NASHVILLE — Bobby Evans sat in a suite at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and smiled as a TV in the background showed a list of outfielders the Giants prefer. It was a long list, and surely mostly inaccurate, but the length of the list represented a truth.
In a crowded outfield market, Evans is keeping the Giants involved in just about every conversation. Yes, that means they continue to talk about players at every level from a Justin Upton to a Gerardo Parra, and the Giants won’t eliminate themselves from the Jason Heyward race. They don’t feel the need to, for a simple reason.
“We have a five-man rotation, a lineup, a bullpen,” Evans said. “This is a window of opportunity to try and see where to improve the club.”
While sources indicated Tuesday that the slight priority is to add a second starting pitcher, the Giants are keeping that window open in case a big-name outfielder ends up making more sense. Evans expected the market to pick up after Ben Zobrist made a decision, and indeed there was a flurry of activity Tuesday night after the valuable utility man chose the Cubs. The Giants had hosted Zobrist on Sunday but knew he would end up elsewhere.
“That really helps push some other teams along to look at other options,” Evans said. “I’m probably a little surprised the outfield market didn’t start moving sooner.”
What will the Giants do?
“We’ve got to keep our options open,” Evans said.
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The preference would be to find a player who could potentially handle center field in 2017, with both Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco coming up on the final year of their contracts. The Giants view Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson as corner outfielders and Hunter Pence is locked in on the other side. Asked specifically about Parker, Evans said, “what he did at the end of last season certainly turned some heads.” Parker will be given a chance to fight for a job next spring, but the Giants would prefer that he gets more seasoning in the minors.
They would also prefer for Chris Heston to serve as a long reliever or continue to work in Triple-A, and there’s now some additional clarity when it comes to the search for a starter to add to the Jeff Samardzija move. The Giants do not plan to bid on Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda, but they are still involved with Mike Leake and are hopeful that he’ll return to San Francisco. In that respect, the Giants are in a better position than they were on Day 1 of the Winter Meetings. The Diamondbacks were thought to be the biggest competitor for Leake’s services, but they’re almost certainly out of that race after trading for Shelby Miller.
--- The Giants want Clayton Blackburn to come to spring training with the idea of "(showing) us how close he is to helping," Evans said. Blackburn has a lot of fans in the organization after winning the PCL ERA title, and he's right there with Heston on that next-man-up list if the Giants add a second starter.
--- Evans said he thinks the Giants will be able to find a backup third baseman from their list of non-roster invitees (they've had a ton of success with non-roster guys). Kelby Tomlinson will take grounders at third, but he's also the backup at second and short, so they need additional depth. The Tomlinson To The Outfield experiment seems to be all but over, by the way.
--- Christian Arroyo will play second and short for Double-A Richmond, and the Giants will keep him on the Duffy plan, letting him play middle infield until he absolutely has to move. He's their best trade chip for now, but if Arroyo remains in the organization long-term, I've heard from a few who believe he could be intriguing in left field. For now, that's not a move the Giants are going to make.