5 questions for the Giants this offseason

October 26th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants took care of their first order of offseason business on Wednesday, when they named Bob Melvin the 39th manager in franchise history.

Melvin’s arrival on a three-year deal -- coupled with president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi’s matching extension -- will give the Giants much-needed stability as they attempt to retool following two consecutive disappointing seasons.

With Hot Stove season looming, let’s lay out five big questions the club will face in the coming months: 

Will the Giants land a star free agent from the Pacific Rim?
Two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani will be the prize of the offseason, even after undergoing right elbow surgery that is expected to keep him off the mound until 2025. Ohtani, 29, is still planning to return as a hitter next season and should command a lucrative contract in free agency given his unprecedented success with the Angels over the last three seasons. 

The Giants certainly have the financial resources to emerge as serious bidders for Ohtani, but they could have a tougher time selling him on San Francisco now that they’ve missed the playoffs in six of the last seven years. If Ohtani lands elsewhere, the Giants could pivot to two other top international free agents in Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee, both of whom have been heavily scouted by the club.

Zaidi confirmed he made a quick trip to Japan last week to watch the 25-year-old Yamamoto, a two-time Pacific Coast MVP for the Orix Buffaloes of Nippon Professional Baseball. General manager Pete Putila, meanwhile, was dispatched to South Korea earlier this month to attend Lee’s final game with the Kiwoom Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization.  

“Obviously, we’re covering all the bases ahead of what might happen this offseason,” Zaidi said.

Will the Giants return to their big-spending ways?
San Francisco made huge offers to Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last offseason, though neither ended up signing after Judge elected to stay in New York and Correa’s deal fell apart over medical concerns. The Giants ultimately finished 2023 with a $187 million payroll, which ranked 12th in the Majors, according to Spotrac

As of now, the Giants are projected to have a $159 million payroll for Competitive Balance Tax purposes next year, giving them nearly $80 million to spend before they hit the first luxury tax threshold ($237 million). Will the Giants be willing to go over that mark and exceed the CBT threshold for the first time since 2017? 

“I think it depends a lot on who we target,” Giants chairman Greg Johnson said Wednesday. “When you look at the luxury tax, one year you can go past that if you have to. I don’t think it’s something we want to do for a long period. I think if you look at the teams that have jumped up in free agency, they didn’t really have great years this year with the spending. So I’m not sure there’s a direct correlation there. 

“But we plan on being active, and if we have to go through that, we will go through that. But we also represent a group that hopefully our goal is to somewhat break even, which is somewhat a challenge in this business. But I can tell you, from the ownership side, the goal is to win, and we’re doing everything we can.”

Is Marco Luciano ready to become the everyday shortstop?
With Brandon Crawford heading for free agency, the Giants will have a void to fill at shortstop for the first time in over a decade. They hope they have an internal answer in the 21-year-old Luciano, who has been viewed as one of the organization’s top prospects since he received a $2.6 million signing bonus as an international free agent in 2018. 

Luciano made his Major League debut in July and hit .231/.333/.308 with three doubles over 14 games with the Giants, though he looked comfortable defensively and showed flashes of his elite power potential, recording an average exit velocity of 93 mph, which would have ranked 14th among qualified MLB hitters this year. 

Luciano has been slowed by injuries in recent years and missed time with a lower back stress fracture and a hamstring strain in 2023, so he’ll have to stay healthy to prove that he should be the Giants’ shortstop of the future. 

Will Michael Conforto and Sean Manaea opt out? 
Read more about their situations here.

How much turnover will there be on the coaching staff now that Melvin is in place?
The Giants are expected to spend the next seven to 10 days discussing the shape of Melvin’s coaching staff, including which staffers to potentially retain from the Gabe Kapler era. Pitching coach Andrew Bailey’s status remains up in the air, as he moved back to the East Coast last year and would like to be closer to his family, which could make him a target for organizations like the Red Sox. Melvin is also expected to bring over some coaches from the Padres, one of which could be former Giants third baseman Matt Williams.