The San Francisco Giants have already locked up several key free agents this offseason, but need to address the critical issue of upgrading their offense. General manager Brian Sabean has gone on record stating that it’s highly unlikely for the Giants to target seemingly over-hyped free agents, who could potentially boast the added cost of a draft pick.
The idea of forfeiting a future draft choice shouldn’t detract San Francisco from making a big-time splash in free agency, though, in spite of a mid-quality market. The Giants’ most pressing need remains in left field, where manager Bruce Bochy was forced to utilize an inefficient three-plus player platoon in 2013. San Francisco is also expected to add another formidable starter to their rotation, but needs to prioritize targeting certain free agent starters over the likes of journeyman pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is a potential difference-maker for the Giants. The 30-year-old speedster owns a career .297 batting average. He stole 52 bases for the World Champion Boston Red Sox in 2013 and has plated at least 92 runs in four of his seven professional seasons.
Ellsbury should be the Giants’ No. 1 free agent target, despite past injury issues and a could-be monster contract. Ellsbury is an offensive catalyst that can help transform the Giants’ highly inefficient offense in 2014.
If the Giants are deterred from the idea of dropping a big-time contract on a player who resembles Ellsbury’s caliber of talent, they’ll have few options remaining on the open market. The second-best available outfielder is Carlos Beltran, who the Giants had a perceptively ugly divorce with at the conclusion of a failed title defense in 2011.
Beltran would be hard-pressed to ditch the outrageously friendly confines of St. Louis, where he’s thrived over the past two seasons. The veteran slugger has bashed 56 home runs while driving-in 181 runs since 2012. At 36 years old, Beltran is still the type of player that positively impact a ball-game in an instant. He’d likely demand at least a two-year deal, commanding more than $15 million annually. That figure is economical in comparison to what Ellsbury will supposedly ask for. The fiery base-stealer could net more than $20 million per season, a monstrous number that could detract San Francisco from engaging in negotiations.
Money shouldn’t be a staggering issue for the Giants, though. The impact of new league-wide television contracts should ignite San Francisco’s ability to spend. If the Giants are serious about contending for a National League pennant in 2014, they need to dish out the cash necessary to acquire a difference-maker on offense.
The Giants’ next best free agent options after Ellsbury and Beltran are Shin-Soo Choo and Delmon Young. Both players would be significant additions to an offense that ranked 22nd in slugging percentage (.360) and 21st in runs scored (629). However, the Giants need a top-tier contributor in order to make another title push.
San Francisco is just one season removed from World Series triumph. The major proponents of San Francisco’s 2012 title run are still intact, but Sabean and company need to add a big-time bat to possibly relaunch the Giants into legitimate contention.