After a couple of seasons that featured an extremely competitive NL West, the division will be much quieter this time around. The Los Angeles Dodgers are… well the Dodgers. They won’t be dropping out of the radar any time soon. The Arizona Diamondbacks have lost their core pieces and appear to be entering the realm of rebuilding. The Colorado Rockies are still up there as forces that could challenge the Dodgers but not really give them any trouble. Plus, they’ve had an extremely quiet offseason for potential playoff contenders, so it’s possible they still make some big splashes. The San Diego Padres are rebuilding for their prophetic 2020 comeback season. And the San Francisco Giants? What exactly are they doing? With new general manager Farhan Zaidi recently taking the helm, it’s not uncommon that there haven’t been any big transactions this early in his tenure.
The Giants, if they wanted to pick and choose what the ideal year would be for them to have a run for and at the playoffs, it would be this year with their division being seemingly lopsided in favor of the Dodgers. The Giants have the ability and resources to pick up enough wins to at least make the postseason as a wildcard team, but what do they have to do to increase their odds?
As it stands, the Giants’ biggest acquisition has been the signing of free agent Drew Pomeranz, meaning Zaidi and the front office understand that the starting rotation hasn’t up to the standards they’ve expected. In 2018, Giants starters combined for a 4.09 ERA (tenth in the NL) and a 1.32 WHIP (twelfth in the NL) while striking out a mere 709 (fourteenth in the NL) over 890.2 innings. Giants’ starters also had the worst strikeout per nine innings ratio in the NL at 7.11. In Pomeranz, the Giants are expecting a durable arm that can give them chances to win games as he did during his all-star caliber seasons in 2016 and 2017 where he picked up a combined 28 wins in 62 games.
While the Giants hope to get a bounceback season from Pomeranz, there’s still a lot of risk in a rotation that is comprised of Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Derek Holland, Dereck Rodriguez, and Pomeranz. Therefore, the Giants would be smart to add an established starter like Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel, despite his critically acclaimed drop in velocity, is still close to the top of his game. His 2.18 career ground ball to fly ball ratio is the kind of stuff you want from a starter at (newly named) Oracle Park, especially when your infield is full of elite defenders. Since Keuchel happens to be a client of the infamous agent Scott Boras, the Giants are going to have to offer a hefty contract for multiple years. Keuchel’s ability to pitch deep and limit damage should be regarded as the Giants’ top priority at this point.
Speaking of top priority, the Giants are rumored to be heavily invested in acquiring superstar Bryce Harper. While Harper’s presence can be a huge morale lift for the young up-and-coming Giants’ outfield his demand for a record-breaking contract may be something the Giants won’t be comfortable in giving. Since it’s a high-risk long-term contract, the Giants shouldn’t further pursue a deal with Harper. Instead, they should be much more comfortable making a short-term deal with free agent, right-fielder Carlos Gonzalez. Because people get caught up in the WAR metric (and the two headline names of this free agency), it seems Gonzalez has gone under-the-radar, and despite his consistent success with the Rockies, his asking price shouldn’t be unbearable for the Giants. His slash line of .276/.329/.467 is somewhat better than what the Giants got from right field last season and Gonzalez’ veteran presence should be beneficial to the young outfielders looking to prove themselves this season.
After bolstering the starting rotation with an established starter and adding a veteran and consistent outfielder, the Giants should prioritize adding depth to their bullpen. Although the Giants’ bullpen wasn’t necessarily a weakness last season, it wasn’t a strength either. Improving it from an average bullpen to a strength can be the difference between a deep playoff run and just missing the playoffs, as we’ve seen in recent years from a multitude of teams. Although the relief market is extremely volatile, the Giants can’t go wrong with signing Nick Vincent to a short-term deal. His durability and ability to limit baserunners (career WHIP of 1.11 through 332 innings) is underrated and has gone unnoticed because he has pitched for teams that haven’t been close to being contenders. This kind of consistency isn’t common among “non-elite” relievers and the Giants shouldn’t hesitate to negotiate a deal.
Among other relievers, the potential of reuniting with Sergio Romo is increasingly more likely to happen, given Zaidi’s openness to utilizing “openers.” Despite Romo’s downward spiral, a change of scenery back to the Bay Area may be a positive as he heads toward the end of his career.
At the end of the day, the Giants haven’t shown much progress in bolstering their potential playoff-contending roster, but should they make (which they should) make one more splash, expect them to go all-out this coming season.