Giants 'were agreeable' to same deal Shohei signed with Dodgers

December 13th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- Another high-profile free-agent pursuit ended in crushing disappointment for the Giants on Monday, when two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani finalized a 10-year, $700 million contract with the rival Dodgers.

Ohtani’s megadeal, easily the largest guarantee in North American pro sports history, reportedly includes “unprecedented deferrals” aimed at easing the Dodgers’ competitive balance tax and cash-flow burdens, which the 29-year-old proposed as a means of giving Los Angeles the flexibility it needs to remain competitive.

It’s a nightmare scenario for the Giants, who not only missed out on the generational talent they desperately craved, but also watched the Dodgers add another star to their stacked lineup, which already includes MVP-caliber players like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

The Dodgers had long been viewed as the frontrunners for Ohtani, who is expected to be limited to designated hitter duties in 2024 as he recovers from elbow surgery, but the Giants had been expected to make a big push for the Japanese sensation after missing out on Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa and Bryce Harper in recent years.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi confirmed on Tuesday that the Giants met with Ohtani and his representative, Nez Balelo, at Oracle Park on Dec. 2, adding that the club was willing to match the terms of the Dodgers’ offer, including the $680 million of deferred money.

"The proposal that was made was very comparable if not identical to what he wound up agreeing to," Zaidi said during a Zoom call with reporters. "We offered what would have been the biggest contract in Major League history. I'm guessing we weren't the only team that did that. But wanted to show our aggressiveness and interest right out of the gate.

“It was certainly an unusual deal. We sort of understood the benefits to the player, but also to the team. Again, it was movement from our previous offer, but it was something we thought we could manage. We kind of quickly turned that around and said we were agreeable to it.

“To show the level of commitment that we had from our ownership group in this pursuit, every financial target or request that was made from their camp was met and was met pretty quickly.”

Despite their concerted efforts, the Giants suspected that Ohtani ultimately wanted to stay in Southern California.

“I think we at certain points felt really good about our chances,” Zaidi said. “At other points, as you always do, you have some questions or doubts, just because you know it’s very competitive. It did seem like geography mattered. It wasn’t an absolute must or a deal-breaker, obviously, given the pool of teams that were interested, but we did sense that there was a preference to stay in Southern California, and we knew it would be a challenge for us.”

With Ohtani off the board, the Giants are likely to turn their attention to another Japanese phenom in Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Orix Buffaloes ace who is expected to land the biggest contract of any free-agent pitcher this offseason. Still, Yamamoto is being heavily courted by the Mets and the Yankees, with some predicting that the bidding will come down to the two New York teams.

Reigning NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who pitched for manager Bob Melvin in San Diego, and Jordan Montgomery, who helped the Rangers capture their first World Series title in franchise history, are also available and could slot in with Logan Webb at the front of the Giants’ rotation.

While they continue to survey the pitching market, the Giants got to work addressing other areas of need on Tuesday, reportedly agreeing to a six-year, $113 million deal with KBO star Jung Hoo Lee. The left-handed-hitting Lee is viewed as an above-average defender in center field and is expected to help improve the club’s speed and athleticism, two qualities that were sorely lacking for the Giants this past season.

Other free-agent fits include third baseman Matt Chapman, a four-time Gold Glove Award winner who played for Melvin in Oakland, and first baseman Rhys Hoskins, a Sacramento native who has slugged at least 27 homers in each of his four full seasons in the Majors.

Given the paucity of high-end talent in free agency, the Giants could also try pivoting to the trade market. San Francisco has a plethora of young pitching in its system, so perhaps it will consider using that depth to try to land impact players like Corbin Burnes, Willy Adames, Dylan Cease or Tyler Glasnow, all of whom are candidates to be moved this winter.

“We’re going to look for athleticism up the middle of the diamond,” Zaidi said. “Look for players, whether it’s by trade or by free agency, who will put our players in their best defensive spots and really support our pitching staff, which we’ve talked about as the strength of our team. The fact that we have a staff that throws a ton of strikes and gets a lot of ground balls -- if we can put a good defense behind that group, I think we have the chance to be really good next year.”