The San Francisco Giants are reportedly deterred from negotiating with free agents that have been extended qualifying offers from their respective ball clubs in fear of forfeiting a first round draft pick. This resounding sentiment is justified, however, failing to target big-name free agents this offseason could ultimately cripple the Giants’ chances of competing for a pennant in 2014.
San Francisco has recently taken a backseat to the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers, creating a fervent need for the Giants to upgrade their roster. However, signing a marquee free agent that has previously been offered a one-year qualifying offer by their preexisting team would force the Giants to cough up a first round pick in next season’s first year player draft.
According to Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, general manager Brian Sabean recently stated that it’s “highly doubtful” for the Giants to pursue a player that has been issued a qualifying offer, in respect to potentially losing a draft pick. However, the Giants can’t afford to be conservative in their offseason dealings.
San Francisco boasted an offense that finished 21st in runs scored (629) and 22nd in slugging percentage (.381) last season. The Giants’ formerly dominant pitching staff was also relatively inconsistent, ranking 22nd with a cumulative 4.00 ERA. For the Giants to rekindle past success, specific improvements need to be made, which means targeting top-tier free agents.
The Giants’ alternative to improving the 25-man roster through free agency is via trade. However, delving into trade talks would spur the possibility of needing to part ways with a highly coveted prospect, such as hard-throwing reliever Heath Hembree or power-hitting outfielder Mac Williamson. The logical conclusion the Giants’ front office brass should draw from previous trade endeavors, namely the deal that sent could-be pitching phenom Zach Wheeler to the New York Mets, is that it’s more feasible to lose a draft slot than to trade an already developing prospect.
The free agent market is relatively thin with top-tier talent, which means several teams will be in pursuit of the same players, especially in the wake of new league-wide television deals. The culmination of deepened pockets for teams across the league and a depleted talent crop on the open market creates a distinct necessity for GMs to over-spend in order to land big-name players.
The Giants’ offseason priorities have already been set forth. San Francisco needs a legitimate everyday left-fielder, a proven veteran that can contribute off the bench, two starting pitchers, and potentially an additional left-handed reliever, depending on whether specialist Javier Lopez is re-signed.
Sabean and Co. constantly prioritize, improving the Giants’ pitching staff over upgrading the offense. However, the Giants’ most pressing offseason need is in left field, where a combination of Andres Torres, Gregor Blanco and Jeff Francouer failed to perform at an adequate level last season.
Speedy outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is one of the hottest commodities on the open market this offseason. The seven-year veteran would aptly fit San Francisco’s desperate need for production in left field. Ellsbury is expected to command a contract in excess of $100 million this offseason, an investment that teams like the Giants shouldn’t be detracted from committing to.
Ellsbury is an impact player that has the potential to be a difference maker for the Giants on offense. His style of play perfectly fits the dimensions of AT&T Park. Ellsbury has a high contact rate, often splitting the gaps for doubles and triples. He owns a career .350 on-base percentage and .297 batting average. Ellsbury also boats electric speed, stealing 52 bases for the World Champion Boston Rex Sox in 2013.
If the Giants want to eclipse the ranks of mediocrity in 2014, they shouldn’t be influenced by the fear of forfeiting a first round draft pick. San Francisco features a solid core of players that have been triumphant in the playoffs, but need to add a few contributing proponents in order to reassert themselves as contenders.