The Giants over the past few days filled openings in their starting rotation and bullpen by bringing back two of their own free agents, Jake Peavy and Sergio Romo, and addressed the vacancy at third base by trading two minor-leaguers to Miami for Casey McGehee.
Whether that light flurry of activity constitutes the bulk of the Giants’ maneuvering in a wild winter across baseball – and particularly in the National League West – remains to be seen.
“We’ve got some limited financial flexibility still left,” general manager Brian Sabean said on a conference call Saturday. “We have to decide how best to utilize that.”
The Giants are still in the market for a left fielder – potentially a right-handed hitter to platoon with Gregor Blanco next season. And they have engaged in talks with free-agent starter James Shields, who remains the second-biggest name on the market behind Max Scherzer. Sabean said the Giants have not talked to Scherzer and have no plans to do so. “It’s an open question right now,” Sabean said of further activity, adding: “I’m relieved that third base is spoken for.”
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McGehee, acquired late Friday, comes to the Giants on a one-year deal to replace Pablo Sandoval, who departed for Boston in free agency. Sabean said that when the Giants began to explore third-base options, McGehee, a Santa Clara County native, was “a good fit from Day One.” Talks between the Giants and Marlins accelerated Friday after Miami acquired infielder Martin Prado, making McGehee expendable.
McGehee said that as soon as he heard of the Prado deal, he began looking at other teams that needed a third baseman and was “really hoping San Francisco was going to be it.” The 32-year-old, who attended Soquel High School and Fresno State, grew up following both the Giants and A’s and “loving to watch Will Clark, Matt Williams,” and said he values the opportunity to return to Northern California.
“I couldn’t be more happy to not only be in an organization that’s had the success they’ve had over the last little while, but also it’s a chance for me to get back home (and) share some of my career and journey with my family and friends,” McGehee said. “It’s going to be really special for me.”
It has been a winding journey for McGehee, who will be playing for his sixth big-league team. He hit 23 homers with 104 RBIs for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010, but his power numbers waned and he spent 2013 out of affiliated baseball altogether, playing in Japan for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.
McGehee said that playing abroad forced him to return to a more natural hitting approach and reminded him to appreciate playing in the majors.
He returned last season for Miami and earned Sporting News’ Comeback Player of the Year honor while leading N.L. third basemen in hits (177), RBIs (76) and fielding percentage (.979) – though he hit only four homers, albeit playing half his games in Miami’s cavernous park.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said McGehee, who had a .287 batting average last season, will hit “in the heart of the order” in 2015.
Sandoval spent most of last season batting cleanup, and while McGehee may fit best in the fifth or sixth spot, Bochy said he’d consider slotting McGehee fourth at times behind Buster Posey, citing McGehee’s experience protecting Giancarlo Stanton in Miami.
Still, McGehee said he harbors no illusions about making Giants fans forget Sandoval entirely.
“I think I’d be foolish to go in and think I’m going to step into Pablo’s shoes and completely replace him,” McGehee said. “He’s one of those guys who’s not going to be forgotten or completely replaced in San Francisco.
“My job is to go in and find my niche.”
While McGehee likely represents a drop in power from Sandoval, Sabean pointed out that the Giants won the World Series this past season despite a precipitous drop in their power numbers in the second half, and said: “The best thing we can do is put together a strong, deep lineup, and power will take care of itself.”
With Sandoval gone, Sabean said, “The whole lineup’s going to have to chip in.”