While their cross-bay neighbors dealt away All-Stars and their rivals to the south remade their infield amid a flurry of moves, the Giants stayed relatively quiet at baseball’s winter meetings this week, leaving San Diego without making a single change to their major-league roster.
After coming up short in their bid for free-agent prize Jon Lester, Giants officials said, the team spent the remaining time laying groundwork for addressing their offseason needs – primarily the starting rotation and third base.
“We’ve got a lot of options,” general manager Brian Sabean said as he left the Manchester Grand Hyatt on Thursday morning. “The winter meetings used to be the finish line; now it’s not. We’re doing business and we haven’t conducted anything yet. There’s nothing to talk about until we get something done.”
Filling the vacancy in their rotation remains the Giants’ top priority, and assistant GM Bobby Evans said the team is “spreading the net wide” for candidates. With Lester gone, the top names on the free-agent market are right-handers Max Scherzer and James Shields, with Shields thought to be a more likely option for the Giants.
Shields, 32, is coming off a season in which he went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA for Kansas City and has made at least 33 starts in each of the past seven seasons. While Scherzer – and his agent, Scott Boras, figure to command the biggest contract in the remaining market, there is reported wide interest in the durable Shields, as well.
A drawn-out bidding process for Shields could dissuade the Giants’ interest. Free-agent starters disappeared quickly off the market this week – along with Lester, Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy and Francisco Liriano signed deals – and Evans said the Giants would prefer to resolve their open rotation spot in a “timely” manner.
“I don’t know that we’re prepared to engage in a long-winded process at this point,” Evans said. “It doesn’t eliminate anybody, but it will be a consideration.”
In considering Shields, the Giants also would have to factor in draft pick compensation – whatever team signs Shields would forfeit its first-round pick in next year’s draft, unless that pick is in the top 10. The Giants right now are slotted to pick 19th, and Evans pointed out they have actually risen from their original slot of 22nd due to teams ahead of them signing free agents who, like Shields, were extended qualifying offers.
As for the Giants’ own free-agent starters, Evans said right-handers Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong have “always been high on the list.” Evans indicated that addressing this need via trade is less likely, because the trade market would likely require parting with players from the big-league club, which the Giants are hesitant to do.
“Ultimately where we land and prioritize is still in the process of being discussed,” Evans said. “But we’re going to continue to maintain contact with that wide net of options, and I’m sure we’ll come to a landing spot soon.”
The solution at third base may be less imminent. Evans said the Giants “do like some of the options that are available,” but are not zeroing in on a particular target and are aware that “opportunities could open later that aren’t necessarily there now.”
One name linked to the Giants this week was Asdrubal Cabrera, who has played mostly shortstop in his career before finishing last season as the Nationals’ second baseman. He was mentioned as a possibility for third base, but Evans said the Giants believe Cabrera prefers to stay at second, “And that does create not as good a fit for us.”
Evans did not rule out the possibility of Joe Panik moving to third but said the Giants’ focus right now is finding a third baseman and not disrupting the combination of Panik and Brandon Crawford up the middle.
The Giants’ inactivity stood in stark contrast to the Los Angeles Dodgers, whose new-look front office led by president Andrew Friedman dizzied the meetings with a series of late moves, including trading for second baseman Howie Kendrick and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, dealing Matt Kemp and signing starter Brandon McCarthy. The A’s also made some key moves, including trading away All-Stars Jeff Samardzija and Brandon Moss.
What became clear was that the Giants, despite finishing second to Los Angeles in the National League West last season, did not feel pressed to keep up with the Dodgers’ moves in San Diego.
“It was an opportunity to tee up a lot of different options,” Evans said of the meetings. “And I think we’ve done that.”