All offseason, Diamond Digest writers will be taking a look at each team’s 2020 season and looking forward at what moves each team might have to make to set themselves up for improvement in 2021. Today, Diego Franco-Carreno takes a look at the Giants!
The 2020 Giants were a fun team to watch. This team of misfits as I would call it stepped up in a division that had two of the top teams in the NL. They ultimately fell short but that’s alright. When your expectations are already so low, falling short of a loftier one isn’t the end of the world. The Giants could have a very active offseason, with their rebuild seemingly being accelerated by several years as they still have a good farm system with talent on the brink of the big leagues. I would love to see the front office fix the obvious holes and move up from there.
2020 Record: 29-31, 3rd Place in NL West
Team MVP: Mike Yastrzemski
Team Cy Young: Kevin Gausman
Biggest Positive Surprise: Donovan Solano’s hot bat, Jarlin Garcia
Biggest Negative Surprise: Bullpen Management and the starting rotation
The San Francisco Giants are coming off a season where they narrowly missed the playoffs and they were not supposed to be there. The 2020 Giants were supposed to be one of the worst teams in the league and they surprised everyone with the emergence of Donnie Barrels and the sustained success of Mike Yastrzemski. They found a diamond in the rough in pitcher Kevin Gausman and even got a lot of production out of Drew Smyly when he was healthy too. In the end, though, this team just had too much trouble competing with the likes of the Dodgers and the Padres. Gabe Kapler didn’t exactly use the bullpen super well this last year either, making it appear to be a glaring weak point. If you dive deeper into the bullpen numbers, however, you’ll see that the Giants had 11 blown saves and their relievers with better numbers like Jarlin Garcia (0.49 ERA, 884 ERA+) did not get as many innings of work as Tyler Rogers (4.50 ERA, 96 ERA+). The starting rotation outside of Gausman and Smyly was not exactly fantastic either. Johnny Cueto, Tyler Anderson, Jeff Samardzija, and Logan Webb made up for 38 starts and had an average ERA+ of 83 (Gausman and Smyly combined for the other 15 starts). The last 7 starts were from an opener and from Trevor Cahill, who also turned in a solid season with an ERA+ of 133 over 25 IP and 6 starts. It creates a path that the organization can take moving forward if they want to try and compete. With already far surpassing expectations this past season, I would love to see them go for it and try to win in the 2021 season.
2020-2021 Offseason Preview
Key Losses: Drew Smyly, Trevor Cahill, Tony Watson
Areas of Greatest Need: Starting pitching, Bullpen
I think the Giants offseason can go two very different ways, they can choose to go for it and try to compete for a playoff spot, or they can give the rebuild another year or two and wait things out. Here are the two paths I believe they should take depending on what they decide to do. They already have Gausman for another year, so moving forward what can they do to either contend or to tank?
IF you want to compete
Jackie Bradley Jr. has spent the first 8 seasons of his career with the Boston Red Sox, and he has finally hit free agency. He has a career OPS+ of 94 and had a pretty darn good 2020 season where he amassed an impressive 1.8 WAR over 55 games. The Giants can really use an outfielder who can stay healthy, and JBJ has played at least 80% of games every season since 2016. With an often injured Alex Dickerson playing in left field the last couple of seasons, JBJ would get plenty of opportunities, especially if the Giants do something along the lines of…
Trade one of the following: Alex Dickerson, Wilmer Flores, Darin Ruf
The Giants have found a number of “diamond in the rough” players or have had some lower level signings pan out. I think they would be able to get some decent prospects for any of these hitters here. Dickerson could be interesting with his injury problems in the past, but if he is thrust into a bench role full time, he can be a great bat off the bench and can likely stay healthy for an entire season. Ruf could be thrust into a similar position as a power bat off the bench, he could also possibly serve as a pretty good DH for a team who wants power from that position. Flores can play the whole infield – mostly 1B or 2B – but has played some 3B and SS in the past. He provides a good veteran presence and some pop in your lineup when needed. Coming off his best season yet, his value could not be higher right now.
