The Giants shored up their outfield mix with yesterday’s addition of Austin Jackson on a two-year, $6MM contract — threading the luxury tax needle by adding a veteran that serves as an upgrade while still squeezing in just south of the $197MM barrier. That doesn’t leave much room for further upgrades, but executive vice president of baseball ops Brian Sabean and GM Bobby Evans tell reporters that the Giants are still open to supplementing their outfield (links via Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area and John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle).
Notably, Sabean suggests that Jackson was “probably not” signed to be the team’s everyday center fielder. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion,” Sabean says of Jackson. San Francisco is still exploring some low-salary trade options, and prospect Steven Duggar remains a candidate to win the job (if not in Spring Training, certainly later in the season). Duggar, though, has just 232 minor league games under his belt, with only 60 of those coming in Double-A and just 13 in Triple-A.
San Francisco remains confident in its ability to acquire an additional outfielder via trade, Pavlovic writes. That’ll likely require prying loose a pre-arbitration player making near the league minimum, as the Giants are now within about $2.1MM of the luxury threshold (per Cot’s Contracts). Such assets are the types with which teams are typically loath to part, though the Brewers have reportedly been exploring trade scenarios involving their potential outfield surplus, with names like Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips circulating on the rumor mill.
The waiver circuit could present another option for the Giants as rosters are shuffled leading up to Spring Training; numerous players with some degree of big league experience figure to become available in coming weeks as teams clear roster space for veteran additions. That was the manner by which the Tigers plucked Mikie Mahtook from the Rays last year, acquiring him for a player to be named later and enjoying a fairly productive year out of the former first-rounder. (Speculatively speaking, Mahtook himself could be an option for the Giants, as the rebuilding Tigers will likely be willing to listen on virtually any player.)
If the Giants don’t succeed in landing another option to take over in center field, it seems that Jackson, Duggar, Austin Slater and Gorkys Hernandez will vie for time in center field to open the season. At the very least, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the Giants add a left-handed-hitting veteran on a minor league deal. Jackson, Hernandez, Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen all swing from the right side of the dish, so adding a lefty to create more matchup flexibility in the event that the left-handed-hitting Duggar opens the season in the minors seems logical.