The addition of Matt Chapman to the San Francisco Giants completes the new lineup, but will they have enough pitching to stay afloat in the NL West?

By | March 5, 2024

For the second straight season, the San Francisco Giants have been extremely active in free agency. Also for the second consecutive offseason, we’re left wondering if they’ve done enough to meaningfully change a projection that once again has them heading toward mediocrity.

Don’t get me wrong: This year’s crop of additions, most recently bolstered by the signing of third baseman Matt Chapman, looks much stronger than the hodgepodge of center they brought in a year ago. But in the broader context of San Francisco’s grand ambitions of bigger splashes (Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last year; Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto this time), it’s hard not to view each subsequent move through the lens of comfort. And with the Giants’ top targets this offseason both landing with their biggest rivals along the California coast, this winter feels like a respectable pivot rather than a grand success.

That said, the Giants front office deserves credit for making much more significant changes than they did a year ago. Last winter, after missing out on Judge (ouch) and turning down Correa’s mega-deal over concerns about his medical treatment (perhaps a wise decision), the Giants opted to split nearly $200 million among eight MLB free agents:

  • Mitch Haniger, 3 years, $43.5 million

  • Michael Conforto, 2 years, $36 million

  • Taylor Rogers, 3 years, $33 million

  • Ross Stripling, 2 years, $25 million

  • Sean Manaea, 2 years, $25 million

  • Joc Pederson, 1 year, $19.65 million (qualifying bid)

  • Luke Jackson, 2 years, $11.5 million

  • Roberto Perez, 1 year, $2.5 million

While some of these signings proved more effective than others, I don’t think I’m breaking the news by saying that the group hasn’t exactly fueled World Series aspirations for San Francisco or its fan base. Fast forward past last season’s 79-83 finish to today, and Rogers and Jackson remain important parts of the bullpen. The remaining five are no longer on the roster.

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Last year, the Giants ranked eighth in total free agent spending. This winter, after landing Chapman, San Francisco’s guaranteed money bill increased to $261.25 million, given to five MLB free agents:

  • Jung-Hoo Lee, 6 years, $113 million

  • Matt Chapman, 3 years, $54 million

  • Jorge Soler, 3 years, $42 million

  • Jordan Hicks, 4 years, $44 million

  • Tom Murphy, 2 years, $8.25 million

That total pales in comparison to the ridiculous amounts of money the rival Dodgers have been throwing around – deferred or not – but it’s also comfortably more than any other team has spent in free agency this winter, with the Phillies ranking a distant third, almost thanks entirely to the $172 million deal they gave Aaron Nola at the start of the offseason. We know big spending doesn’t always translate into wins, but this kind of spending by the Giants is an indication that the relative half-measures taken a year ago in free agency might not pan out this time.

This winter, the Giants needed impact and star power, and they did quite well after the disappointment of missing Ohtani and Yamamoto. A potential franchise midfielder in Lee whose best years should be ahead of him – rare for a free agent. A legitimate power threat – the kind the organization has lacked for so long – in Soler. An elite defender at third base with a streaky but powerful bat in Chapman.

Adding three everyday players to the lineup and bringing in a new manager in Bob Melvin are compelling steps toward launching this roster out of the morass of mediocrity it has been stuck in for the past two years. While a lot will have to go right – especially on the mound – for the Giants to be rock-solid postseason contenders, their upgrades place them firmly in the crowded mix of NL hopefuls looking to exceed expectations and secure a wild-card spot.

By securing Chapman on a shorter-term deal, the Giants essentially won a staring contest with agent Scott Boras in a similar fashion to what the Cubs did with Cody Bellinger. Like Bellinger, Chapman had a wealth of hardware and demonstrated superstar upside in the not-so-distant past, but the volatility of his offensive game apparently deterred potential suitors from the kind of long-term commitments normally associated with the top free agents on the market. the market. Although Chapman was still a top target for San Francisco due to his excellent defense and relationship with new manager Bob Melvin from their time in Oakland, the Giants waited long enough to make a deal that carried much less risk to the team brings.

With two frontline starters still available in Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, it’s hard not to wonder if the Giants have another big move in store. Speaking to reporters after Chapman’s signing announcement, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was asked about the likelihood of him continuing to add via free agency. He suggested that while something else could happen, the Giants are operating in “in-season mode” and focusing on finding playing time for the younger players already in the organization, especially on the mound.

Maybe Zaidi is being honest and San Francisco has no intention of signing another starting pitcher before Opening Day. But if there is interest in expanding the rotation, this position is entirely practical to take publicly with Snell and Montgomery still unsigned. What does Zaidi have to gain from a negotiating standpoint by declaring how badly the Giants still need a starter? Instead, hyping up internal options is an obvious way to project outward that the prized southpaws might need a home like San Francisco more than San Francisco. And if the deals Bellinger and Chapman settled for are any indication, such a tactic could be wise if Boras fails to land more lucrative deals elsewhere.

Regardless of the front office’s true feelings, it seems completely fair to look at the way San Francisco has addressed the pitching staff thus far and wonder if these moves are enough. With Logan Webb on staff and top prospect Kyle Harrison primed for a regular run after a cup of coffee last season, only two rotation spots appeared to be up for grabs when winter began, raising expectations that the pitching staff would be turned externally. some fashion. Even after the team missed out on Yamamoto, that left several free-agent starting pitching options who could have come in behind Webb.

Instead, the Giants opted to sign flame-throwing reliever Jordan Hicks as the starter and trade for a recovering Robbie Ray. The optimistic outlook shows that Hicks will utilize his powerful arsenal for more than 100 innings and Ray will return to All-Star form by mid-summer in time for a playoff push. A bleaker view is that Hicks’ control issues as a starter prove untenable and the Giants are too far back in the standings in the second half for Ray’s return to mean much at all. How the season will unfold remains to be seen, of course, but one thing is clear: while the acquisitions of Hicks and Ray can be applauded for their creativity, it’s hard to feel as strongly about them as we do about the simpler upgrades of the line up. .

Finally, it must be said: no matter how rose-colored your glasses are after all the additions, the Giants face an uphill battle in the NL West. That’s been the case over the past decade given the Dodgers’ dominant presence — which is somehow further bolstered by the additions of Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Tyler Glasnow, among others — but it’s not just about the biggest rivals of the Giants in Los Angeles.

Arizona isn’t just coming off a surprising NL pennant run; They too made some key additions this offseason to bolster an already surging roster. And while Melvin’s old club in San Diego may have lost more than they gained this winter, the Padres still have an immensely talented roster that should benefit immensely from washing away the bad atmosphere and ridiculous amount of bad baseball luck they’ve had in passed 2023. beating the Rockies – against whom the Giants are 38-13 over the past three seasons – only goes so far. San Francisco has a tough road ahead in the division.

However, one more move for a starting pitcher would go a long way.

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