It’s well known that the 2017 version of the San Francisco Giants isn’t very good. As it stands, the Giants have one of the worst records in baseball at 46-70 and are at risk to lose 100 games for the first time since 1985.
It’s easy to dwell on what has gone wrong for the Giants this season, but it’s time to look past this lost season. Let’s try to fix the Giants for 2018 and beyond by looking at some issues this season and trying to fix them for the future.
With the right moves and enough duct tape, the Giants can get back into the playoffs as early as 2019.
Since 2016, the Giants bullpen has been a huge issue. In 2016 alone, the Giants blew 32 saves as a unit, lead by Santiago Casilla who had 9 of his own. Come 2017, Casilla is in Oakland and the Giants sign Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal.
While Melancon has been injured, he’s struggled in his 22 games with an ERA of 4.35 and 11 saves in 15 save opportunities.
Is Melancon the issue of the bullpen? Absolutely not. The bullpen as a whole is an issue.
While there are individual pieces that are working like Hunter Strickland (2.20 ERA), Cory Gearrin (2.12), and Sam Dyson (2.42), there’s polar opposites like Chris Stratton (6.63), Josh Osich (5.61), and Steven Okert (6.75). As a team, the bullpen owns a 4.07 ERA, good for 17th best in baseball, and a .264 BAA, 27th lowest in the league.
Those two stats aren’t good, to say the least. So how does one fix it?
Bullpens are tricky to build. The Giants’ World Series winning bullpens were built by good contracts (Jeremy Affeldt), good trades (Javier Lopez), and good draft finds (Sergio Romo). Obviously, it’s not that easy. The best way to re-build the bullpen is wait and hope the right pieces can come together. As anti-climactic as that sounds, it’s really the best strategy.
Another way the Giants could help the bullpen is by scoring more runs. The Giants are currently 28th in runs scored with 453 and 26th in team batting average.
The team as a whole struggles to hit, but the one area of the team that should be focused on is the outfield. The Giants infield looks to be set for the next few seasons with Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, and whoever fills in third base.
The Giants have had a rotation cast of outfielders, especially in left field that has included Gorkys Hernandez, Mac Williamson, Carlos Moncrief, and Jarrett Parker. For the majority of the season, the Giants have used an outfield of Hernandez, Denard Span, and Hunter Pence, so let’s call that the everyday outfield.
This season, the three of them have struggled. Hernandez is slashing .256/.325/.324 with only 15 extra base hits. Span, who has seen less playing time the past week has the highest average of the three at .269 while having an OBP of .319. Pence is currently having statistically one of the worst seasons of his career with lows of a .251 average, a .297 OBP, and a .377 SLG.
It gets tougher to figure out what to do when both Span’s and Pence’s contracts expire after the 2018 season. The first step in suring up the outfield would be looking at the left field spot.
The first name that jumps out would be Jarrett Parker.
Parker has only played 15 games this season but is slashing .289/.333/.511 in those games. Are those numbers we can expect out of the 28 year-old? It wouldn’t be too farfetched of a thought.
Parker is also under team control for a few years. He isn’t arbitration eligible until 2020 and the earliest he could be a free agent would be 2023.
Parker is a safe play to try figure out the left field situation but let’s look at some free agent options.
There are three solid outfield options in the 2017 free agent class that the Giants can consider to take over left field responsibilities. The first name is Melky Cabrera.
Yes, that Melky Cabrera. The 2012 All-Star Game MVP. The player who hit .346 with the Giants. The player who was suspended for violating the MLB drug policy.
Cabrera would be a short term solution who might be able to give a team three or four quality seasons. The 33 year-old is batting .299 this season with an OBP of .340, which would be by far the best numbers of a Giants hitter this season not named Buster Posey. Since leaving the Giants after the 2012 season, Melky has slashed .290/.335/.427.
Maybe the Giants don’t want to bring Melky back after what happened in the 2012 season, and that’s understandable. So why not consider another name?
A name like Lorenzo Cain.
Cain has been a consistent hitter the past four seasons hitting .297/.348/.436 since 2014. Cain also plays stellar defense and can cover a lot of ground in an outfield like AT&T Park. Cain also excels on the bases, stealing 91 bases and only being caught 17 times since 2014.
The one area Cain lacks in is power. His career high in home runs is 16 which he accomplished in 2015. The Giants need to consider a player who can hit for average and power to take over an outfield spot, and thankfully, there is one outfielder in the 2017 free agent class that can do that and is a player the Giants should seriously consider.
The Giants have been tied to Martinez in the past while he was on the Tigers but now would be the time to go after him.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. The Giants haven’t had a legitimate power threat since Barry Bonds. They’ve had guys who have home run power but they haven’t had a guy who can hit home runs consistently. Martinez can be that guy.
Martinez is slugging .623 this season. The Giants haven’t had an everyday player slug that high since 2004 when Barry Bonds slugged .812 (Jarrett Parker slugged .755 in 2015 but only played 21 games).
He could possibly be an impact bat the Giants could place in the cleanup spot in the lineup to give Buster Posey some protection. Posey at best should be the Giants three hitter but due to the lack of power, he’s forced to hit fourth. J.D. Martinez can fix that.
The Giants have issues. They have more issues than just the bullpen and the outfield. The starting rotation could be an issue in 2018 as well with Johnny Cueto possibly leaving and Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija possibly continuing their 2017 struggles. However, the outfield and bullpen are the two issues that might be the positions the Giants can fix the quickest and be able to compete in 2018.