched by his ability to attract fans and sell a tonne of merchandise. Everyone knows the Giants have been desperate for a superstar and there is no finer candidate than Ohtani.
It’ll cost the Giants in excess of $500 million but if there was ever a player you want to build your team around, it’s Ohtani.
I won’t know what to do with myself if the Giants actually land him.
Should the Giants fail to get one Japanese superstar, they can turn their attention to the next one. Yamamoto is one of the best pitchers to emerge from Japan in the sport’s history and the Giants aim to be among the frontrunners for his services.
San Francisco needs to bolster their rotation with a top-tier starter to partner Logan Webb and the 25-year-old ace would be the perfect addition. With his prime years still ahead of him, Yamamoto will command a significant fee, but all signs indicate he’d be worth it.
In his seven years in NPB, Yamamoto recorded an astonishingly low 1.82 ERA, and he’s won three straight Triple Crowns (league leader in wins, ERA and strikeouts) and three straight Eiji Sawamura Awards (NPB’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award). That legacy of success doesn’t come around very often, putting Yamamoto in extremely rare company.
Watching him pitch in the WBC earlier this year was a real treat and he was a key part of Japan’s championship roster. Just the idea of Yamamoto pitching at Oracle Park every fifth day will get Giants fans’ pulses racing. Critics are quick to point out Yamamoto’s slight 5-foot-10 frame but San Francisco had enormous success with another pitcher whose height was once questioned; He turned out okay.
I’ll be pretty devastated if the Giants can’t make it happen with Yamamoto. The more I watch, the more I read, the more my infatuation grows.
Sensing a theme here? This week’s episode of Free-Agent Fantasies has an international flavour to it.
Lee is undoubtedly among the best position players available, on the back of several sublime years in Korea. The talented outfielder is still only 25-years-old and displays all the qualities you want: in seven KBO seasons, Lee compiled a career batting line of .340/.407/.491 (BA/OBP/SLG), with 383 walks to 304 strikeouts. Lee’s supreme control of the strike zone would instantly upgrade a Giants lineup that really struggled to make consistent contact in 2023.
The Giants outfield is rather crowded at the moment but that shouldn’t deter the team from pursuing a player of Lee’s quality. The club have been scouting Lee for some time and haven’t been subtle in hiding their admiration for him. Outfield production was a major weakness last season and an obvious area for an improvement: Lee seems like a natural fit and would solve many problems, both offensively and defensively.
A player very familiar to Bay Area fans already, thanks to his five years in Oakland, third baseman Matt Chapman now finds himself on the market and open to the highest bidder. As a long-time Chapman fan, I hope the Giants are paying attention.
Some have pointed to Chapman’s offensive limitations in recent years as a reason not to sign him. Why buy a premium-price Matt Chapman now when we already have a Matt Chapman at home (J.D. Davis)?
With all due respect to Davis, who had a solid 2023 season (.248/.325/.413, 18 HR and 2.2 fWAR), Chapman’s floor as a third baseman is probably Davis’ ceiling.
2023 was certainly a down year for Chapman at the plate, but his 17 home runs would have still tied him for third-best on the Giants. Chapman is more accustomed to hitting in 25-homer territory, and even hit a career-high 36 long balls in 2019. That was under the guidance of his former manager Bob Melvin, who coincidentally is now San Francisco’s skipper. Perhaps a reunion is in order?
Defensively, there are few who can rival Chapman at the hot corner, now the owner of four Gold Glove awards after his 2023 success. The Giants currently lack a defensive player of Chapman’s calibre and adding the third baseman would massively upgrade their infield, as well as provide a mentor to young prospects like Casey Schmitt and Marco Luciano (who would hope to partner Chapman for years to come).
Chapman’s return to California certainly sounds plausible enough. I find myself checking my apps multiple times a day, eagerly awaiting the news that he’s coming home.
Don’t let me down Farhan. Make it happen.
Ash Day is the San Francisco Giants writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on X (Twitter) @AshDay29
Photo credit for featured image by Eric Espada/Getty Images