Aaron Judge, the American League's reigning Most Valuable Player Award recipient, ended his free agency on Wednesday by agreeing to return to the New York Yankees on a nine-year pact worth $360 million. No matter how Judge's contract is sliced, it's one of the most lucrative in Major League Baseball's history. The deal comes after a bidding war that also involved the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres. (The Padres, for their part, reportedly made a larger offer than the one Judge took.)
While the Padres have already experienced the sting of losing out on a top free agent once this winter (they made the largest offer to new Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Trea Turner prior to pivoting to Judge), this is the first time this winter that the Giants are known to be dealing with rejection on this level. It's reasonable to wonder, then, what precisely comes next for Farhan Zaidi and Pete Putila. The answer, it turns out, seems likely to entail another pursuit of a top free agent.
The Giants are expected to now shift their focus to the top remaining shortstops, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. That means Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, and perhaps even Dansby Swanson, depending on the lay of the market.
Any of the three would be welcomed additions to Gabe Kapler's lineup. Zaidi and Putila have already made a few smaller-scale moves this offseason, re-signing Joc Pederson and inking former Seattle Mariner Mitch Haniger to bolster the outfield, but it's fair to write that San Francisco's starting nine remains a work in progress.
Here's what the Giants' most-days lineup would look like if the season started tomorrow, according to the best guess by the people at Roster Resource:
- LaMonte Wade Jr., LF
- Mitch Haniger, RF
- Joc Pederson, DH
- J.D. Davis, 1B
- Mike Yastrzemski, CF
- Wilmer Flores, 3B
- Brandon Crawford, SS
- Thairo Estrada, 2B
- Joey Bart, C
While projecting future performance is far different and more challenging than merely referencing past production, you can understand why the Giants are pursuing bats. They may have finished with a league-average offense last year when their numbers were adjusted for their ballpark, but they've since waved goodbye (at least for the time being) to veterans Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria, and they have to be cognizant of the possibility that Pederson and Davis regress heading forward.
Adding a bat like Correa or Bogaerts would have a cascading effect for the Giants roster. For one, the Giants would upgrade offensively in a meaningful way by adding a proven middle-of-the-order bat. For another, they would be able to shift either Flores, Davis, Estrada, or Crawford to the bench on any given day, deepening their reserve corps. That's without mentioning the defensive ramifications of moving Crawford (or, possibly, the new addition) down the positional spectrum.
Now, whether or not the Giants will succeed in their pursuit of the top remaining shortstops is to be determined. They're certain to face steep competition, including from the Chicago Cubs and possibly the San Diego Padres, among others. (The Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that everyone in the National League West is chasing, would also seem likely to strike at some point.) Even if the Giants succeed in landing a shortstop, they probably shouldn't stop there if they're serious about catching the Dodgers and the Padres. Oftentimes, the only way to beat impact talent is with impact talent. The Dodgers and Padres have their share; now, the Giants must get theirs.