The Giants waited until the second week of February last year to make what ended up being one of the better moves of the offseason. They were patient, and in the end, they got a player who fit exactly what they needed.
Wilmer Flores signed a two-year, $6.25 million deal, a modest move that ended up adding a middle-of-the-order bat when the Giants faced right-handed pitching. A year later, Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris once again waited deep into the offseason to find the square piece for a glaring square-shaped hole.
The Giant and free agent infielder Tommy La Stella are close to a three-year deal that puts the finishing touches on the initial offseason wish list. The Giants are not done -- Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris will never keep their iPhones far from reach -- but they've crossed the final item off their main to-do list.
The Giants entered the winter needing multiple reliable starters. They re-signed Kevin Gausman and brought in Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. The bullpen needed help from the right side, so they signed Matt Wisler and John Brebbia. Buster Posey needed a reliable backup so Joey Bart could start the season in the minors. Welcome to San Francisco, Curt Casali.
Those holes, particularly the pitching ones, were easy for any fan to see late in the year, but team officials also identified a more subtle need. As Zaidi talked of a surprisingly dangerous lineup, he said he watched the Giants late in the year and always felt they were a left-handed bat short.
La Stella bats from the left side and he does it well. He's an ideal fit for Gabe Kapler's platoons, having posted a .903 OPS against right-handed pitchers in 2020 and a .880 mark in 2019, when he hit 13 homers in just 209 at-bats against righties for the Angels. Just as Flores gave the Giants a better right-handed bat at first base, La Stella fills gaps.
The Giants got plenty of production out of second base last year, mostly from Donovan Solano, but they'll be stronger there in 2021 with La Stella facing certain tough righties, and it's easy to see him platooning with Will Wilson down the line. But his biggest impact may come at third, where Evan Longoria has a .706 OPS against righties the last two seasons. La Stella figures to get plenty of time at third, taking the role Pablo Sandoval was supposed to have last year.
Like Flores, La Stella will also offer another late-game option for Kapler on days when he's not starting. The Giants learned that lesson the hard way last season.
La Stella fits in with the current Giants in another way, too. His addition won't make huge waves around the game, in fact it wasn't even the biggest A's departure of the day. Marcus Semien took that honor when he reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
But La Stella joins a group of savvy signings this winter that undoubtedly have made the Giants deeper and given them a better roster than the one that hung around over 60 games. Maybe it won't matter in a division with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, but the Giants should certainly feel better about their roster than they did at this time a year ago, and it's still not a finished product.
Long before they agreed to terms with La Stella, the Giants signed Padres minor leaguer Jason Vosler to fill the same role. But they never stopped looking for a better option, and they now can do the same with the rotation -- which needs another arm regardless -- and bullpen. As they know as well as anyone, the final weeks before spring training provide a great opportunity to hunt for bargains.