The Giants are casting a wide net as they search for outfield help, and they’re prepared to move Hunter Pence to a part-time role if their other acquisitions necessitate such a transition, GM Bobby Evans tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.
Evans tells Crasnick that the team’s “focus is center field” and upgrading the defense, though San Francisco has, of course, been widely linked to Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton in trade talks as well. The acquisition of a center fielder wouldn’t appear to force Pence into a timeshare at first glance, though John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted this afternoon that if the Giants are successful in adding both a center fielder and a right fielder such as Stanton, the team could put Pence and Denard Span into a left-field platoon.
Landing Stanton and an established center fielder would be a lofty goal, though Shea also tweets that a short-term fix could be an option in center field. The organization is high on 24-year-old Steven Duggar and believes he could eventually be an internal candidate to man center on a long-term basis. The 2015 sixth-rounder is likely to open next year in Triple-A, per Shea.
Of course, it remains to be seen just how the Giants will remedy their outfield situation. Joel Sherman of the New York Post also chatted with Evans, and the GM acknowledged that the poor reputation of San Francisco’s farm system makes trading with other organizations more difficult. Evans also plainly stated that the Giants would “prefer not to go over [the luxury tax barrier] for the fourth straight year.”
Adding Stanton’s $25MM average annual value to the luxury tax ledger would almost certainly put the Giants right up against that threshold. Between the average annual values of Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Mark Melancon, Denard Span, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Moore and Pence (plus $13.9MM in arbitration projections), the Giants already have nearly $154MM on the luxury tax ledger. That’s not even including a potential center-field addition, pre-arbitration players or the roughly $13MM of player benefits that is included in luxury tax calculations. Nevertheless, Sherman characterizes them as a legitimate suitor for the 2017 home run king.
[Related: San Francisco Giants payroll outlook]
As Crasnick notes, the Giants have been tied to virtually every outfielder on the free-agent or trade market. In addition to Stanton, San Francisco has been linked to Lorenzo Cain (link), Jackie Bradley Jr. (link), Billy Hamilton (link) and Jay Bruce (link) in the past week alone.
San Francisco outfielders were far and away the least productive unit in all of Major League Baseball last season, hitting just .255/.309/.375 while also posting the fifth-worst Defensive Runs Saved total in the game (-42). Pence, 35 next April, played no small role in those struggles. The former All-Star hit .260/.315/.385 with passable but unspectacular defense in right field. He’s owed $18.5MM next season — the final year of a five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants.