Giants a free-agent force? 'Nobody ... out of our capability'

November 10th, 2022

The Giants haven’t been huge players in free agency in recent years, but they’re widely expected to shop at the top of the market this offseason. 

After falling short of expectations in 2022, the Giants will have the flexibility to pursue every option to improve their roster. They’ve already been prominently linked to star slugger Aaron Judge, an American League MVP finalist who crushed 62 home runs for the Yankees this year.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi wouldn’t comment on any specific free agents on Wednesday during his media availability at the General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas, but he told reporters that the Giants will have the wherewithal to go after any player on the open market this winter. 

“From a financial standpoint, there’s nobody that would be out of our capability to kind of meet what we expect the contract demands will be,” Zaidi said. “It’ll just be a question of whether there’s mutual interest and how we put together the best possible team.”

The biggest guaranteed contract Zaidi has issued during his Giants tenure is the three-year, $36 million deal signed last offseason, so Zaidi would have to step out of his comfort zone to land elite free agents this winter. Still, the Giants made a run at Bryce Harper before he signed with the Phillies ahead of the 2019 season, so they’ve shown a willingness to spend big on marquee players.

Zaidi said he has received no directive from ownership to pursue a star-level player this offseason, though the Giants have been without a face of the franchise since retired last year. Judge, a Linden, Calif., native who grew up rooting for the Giants, would be a natural candidate to fill that void and help draw fans back to Oracle Park, which recorded the lowest full-season attendance of its 23-year history in 2022.

“We want to be a playoff team every year at this point, and we weren’t this year,” Zaidi said. “That’s where our motivation comes from. I think good teams are fun to watch. Teams that fall below expectations create frustrations for everybody, including fans. Unfortunately, that’s where we were this year. That’s going to be our goal, to get back to the playoffs next year.”

The Judge sweepstakes will generate the most buzz this offseason, but Zaidi said the Giants also plan to focus on getting more athletic and improving their defense, which was a huge liability this year. Free-agent shortstops such as Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts or Dansby Swanson could be good fits, though San Francisco already has a four-time Gold Glove Award winner in , who is signed through 2023.

Zaidi said he views Crawford as the Giants’ Opening Day shortstop, though he didn’t rule out the possibility of adding another free agent who plays the same position. With new restrictions on defensive shifts expected to be implemented in 2023, Zaidi believes players will have more of an opportunity to add value at second base, which could increase their willingness to move there.

“We’ve gotten some feedback that some of the players out there are going to be flexible short term, long term about what position they play,” Zaidi said. “I don’t think anything is going to restrict us from pursuing guys who traditionally have been shortstops because it just seems like there’s a lot of flexibility there.”

Worth noting
• Zaidi said the Giants have not yet made a decision on whether to pick up third baseman ’s $13 million club option for 2023, which includes a $5 million buyout. Longoria, 37, has said he would be open to renegotiating the deal, though the Giants would also like to get younger after seeing many of their veterans struggle to stay healthy in 2022.

• Zaidi said the Giants will extend a one-year, $19.65 million qualifying offer to left-hander , who opted out of his contract earlier this week. Rodón is unlikely to accept the offer, but the move would allow the Giants to receive Draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere as a free agent.