There's no sugarcoating it: This offseason has been a disaster for the San Francisco Giants. The word "disaster" is overused but it's appropriate here. Things could not be going worse for the Giants. They came into the winter with hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, threw all that money at Aaron Judge and then Carlos Correa, yet walked away with neither.
Worst of all, the Giants had -- or at least appeared to have -- both players before they wound up in New York. Before Judge returned to the Yankees, it was erroneously reported he had agreed to join his hometown-ish Giants. The Giants had a 13-year contract worth $350 million in place with Correa, but something popped up in his physical, and he bolted for the Mets. Ouch.
The Giants have been active this offseason, most notably signing outfielder Mitch Haniger and pitchers Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling, but the plan was not to make incremental upgrades. Ownership craved a new face of the franchise for the post-Buster Posey era, identified the two best position player free agents as targets, and whiffed on both. Their money wasn't good enough.
Even with spring training still two months away, the top of the free agent market has been picked clean. Only 11 of our top 50 free agents remain unsigned, all below No. 23 on our original list. Here are the best unsigned free agents by FanGraphs projected 2023 WAR:
- 2B Jean Segura: 2.5 WAR
- RHP Nathan Eovaldi: 2.3 WAR
- SS Elvis Andrus: 1.9 WAR
- RHP Corey Kluber: 1.7 WAR
- OF Michael Conforto: 1.6 WAR
Plenty of quality trade candidates remain available, but trading prospects or MLB players is not the way the Giants wanted to upgrade a roster that went 81-81 in 2022. They wanted to throw money at the problem and keep all their prospects and players. Free agency spending may be inefficient, but it's the easiest and most straightforward way to add to your roster.
So what do the Giants do now? Barring an out of nowhere blockbuster trade (Rafael Devers?) there's not much president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and his staff can do other than continue to make incremental upgrades. Find another bat or two, solidify the bullpen, etc. Hope the mix-and-match magic that carried this team to 107 wins in 2021 works again in 2023.
San Francisco has roughly $100 million coming off the books after next season and it has only one player (Haniger) under contract in 2025. The Giants have about as close to a clean slate financially as you can have in this game, and their activity (or attempted activity) this offseason suggests they will again be aggressive next offseason.
Next offseason's free agent class will of course be headlined by Shohei Ohtani, though Devers is scheduled to hit the market as well, and so could Manny Machado if he exercises his opt-out clause. The Giants will have more opportunities to get that coveted face of the franchise next winter. But that doesn't help them in 2023, does it? Their money wasn't good enough for Judge and Correa this offseason. Who's to say it'll be good enough for Ohtani & Co. next offseason?
One reason the Giants wanted a star this offseason: Attendance is down roughly 10,000 a fans per game since 2017. Some of that is tied to the pandemic, no doubt, but San Francisco's attendance has been in steady decline the last eight years. Fan interest is waning despite a gorgeous ballpark and three recent championships. The franchise needs some juice.
To ownership's credit, they made multiple attempts to energize the fan base this offseason, but failed. And losing Correa after having him will only add to the growing fan apathy. You can't blame Giants fans for being angry about this offseason and not wanting to spend their money on tickets in 2023. That's how fans make their voice heard -- they don't show up.
FanGraphs currently projects the Giants to have the eighth best winning percentage in the National League, which is enough to say they'll likely contend for an expanded postseason spot next year. Clearly though, the franchise had bigger plans than a second or third wild-card spot. They wanted Judge and whiffed. They wanted Correa, got him, then lost him. I've seen plenty of teams have bad offseasons. I'm not sure I've ever seen one as bad, as disheartening, and potentially as damaging as San Francisco's this year.