The sentiment of every fan of the San Francisco Giants is most likely a variant of this phrase: “let’s never talk about 2017 again.” The Giants posted one of their worst records in recent memory, finishing with a 64-98 record, making them the second worst team in the league. 2017 was a season filled with injuries and just general bad luck, starting with the freak accident that sidelined star pitcher Madison Bumgarner for a good chunk of the season. Going into the offseason, the Giants have some work to do on their team. Here are five areas of improvement.
The Giants’ once-dominant outfield has been reduced to a injured and aged shell of its former glory. Denard Span was brought in before the 2016 season, but he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations and price tag. 2012 star Hunter Pence averaged only 79 games per season in the last three years, and it was recently reported that he will be in a more limited role in the 2018 season. Left fielder Jarrett Parker only played in 51 games, missing the majority of the season after breaking his collarbone when he crashed into the outfield wall making a catch. That leaves holes in two of the three outfield positions, with their third outfielder more suited as a utility player. A complete makeover of the outfield could be difficult, but it could realistically happen. The obvious targets are Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez, the top two outfielders in this free agent class. If the Giants could get one of these two, and a mid-level outfielder like Austin Jackson or Jon Jay, that could get them a few more wins next season.
The Giants bullpen somehow got even worse from 2016 to 2017. The Giants overhauled their bullpen last offseason, but that only seemed to cause more trouble. Mark Melancon was brought in from Pittsburgh to replace Santiago Casilla as closer, only for him to convert only 11 saves, blowing five in the process. Part of the problem with Melancon was the shoddy play of the Giants relievers, who would often give up the lead before Melancon could even come in for the save. Fixing this will be difficult given that almost every team in the league will be vying for the top reliever free agents. While the Giants may not be able to get Wade Davis or Joe Smith, they could go after second-tier players in Anthony Swarzak and Luke Gregerson, which would certainly sure up the late innings in San Francisco.
Where to begin here? In 2016, Eduardo Nunez was brought in at the trade deadline to make a playoff push. The next season, he was shipped up to Boston in exchange for prospects. To fill the void in the last two months of the season, the Giants brought in down on his luck former club hero Pablo Sandoval. While Sandoval looked good in the first week back in San Francisco, he struggled mightily for the rest of the season. Going into the offseason, improving third base should be a top priority. Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier are the top two free agent third basemen, and the Giants should be able to get one of the two. If not, Trevor Plouffe could work wonders for a team in desperate need for talent at the hot corner.
BACK END OF THE ROTATION
The Giants have always prided themselves on their stellar pitching staff. While the names in the rotation last name were big, their performances were not. Bumgarner was sidelined for most of the year, but even when he came back, he looked like a better hitter than pitcher. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija both posted disappointing ERAs, and Matt Moore looked like he lost all confidence in his ability to pitch. Rounding out the rotation was Ty Blach, a rushed top prospect, and Matt Cain, who retired at the end of the season. The Giants need one more high end starter, and then a second mid-level rotation arm. They should be all in for Shohei Ohtani, which would give them the two best hitting pitchers in him and Bumgarner. If that falls through, Yu Darvish or Lance Lynn would be good fits, while Lynn, Jeremy Hellickson, or Andrew Cashner could fill in their hole as a fourth or fifth starter.
Brandon Belt was yet another Giant to hit the team trainer’s table with an injury. Belt sustained a major concussion after being hit in the head by a pitch in the middle of an August game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the start of the season still a question mark for Belt, it may be good for the Giants to sign someone in the meantime. Belt is a quality first baseman that will be tough to replace, but the Giants could go cheaper here, opting for either Mitch Moreland or Mark Reynolds rather than going after Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana.
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