SAN FRANCISCO — Steven Duggar never played for the 2017 Giants, but that 98-loss team still might have an impact on where Duggar starts the 2018 season.
The front office learned a harsh lesson after leaving left field to young, unproven players. With the hole now sitting in center, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are eager to add a veteran, despite the fact that they think very highly of Duggar. They do not want a repeat of 2017, when they felt comfortable with Jarrett Parker at the end of the offseason, only to watch him get injured and the position turn into a rotation of failure.
“We think Duggar is pretty much ready, but we’d love to give him a little more time at the minor league level, although I think he’s going to make a push to make this club,” Evans said. “This is a time of year when you would rather have Duggar in your back pocket and bring in a center fielder that allows us to have more time.”
The Giants already have one option in-house, and on the same conference call that Evans spoke, manager Bruce Bochy went out of his way to mention Gorkys Hernandez. “He really, the second half, was a pretty good player. Sometimes we forget about him,” Bochy said. Other options are being considered, though.
The Giants have never been keen on giving up two high draft picks and $1 million in international money to sign 31-year-old Lorenzo Cain to a monster deal, but guys like Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, Austin Jackson and Cameron Maybin are still on the market. Per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, the order of preference in the front office is Dyson, Jay and then Maybin.
All would provide a defensive upgrade over Denard Span, but the Giants need to decide how many on that list would be worth a financial commitment beyond the pre-arbitration salary the team already owes Hernandez, who hit .281 after the All-Star break and played solid defense in center. Dyson would for sure, but he was said to be seeking a two-year deal earlier in the offseason for a salary that would vault the Giants right over the luxury tax line.
If they’re patient, it’s possible the Giants find that one of the others is sitting around in mid-February and willing to accept a cheap non-guaranteed deal, with the likelihood of winning the job in Scottsdale. That would be the best financial fit for a club that appears to be about $3-4 million from hitting the tax line for a fourth consecutive year. While Evans said being under is not a mandate, he did mention it as a target. Sabean went a bit further in his remarks.
“Against our payroll,” he said, “We’re mindful of what we’re going to do.”
A cheap option, whether it’s Hernandez or a veteran free agent, could allow the Giants to try and find one more arm for the bullpen. In this extremely slow market, a few options remain.
Such a plan would also allow for Duggar, still just 24, to move quickly. Injuries kept him from reaching the big leagues last year, but he got a cameo in Triple-A and then impressed in the Arizona Fall League. Talent evaluators credit Duggar for his center field defense and discipline at the plate, and Sabean is said to be a huge fan.
If he lives up to the hype, Duggar won’t be in the back pocket for long, no matter what else the Giants do before pitchers and catchers report.