The Giants are entertaining the idea of trading from their group of young and controllable pitching prospects, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. He says that signing a veteran will make it more likely but it’s a path they are already considering. As for who is in this group that Rosenthal is referring to, he lists lefties Kyle Harrison and Carson Whisenhunt as well as righties Tristan Beck, Keaton Winn, Mason Black and Hayden Birdsong.
The rotation in San Francisco doesn’t look like a strength right now. They recently had Alex Wood and Jakob Junis reach free agency, with Sean Manaea following them by opting out of his contract. The club picked up their option on Alex Cobb, but he’s going to miss at least the first month or so of the season due to hip surgery.
That leaves the club with Logan Webb and a number of questions. Anthony DeSclafani has dealt with ankle, shoulder and elbow injuries over the past two seasons, limiting him 118 2/3 innings of fairly ineffective work. Ross Stripling posted a 5.36 ERA in his 89 innings this year. Harrison debuted in 2023 but has just 34 2/3 innings of major league experience, in which he allowed eight home runs. Winn and Beck also debuted but they also have limited workloads so far and less prospect hype than Harrison.
None of Black, Whisenhunt nor Birdsong are on the 40-man roster, but Black has reached Triple-A and the latter two have made it to the Double-A level. Baseball America currently lists Whisenhunt as the club’s #5 prospect, Black at #8 and Birdsong at #12.
There is a lot of potential in that group but very few sure things. Subtracting someone from the flock would be a risk, but Rosenthal frames it as something that might need to be considered in order to add young, athletic position players.
On the whole, the club’s defense wasn’t strong in 2023. Their collective -15 Defensive Runs Saved and -17.1 grade from Ultimate Zone Rating were both in the bottom third of the league. Outs Above Average was a bit more bullish, giving them a +15, but it’s perhaps worth pointing out that Thairo Estrada alone had a +20. Brandon Crawford, now a free agent, was second on the club with +6.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi stated at the start of the offseason that upgrading the outfield defense was a priority. Since then, the club signed one of the youngest free agents available in 25-year-old Jung Hoo Lee. Perhaps further outfield changes could be considered, with bat-first guys like Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger still in the mix for playing time.
Zaidi also said that Marco Luciano will have the chance to take over the shortstop position to replace Crawford, but then later said that they would still consider bringing in depth because “it makes sense for us to have some insurance.”
Generally speaking, finding young and athletic players in free agency is hard to do. Since it takes six years of service time to reach the open market, most players don’t get there until close to or after their 30th birthday. With the Giants looking to get younger and more athletic, it makes sense that they jumped at the chance to sign Lee, but he was a unique exception since he was coming over from the Korea Baseball Organization.
If the Giants are looking for another young player to help with their athleticism, free agency offers limited options. That’s particularly true of the shortstop position, where Tim Anderson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are some of the standouts. Teams like the Reds, Twins, Rays, Cardinals and Orioles have lots of position players and could be willing to make a deal, but they would all likely be looking for young and controllable pitching in return.
As with any potential trade scenarios, the chances of something getting done will ultimately depend on the offers coming the other way. It will also depend upon the other paths the Giants pursue. They have been connected to starting pitching upgrades, including reported interest in Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Blake Snell and Yariel Rodríguez. They have also had some interest in free agent position players like Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger. There are still many moving pieces but it seems as though there’s a non-zero chance of them making some young and controllable pitchers available, which will surely intrigue many rival clubs around the league.