San Francisco Giants Shopping For Left Field Help At Next Week’s Winter Meetings


Sep 16, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Miami Marlins center fielder Justin Ruggiano (20) hits an RBI double during the sixth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Marlins 12-2. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball’s annual winter meetings open Monday and continue through Thursday in Florida and San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean has a priority in mind as he attends what is traditionally the sport’s yearly swap meet.

Having put the starting rotation together for 2014 by retaining Tim Lincecum, getting Ryan Vogelsong back at a reduced price and adding Tim Hudson, the focus is now on adding some offensive punch, preferably from the right side of the plate, in left field. Chris Haft of delved into some of that earlier this week.

The options in free agency are either prohibitively big-ticket or been-there-done-that choices.

Among the outfielders still unsigned are Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. However, since their previous teams (the Cardinals, Reds and Rangers, respectively) extended the one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to these players last month, signing them would cost the Giants their first round draft pick, something the Giants have given every indication they are reluctant, if not absolutely intransigent, about doing.

Beltran comes with both warning labels—he’d cost a draft pick and the Giants have been there and done that. He was a Giant for 44 games in 2011 and played well (.323/.379/.551 with seven homers and 18 RBI), but didn’t really give a lot of consideration to sticking around, either.

Sept. 4, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Toronto Blue Jays batter Rajai Davis reacts after hitting a two run home run in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So who’s left in free agency? Well, not much. There’s Andres Torres, Jeff Francoeur or Rajai Davis—former Giants all.

Torres played for the Giants from 2009-11 and again last year and didn’t do a lot at the plate a year ago-—-.250/.302/.342 in 300 plate appearances and he’ll be 36 in January. He’s not the guy who stole 26 bases in 33 attempts for the World Series champion Giants in 2010. He’s the guy that got thrown out three out of seven attempts last year.

Francoeur was released by the Royals last year because he wasn’t hitting. The Giants signed him in July and in 22 games, he hit even less and was released in August. So, not a really viable candidate to bring back.

Davis might be the most intriguing option. He’s a right-handed hitter, so he could presumably form part of a platoon with Gregor Blanco, and he’s still got speed. In 108 games with the Blue Jays last year, he swiped 45 bases in 51 attempts and he had 50 steals in 61 attempts with the A’s back in 2010.

Davis played briefly for the Giants in 2007-08, appearing in 63 games, but he’s productive since he was plucked off waivers by Oakland in 2008.

Then there’s the trade market, but who’s out there? Norichika Aoki moved from the Brewers to Kansas City on Thursday, but he’s a lefty swinger. However, he’s not a bad leadoff hitter and would be better defensively in left field than right because his arm isn’t going to remind anyone of Ichiro Suzuki.

Justin Ruggiano of the Marlins could be had, presumably, as could Josh Willingham of Minnesota.

Ruggiano, 31, had a nightmarish season in Miami last year, hitting .222/.298/.396 with 18 homers and 50 RBI in 472 plate appearances, while striking out 114 times. But he hit .313/.374/.535 with 13 homers in 320 plate appearances with the Marlins in 2012. The question is this: Is Ruggiano the guy with the 142 OPS+ from 2012 or the guy with the 90 OPS+ from 2013. Somewhere in the middle might be a decent option.

Sep 10, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins outfielder Josh Willingham (16) rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the eighth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Target Field. The Twins won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Willingham would be the higher risk of the two. He’s older (35 in February) and his performance fell off a cliff in 2013. After belting 35 homers and driving in 110 runs for the Twins in 2012, Willingham hit just .208/.342/.368 with 14 homers and 48 RBI in 471 plate appearances last year—a precipitous 45 points drop in OPS+ for an older player (143 in 2012, 98 in 2013) can be a sign that the bat is slowing down.

Another sign of concern would be his strikeout rate—141 in 615 plate appearances in 2012 to 128 in just 471 appearances last year.

Another name that has been dropped in rumors is Chris Denorfia of the Padres, but many discount the possibility because San Diego and San Francisco share residence in the NL West.

It’s rare to trade within the division, but not unheard of. The A’s and Rangers pulled off a trade just this week, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

Denorfia is 33 and got his first real shot at being a regular last year. In a career-high 520 plate appearances, Denorfia hit .279/.337/.395 with 10 homers and 47 RBI while stealing 11 bases. He’s also versatile in the outfield—he played 97 games in right, 58 in left and 41 in center.

The problem with all of the potential trade options is that these are all guys in their early to mid-30s without a lot of upside.

One potential solution that has been floated has been the notion of moving Brandon Belt from first base to left field and looking to acquire another first baseman. However, Sabean put the kibosh to that idea, according to Andrew Baggarly of, via Twitter:

Of course, few people saw the Tigers trading Prince Fielder to the Rangers in a straight-up deal for Ian Kinsler. There wasn’t a lot of buzz about Jim Johnson moving from Baltimore until he landed in Oakland this week.

So stay tuned. Next week might be interesting.