As the 2022 MLB season waits on hold for a resolution to the new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players, to this observer, the San Francisco Giants appear to be weaker than when the past season ended.
Finishing 2021 with a record of 197-55, the best in baseball, the Giants have lost starting pitcher Kevin Gausman to the Toronto Blue Jays, and versatile slugger Kris Bryant awaits a new contract as a free-agent. Potential future Hall of Fame catcher Buster Posey has retired.
Star players are difficult to replace, and the Giants should be busy once the MLB lockout is lifted.
If, in fact, Bryant elects to leave San Francisco, the Giants will have lost three of their most consequential players from their high-achieving National League West championship roster.
First baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford and pitchers Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood have returned to the Giants, each signing contracts to return to the fold after entering free-agency. Each can be productive in the Giants quest to remain competitive.
Right-handed starting pitcher Alex Cobb has signed a two-year, $20M contract with a third year option. He will help the rotation, but can he replace the loss of Gausman?
To this writer, the most crucial next step in the Giants offseason would be the signing of Bryant to a long-term contract.
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Signing Bryant seems very logical and very critical for the Giants immediate future.
At 6-5, 230 pounds, the right-handed hitting third baseman, first baseman and outfielder gives San Francisco a middle of the batting order a power hitting force. Bryant’s presence allows other hitters to see better pitches as he lengthens the lineup and provides the type of offensive firepower to drive in runs.
The Chicago Cubs traded Bryant to the Giants on July 30, 2021.
With the Giants, Bryant played in 51 games. Including his time with the Chicago Cubs, he played all three outfield positions, third base, first base and even saw one game at shortstop. That type of defensive versatility and flexibility allows a manager to deploy his best possible lineup on any given day.
A four-time All Star, including 2021, Bryant hit .262/344/.444/.788 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs for San Francisco in 212 plate appearances. He stole six bases without being caught.
Bryant was the National League Most Valuable Player with the Cubs in 2016.
A good contact hitter, Bryant can hit to all fields, and hitting the gaps for doubles is his specialty. The Giants need his solid hitting to help them produce runs.
According to fangraphs.com, the Giants estimated 2021 player payroll was $162M. After signing their own free agents so far this offseason, the team’s 2022 payroll is estimated by fangraphs to be $126M, far below last year. There may be money to sign Bryant and/or additional free agents.
Other Free-Agent Possibilities:
To this writer, losing Posey from the lineup has tremendous ramifications.
First and foremost, teams do not quickly replace Hall of Fame, All Star quality players. And Posey was even more valuable because he was a very good hitting catcher, which is tough to find.
One must not lose sight of the fact starting right-hander Logan Webb, the new ace of the Giants rotation, began the year defining himself as a starter. As the season progressed, so did Webb. His profile grew and grew to the point of Webb becoming one of the best second half pitchers in the game. So the Giants will have Webb to build around for their starting rotation.
Even with Webb, Cobb, DeSclafini and Wood, it seems the club needs at least one more quality, highly capable, and healthy starter to add depth and stability for a long, 162-game season. That’s why losing Gausman could be very, very important. His impact was crucial.
Often injured starter Johnny Cueto is also a free-agent, leaving another rotation vacancy. His loss will not be as impactful as losing Gausman.
The Giants would benefit from signing at least one offensive threat and another starting pitcher.
In addition to bringing Bryant back, these other two available free-agents could be excellent targets to help improve the overall balance of the club:
If the season were to begin tomorrow, it is quite possible the Giants outfield would include LaMonte Wade Jr., Steven Duggar and Mike Yastrzemski. Bryant would be missing.
There are several utility type players on the roster suitable as 4th and 5th outfielders, as well as prospect outfielders nearing major league readiness. However, signing right-handed hitting free-agent Nick Castellanos makes tremendous sense to this writer.
Castellanos, 29, was a 1st round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2010.
Castellanos is coming off an All-Star season with the Cincinnati Reds. He hit 34 home runs and drove in 100 runs, while hitting .309/.362/.576/.939 in his 585 plate appearances. He struck out 121 times, which is admirable in today’s game.
Castellanos is not viewed as a good defensive outfielder. He has a solid arm, but he is seen by many scouts as a liability on defense. If, however, the National League has the designated hitter next year, Castellanos would be even more valuable.
Trying to make up for the loss of offense with Posey’s retirement, a combination of free-agents Bryant and Castellanos could be a solid solution to adding impactful hitters to an aging and somewhat weakened Giants lineup.
Having Crawford, Belt, Bryant and Castellanos hitting together could be dynamic for San Francisco.
Yes, right-handed starter Zack Greinke turned 38 in October. But to this old scout, free-agent Greinke would be the perfect one or two-year addition to the Giants pitching staff.
Greinke is the type of starter that will give manager Gabe Kapler quality innings start after start, keeping his team in the game. That’s the type of starter the Giants need to complete a rotation that is good, but still not deep enough to fight off injury or poor performance.
Greinke can mentor other pitchers on the staff about how to use an entire arsenal of pitches that deceive hitters and keep them off balance.
After parts of 18 big league seasons, with six All Star appearances, Greinke can still dispatch hitters. He will be coming off an 11-win season with Houston.
Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009 with the Kansas City Royals.
Not the pitcher he was in his prime, Greinke may still offer the Giants the value they need to regain their position in the National League West.
Other free-agent pitching options may include Kwang Hyun-Kim, or Matthew Boyd. Those two lefties, although not as seasoned and as efficient as right-hander Greinke, could add needed depth to the Giants rotation at a reasonable contract value.
To this writer, the San Francisco Giants will feel the impact of losing players like Buster Posey to retirement and potentially Kris Bryant to free-agency. In addition, quality starter Kevin Gausman is now a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Starter Johnny Cueto remains on the market as a free agent.
The team added righty Alex Cobb to the rotation, but to this scout, they need another starter.
Losing Posey and potentially eliminating Bryant from the lineup could cause serious issues regarding run production. That’s why retaining Bryant should be a San Francisco Giants priority.
In an ideal situation, the Giants would bolster their roster as well by adding an additional impactful hitter and another starting pitcher.