Sign Brad Hand
Brad Hand was allowed to walk away from the Cleveland baseball team? Hand, who has been an all-star for 4 straight seasons (there were no all stars in 2020), can help shore up a Giants bullpen that absolutely needs it. San Francisco has definitely shown a willingness to spend in the past, and now with Jeff Samardjzia off the books, there is some more spending room for the club. Hand is only 30 and can give the bullpen the leadership and reliable stopper or closer that they so desperately need again.
Bring back an old friend in Yusmeiro Petit
Yusmeiro Petit was a World Series champ with the Giants in 2014. He has spent the last 3 seasons in Oakland, so I’m sure he would enjoy sticking around the bay area. He has only improved as his career has progressed. He had a 154 ERA+ in his time in Oakland and Giants fans would be ecstatic to have him back in the black and orange.
Sign a Starting Pitcher
The Giants could keep it simple by bringing back Trevor Cahill and all would be well and good. They could also make a bit of a bigger move and sign someone like Jake Odorizzi or John Lester. As it stands right now, the Giants only really have 4 starting arms, so filling the 5th with a higher-end free agent could be exactly what they need. The Giants have already been rumored to have interest in Lester, they tried signing him when he was a free agent 6 years ago, and Lester to the bay still makes sense. Odorizzi was an all-star in 2019, but his 2020 season was a bit rough. 2020 being such a fluke year, he very well could return to the all-star form he had in 2019, so bringing him in to help a Giants rotation that isn’t expected to have a ton of production could be a great help.
OR if you aren’t ready to compete:
Take on bad contracts for prospects. If you aren’t quite ready to compete with the Dodgers and the Padres, at least use that massive payroll to get better at the minor league level. The Giants can continue to build up their farm system to potentially make some really big moves next offseason. They have the budget to take on some bigger contracts for teams that may want to get these guys off the books, here are a few guys that the Giants could take on:
The Giants could give up some of their lower tier prospects to acquire these bigger names with big contracts. They should be able to upgrade their farm system while doing it.
The 2020 Giants surprised everyone – they had no business being a game out of the playoff. We’ll see if they take that 2020 year and go right back into possible contention, or take the time for a proper rebuild. Either way, San Francisco can produce some fun to watch baseball in 2021, the offseason will tell us if we should be excited for this team now or a few years down the road.
2021 Projected Roster
1) Austin Slater (LF)
2) Mike Yastrzemski (RF)
3) Donovan Solano (2B)
4) Buster Posey (C)
5) Brandon Belt (1B)
6) Evan Longoria (3B)
7) Mauricio Dubon (CF)
8) Brandon Crawford (SS)
9) Kevin Gausman (P)
- Kevin Gausman
- Johnny Cueto
- Logan Webb
- Tyler Anderson
- Jake Odorizzi/Jon Lester
- Tyler Rogers
- Brad Hand
- Yusmeiro Petit
- Trevor Gott
- Reyes Moronta
- Wandy Peralta
- Jarlin Garcia
- Caleb Baragar
- Joey Bart
- Jackie Bradley Jr.
- Wilmer Flores
- Darin Ruf
- Daniel Robertson
With these projections, a lot of help comes to the bullpen and rotation. The Giants do lose Dickerson but gain JBJ as far as a bench bat who could slide into the starting lineup instead of Slater. You also get Jake Odorizzi or Jon Lester in this hypothetical, which would help the rotation a whole lot. You also hope Webb bounces back and Anderson looks good this offseason. The bullpen gets a huge boost with both Petit and Hand joining a bullpen that has potential if managed correctly. Daniel Robertson is also a newer name to the Giants roster, and he would serve as a bench piece after being a Ray for much of his MLB career. Robertson is a good utility guy who can serve as a backup just about anywhere on the diamond. You may also not see Bart if he isn’t going to get regular ABs, he may have another season in the minors in his future.
This roster is one I would love to see the Giants have heading into the 2021 season where they could compete, but also sell at the deadline if they wanted to.