News about Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton has dominated this otherwise calm and quiet Hot Stove season. So wouldn't it be something if they both ended up in the same spot?All right, granted, that's not an especially likely scenario, but with the way things stand, the only scenario in which
News about Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton has dominated this otherwise calm and quiet Hot Stove season. So wouldn't it be something if they both ended up in the same spot?
All right, granted, that's not an especially likely scenario, but with the way things stand, the only scenario in which it appears remotely possible is with the San Francisco Giants. They are one of two teams known to still be in on Stanton. They are one of seven teams still in on Ohtani. (The Dodgers are linked to both, but are acknowledged to be a longshot for Stanton.)
San Franicsco is coming off one of the more brutal seasons in franchise history, but the hope that exists for landing one -- or maybe, possibly, remotely even both -- of the Hot Stove's heroes combines with some other internal factors to inspire optimism about the 2018 outlook.
Ohtani is an unknown. Let's be clear about that. The track record of Japanese players making the stateside transition is decidedly mixed, and there will be incredible pressure and expectations placed upon the 23-year-old Ohtani wherever his two-way talents land. There has long been an assumption that Ohtani will prefer to sign with an American League club that has the designated hitter available, but four of his seven finalists are National League squads and, for that matter, two of the AL teams still involved (Mariners and Angels) would have to move some pieces around to ensure there are regular DH at-bats available in 2018.
So maybe the allure of setting up shop across the Pacific in San Francisco and playing for a likely Hall of Fame manager in Bruce Bochy while working with one of the game's most trusted and respected catchers in Buster Posey, and playing in one of the most beautiful ballparks in AT&T Park and in front of one of MLB's most fun fan bases on a club with three recent World Series titles and ... man, when you put all this down on paper, you wonder why Ohtani hasn't already signed.
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Late in the Giants' ugly 98-loss season, with the rival Dodgers celebrating another NL West title down the hall, Bochy pulled out a laptop in front of reporters and watched some video of Ohtani. It brought a smile to his face in an otherwise miserable moment. Think he hasn't dreamed up penciling Ohtani into his lineup every fifth or sixth day while having him available to pinch-hit on the others?
Again, we don't know how quickly or easily Ohtani and his 100-mph heat will translate to a big league rotation, but the upside is obvious. San Francisco's rotation had a 4.58 ERA, which would have been bad enough if they didn't play their home games in the pitchers' paradise that is AT&T. But you don't have to squint too hard to see a post-dirt-bike bounce-back season from Madison Bumgarner and a return to form from Johnny Cueto (last year marked the first time since 2009 that he didn't post an ERA+ significantly better than league average), and even league-average output from Matt Moore would be an improvement from '17.
Adding Ohtani would make you think a little bit differently about the overall complexion of that starting set. And if the Giants can succeed in improving their outfield defense, as is a key offseason desire, all the better.
Hey, speaking of the outfield, let's talk about Stanton. After all, he might be the more likely of the offseason's two big stars to actually end up with San Francisco, given the harder sell the three AL teams can make to Ohtani and Stanton's perceived preference to end up with a West Coast club.
MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi reported that the Giants and Cardinals are the two teams that have agreed upon the general framework of a Stanton trade with the Marlins, and San Francisco's offer is reported to include outfielder/first baseman Chris Shaw, right-hander Tyler Beede, outfielder Heliot Ramos and, of course, gobs of money.
Depending on how much, if any, money the Marlins eat in such a deal, the Giants would be making a major financial commitment. It's not just the 10 years and $295 million still owed to Stanton if he doesn't opt out after 2020; it's the fact that this club has already exceeded the luxury-tax threshold each of the past three years, and the penalties stiffen with each subsequent offense (luxury-tax implications are the primary reason the Dodgers, who are reportedly Stanton's preferred destination, have been a little more reluctant to talk trade with the Marlins).
Stanton, though, is the rare slugger who might be worth all that. Barry Bonds hit 28 homers in his final season in 2007. Since then, the most home runs by a Giants player in a single season were the 27 hit by Hunter Pence in 2013. A long-ball revolution is taking place across the sport, but it seems to have passed San Francisco by. The Giants hit just 128 homers (last in the Majors) in 2017, or only 69 more than Stanton himself. They have a glaring need for thump in their lineup, and this is the thumpiest thumper of them all. Stanton is the total package -- pure power, MVP credentials, underrated defense, natural-born charisma and an intense desire to be in a winning environment after spending the entirety of his big league career on the wrong side of .500.
If the Giants land either of these guys, it's a franchise-altering move for a proud club with an eye on a stark rise up the standings in 2018. There is still, clearly, heavy lifting to be done on both the Ohtani and Stanton fronts. But San Francisco is still standing in both races, and that's a fun place to be.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.