Giants

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

Why free agent Michael Brantley could solve one of Giants' big issues

SAN FRANCISCO — The lack of power sucks up most of the oxygen in the room, but for the 2018 Giants, there was a bigger offensive issue. 

The Giants ranked 14th in the National League with a .300 on-base percentage, the eighth-lowest OBP in franchise history and lowest in 33 years. New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi knows that’s one of the first issues he must address. The 10 playoff teams last season all finished in the top 13 in the majors in on-base percentage, and Zaidi’s Dodgers ranked third in the NL at .333. 

On the Giants Insider Podcast last week, Zaidi, who previously also worked for the OBP-obsessed A’s, talked about ways to improve a San Francisco lineup that had major issues simply getting on base last season. 

“Any team that walks at a high level, it’s a function of a couple of things,” he said. “One is, it is a function of personnel — there are guys that just have the skill of being able to work the strike zone and being able to take walks. Then there’s a mindset of, ‘What’s our goal?’ Is our goal to put the ball in play, or is our goal to get on base? I think both of those things are areas that we can look at philosophically. 

“How are we attacking the game from an offensive standpoint, and then, also, do we have the type of personnel that can play the type of offense that we want, which is a real grinding approach and getting guys on base and creating pressure for the opposing pitcher.” 

The mindset aspect can be addressed with coaches throughout the organization up to and through spring training. As for personnel, that’s a bit more pressing, and there are multiple ways to add OBP to the lineup in free agency.

You can go straight to the top of the market with Bryce Harper, who led MLB with 130 walks and ranked seventh with a .393 OBP, but there might be a much more cost-effective option. Michael Brantley, formerly of the Cleveland Indians, ranked 17th with a .364 OPB, which would have led the 2018 Giants. 

Throughout an injury-plagued career, Brantley has shown an ability to get on base. He has a .351 career OBP — only one current Giant, Buster Posey (.359), finished above that mark in 2018 — and has finished above .350 in four of the last five seasons.

There’s a reason Brantley, who hit 17 homers and had a .832 OPS last season, isn’t looking at a massive contract, of course. He has had trouble staying on the field, with shoulder, ankle and biceps injuries limiting him to just 101 total games in 2016 and 2017. That, plus the fact that he turns 32 in May, will limit his market, and MLB Trade Rumors predicts that he’ll receive a three-year, $45 million deal. That would be less than the Giants paid Hunter Pence annually.

Zaidi wants to get younger and more dynamic in the outfield, but if he’s looking for a short-term solution that won’t break the bank, Brantley might end up being a solid fit, and someone who could help solve one of the Giants lineup’s most glaring issues.

Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Tuesday is dedicated to free agent outfielder Michael Brantley.
Why the outfielder-rich A's should pass on Brantley
Does Brantley really fit the White Sox's long-term plan?
Brantley should be far down on Red Sox's free agent list
Phillies should pursue Brantley if they whiff on Harper
Could signing Brantley soften blow of Nats losing Harper?

MLB rumors: Dodgers interested in outfielders Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock

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AP

MLB rumors: Dodgers interested in outfielders Bryce Harper, A.J. Pollock

The MLB Winter Meetings came and went. And we're still waiting to find out which team Bryce Harper will call his home. 

We know the rumors Harper would end up in a Giants jersey quickly circulated, but those flames were fanned out quickly once the pattern of Farhan Zaidi came to surface.

The Giants' new president of baseball operations is not in a position to hand out lucrative contracts -- especially ones of such tremendous nature. 

[RELATED: Zaidi making modern approaches to Giants]

That being said, the Dodgers, the Giants' NL West rivals, has been interested in acquiring not only the top free agent outfielder, but A.J. Pollock as well. He's also a wanted free agent. And the guy can straight up play when he's healthy.

Pollock is a career .281 hitter with an All-Star selection and a Gold Glove Award, and he even was in MVP talks in 2015. Yeah -- 2015 A.J. Pollock was such a good A.J. Pollock.

