Manager Bruce Bochy says that the Giants are hoping to add "somebody who can drive the ball" in the coming offseason, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. This is not terribly surprising, being as the club ranks 26th in the bigs in slugging percentage and stands atop none but the Marlins in home runs and isolated power.
The most obvious area to add pop would be left field. San Francisco is set in center and seems interested in returning Hunter Pence in right. While the team did muster about two wins above replacement from its left fielders this year, most of it derived from exceptional defense from Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres. That lineup spot produced just seven long balls, however.
The difficulty, of course, comes in the market for power-hitting left fielders, which seems longer on demand than supply. Indeed, we just took a look at much the same question with regard to San Fran's division foes from Arizona, who similarly have a compelling young first baseman and a desire to add pop elsewhere. The Giants probably have more payroll flexibility than do the Diamondbacks: San Francisco has already guaranteed $84.23MM in 2014, but that is still $52.68MM under its 2013 payroll and it only figures to pay a hefty arbitration salary to Belt, who will just be in his first season of eligibility. Though Schulman says that the Giants could be in the mix for free agents like Carlos Beltran, or might even consider dealing a young arm for an outfielder, power would figure to be easier and cheaper to add at the first base position.
Given the market situation, Schulman suggests an interesting alternative method that GM Brian Sabean could employ to infuse pop into the lineup: namely, moving Brandon Belt to left field and adding a first baseman. Bochy seemingly considers it realistic that the team may ask Belt to prepare to play in the outfield, though he was talking about a part-time role that would keep Belt in the lineup when Buster Posey plays first. According to Schulman, however, a full-time move is not out of the question for the athletic 25-year-old, who has established himself this year with a 143 OPS+. Indeed, the smooth-swinging Belt does have professional experience in the outfield, including 36 MLB games.
Whether or not Sabean will pursue this strategy remains to be seen, of course, but it would open up more avenues to bring additional power into AT&T Park. The free agent market for first basemen includes Kendrys Morales and Mike Napoli. Cuban defector Jose Abreu has also been rumored to be on the Giants' radar.