As the MLB Winter Meetings commence, the San Francisco Giants remain in desperate need of a left fielder capable of bolstering offensive production. However, GM Brian Sabean is unlikely to commit big money to leftover free agent talent like Shin-Soo Choo, who could command a deal close to what Jacoby Ellsbury received from the New York Yankees.
The current lack of economical options on the open market will likely prompt Sabean and co. to seek an alternative option via trade, although it’s unlikely for the Giants to find a quick fix solution to their power-laden offense. San Francisco values players that can effectively mount a high contact rate at the plate while playing stellar defense in the field.
But given the flux of mid-grade alternatives on the trading block, it’s distinctly possible for San Francisco to stand pat this offseason.
The Giants have remained quiet throughout recent weeks, especially in the wake of rounding out their projected starting rotation, which features four of five starters from last season. San Francisco prides itself in a brand of baseball that emphasizes pitching and defense, but the Giants struggled mightily in both facets of the game in 2013.
For the Giants to reassert themselves as contenders next season, they ultimately need increased production from the contingent of players already signed up for 2014.
The top free agent and trade options for the Giants are bleak. Outfielder Michael Morse is a potential target, although the 31-year-old veteran endured a horrid season in the AL in 2013. Morse was solid upon becoming an everyday player for the Washington Nationals in 2011, but managed to accumulate a dismal .215 batting average with 13 home runs and 27 RBIs after being moved to the AL.
The former third-round draft pick is just one season removed from consecutive seasons of above average offensive production though, and could possibly benefit from returning to the National League. Morse posted a .291 batting average with 36 extra-base hits while driving-in 62 runs in 406 official at-bats during the 2012 season. His best season-long performance happened the year prior, when he recorded a whopping .910 OPS with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs.
Morse is a career .281 hitter in nine seasons of big league experience. He’s also an excellent outfield defender, registering an astounding .996 fielding percentage in 179 games in left field. His vast statistical drop-off from 2012 to 2013 is cause for serious concern though, which could ultimately detract the Giants from pursuing him as a potential fit as an everyday player in left field.
The other intriguing option for the Giants is Ichiro Suzuki, who is likely going to be traded in the wake of the Yankees acquiring two big-name free agent outfielders. Suzuki’s production took a dive in 2013 though, as the 40-year-old outfielder failed to record more than 178 hits for the first time in his big league career.
Suzuki’s on-base percentage suffered as a result. His .297 OBP was the worst figure he’s posted on the stat sheet in his career. He owns a stellar .992 career fielding percentage, but appears to be in steady decline. That said, Suzuki could potentially be on the Giants’ radar in spite of his dwindling abilities, given a lack of clear-cut difference-makers available on the open market and on the trading block.