And with his abilities to play in different outfield spots, as Ken Rosenthal writes, and obviously at a cheaper price tag, Pollock actually is a more tantalizing free agent than Harper in that case. 

The latest rumors circulating around L.A. sings the normal tune of we need to clear some space and some salary. That goes without saying, but it also has a lot to do with possibly letting go of Yasiel Puig.

That's another article.

For now, it's strange to see the Giants starving for outfielders and not making any drastic moves. The current outfield situation is filled with young names, which means not a ton of experience.

The team's latest signing in Mike Gerber has most Giants fans praying that he turns out to be the next Max Muncy.

We have to wait to see if that'll happen, but the team, along with the 29 others, just want Harper, and Manny Machado, to make a decision already. 

If you're impatient, like me, some odds have been made in order to make the waiting game a little more fun:

San Francisco is listed in there, of course, but don't get your hopes up -- it's not in the characteristics of Zaidi, who appears to be on the path of cheaper players and short-term contracts.

But ...

That means he has his eyes open for some diamonds in the rough -- hopefully. 

Bruce Bochy ready to embrace platoons with more versatile Giants roster

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USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Bochy ready to embrace platoons with more versatile Giants roster

SAN FRANCISCO -- The first question to Bruce Bochy during his media session at last week's MLB Winter Meetings was about the use of openers.

It's a question Bochy likely will be asked quite a bit in 2019, because his new boss has made it clear the Giants will be creative with their pitching staff, but another theme from president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi's own sessions with the media will be much more important to the manager. 

Zaidi repeatedly talked about his desire to use platoons -- even noting that the Dodgers essentially had different full lineups for lefties and righties -- and Bochy is fully on board.

Bochy was on the other side of the equation last year when the Dodgers mixed-and-matched their way to another NL West title, and he's ready to have a few more options with the Giants in 2019. 

"I really believe in platooning when it's the right situation, I do," Bochy said on the latest episode of The Giants Insider Podcast. "Why not? It makes sense when the splits are that significant on a certain hitter. If you can get the right player (off) the bench, now you're getting everybody involved, you're resting guys, you're getting a better matchup. All these things make it easier for me."

Bochy always has used platoons with his own teams, especially with young players. On the current roster, it took Brandon Belt in particular a long time to gain his manager's trust against left-handed pitchers. But the last couple of seasons, the Giants simply haven't had the depth to truly embrace platoon life.

Zaidi's main focus early in the offseason has been adding depth and talent to the 40-man roster, giving his manager the ability to mix it up and give guys a break against tough matchups. 

Zaidi already has said he would like a platoon partner for outfielder Steven Duggar, and second baseman Joe Panik could find himself splitting time with a right-handed hitter. Others on the roster have splits that lend themselves to scheduled off days. Belt's OPS was about 200 points lower against lefties than righties last year, which could lead to Buster Posey getting more starts at first base against lefties. Even Posey's OPS dropped over 100 points against righties, and Evan Longoria had a notable drop-off. 

Switch-hitters Pablo Sandoval and Alen Hanson were virtually unplayable against left-handed pitchers, but both mashed right-handers, and that could lead to increased time for them next season. Sandoval had a .816 OPS against righties and Hanson was at .781 with all eight of his homers. 

Could you see Sandoval at third base more often against tough right-handed starters? Hanson in left field on those days? Zaidi hopes to give Bochy additional options. 

"We didn't quite have the depth sometimes to give a guy a break, but I know that's something he likes," Bochy said of Zaidi. "He likes versatility, and I agree. You've seen us move guys around, but to have a guy that's a good athlete -- to the point where he can play second and short and play the outfield -- those guys are invaluable for a team during the course of a season."

You can download The Giants Insider Podcast on iTunes. Bochy discussed openers, platoons, Posey's injury issues, Madison Bumgarner playing first base (seriously), his own future and more.