SAN FRANCISCO — At some point in the next couple of weeks, the Giants will introduce a new head of baseball operations. He or she will take over an organization that has more money committed over the next half-decade than any team in baseball, which can be viewed two ways.
On one hand, this organization has proven consistently that it is willing to spend. On the other hand, the Giants have not always spent wisely.
They have an aging roster with eight players scheduled to make at least $12 million in 2019. They already have $124 million committed to the 2020 team and nearly $100 million committed to the 2021 team. The majority of that money was given to homegrown talent, but the front office also has spent heavily on veteran free agents.
The Giants mostly took a few months off from spending last winter, eager to dip under the tax line. But they’re expected to once again be in on big-ticket items this offseason, and that hasn’t really worked out for them in recent years.
What lessons can be learned from previous offseasons? Three stand out …
This is more of a call to make trades or even rebuild, but if the Giants are going to spend on free agents, they should cross a few names off right away for age-related reasons. The majority of the current payroll is made up of players who are 31, 32, 33, etc., which is why Bryce Harper is so intriguing, beyond just his talent.
Harper turned 26 in October, and if the Giants somehow won that lottery, he would be their youngest starter other than Steven Duggar. The Giants have given too many contracts to players exiting their peak years. Free agency, by nature, rewards older players, but when possible the Giants should try to shave a couple years off.
For instance, Marwin Gonzalez and DJ LeMahieu are both 30, which makes them a tad safer than their competition at their respective positions. This leads to the next lesson …
Be careful with the medicals
This is tricky because there’s only so much you can do to try and figure out if a player will stay healthy. But the Giants have been burned a few times now.
There were whispers about Johnny Cueto’s elbow when he was with the Royals. Mark Melancon’s forearm was bothering him for years before he signed his big deal. Austin Jackson was no longer an everyday player, but the Giants signed him to patrol center field and just about right away in spring training, Jackson started talking about how his legs weren’t under him.
Every player has an injury history of some sort, but the Giants have too many holes to fill to spend their resources on anyone who has a checkered history.
Don’t force it
There’s another common thread that runs through a lot of recent offseasons. Even people within the organization will admit this hasn’t been a very creative front office, and in recent years the Giants have mostly zeroed in on one group at a time.
After 2015, Bruce Bochy asked for innings-eaters and $220 million was spent on Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. After the 2016 meltdown, the front office was hellbent on getting a marquee closer.
The Denard Span and Jackson deals were part of a continued effort to find a fix in center field by plugging in veterans. The Giants have glaring holes in their outfield, but this roster isn’t nearly strong enough to just focus on one area.
Maybe the money should be spent on two starters and a left fielder can be added via trade? Maybe a couple of dominant relievers will come cheaper than expected and the bullpen can become the team’s strength?
In the past, the front office would have gone into this offseason with a clear goal of adding two veteran outfielders. That’s how they’ve ended up overspending. It’s time to be creative.