Are Giants poised to make splash at Winter Meetings?

November 30th, 2022

The Winter Meetings will be held in person for the first time since 2019, setting the stage for a potentially eventful week for the Giants.

Beginning on Sunday, team executives and agents from across the league will convene at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego for the annual gathering, which could unleash a torrent of activity on the free-agent market.

The Giants are expected to be in the thick of the action, with reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge and Japanese ace Kodai Senga among their possible targets.

Here’s a rundown of what president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and the rest of San Francisco’s front office could be looking to accomplish next week.

Key events
• Sunday, Dec. 4: HOF Contemporary Era Ballot results released (Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling)
• Monday, Dec. 5: All-MLB Team announced
• Tuesday, Dec. 6: Inaugural Draft Lottery, AL/NL Relievers of Year announced
• Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rule 5 Draft

Club needs
After winning a franchise-record 107 games in 2021, the Giants crashed back to earth, falling short of a playoff berth after going 81-81 in '22. With attendance down by more than 800,000 at Oracle Park, San Francisco is expected to aggressively pursue marquee players who can fill its superstar void and help drum up fan interest. Judge, a Linden, Calif., native who bashed an AL-record 62 home runs for the Yankees this year, will be at the top of their list, but the Giants will need help in other areas as well. They have a big hole at the top of their rotation now that All-Star left-hander Carlos Rodón is a free agent, and they’ll need to find a way to bolster a defense that ranked among the worst in the Majors this season.

Potential trade candidates
With back in the fold, the Giants could look to move on from , though finding a trade partner could be tough since the 33-year-old veteran is owed $11.5 million in the final year of his contract. Even after declining Evan Longoria’s $13 million club option, San Francisco has a surplus of right-handed-hitting corner-infield types (, , and ), so the club could also try to leverage that depth to address other needs on the roster.

Prospect to know
Kyle Harrison cemented his status as the best left-handed pitching prospect in the Minors after logging a 2.71 ERA with 186 strikeouts over 113 innings in 25 starts between High-A Eugene and Double-A Richmond in 2022. The 21-year-old -- San Francisco's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline and No. 21 in MLB -- is slated to open the '23 campaign at Triple-A Sacramento. He could develop into a rotation option for the Giants sooner rather than later.

"We expect him to be in our rotation at some point next year," Zaidi said in October. "It could even be relatively early in the season.”

Rule 5 Draft
The Giants have 37 players on their 40-man roster, so they’ll have the ability to add during the Rule 5 Draft if they see an opportunity to do so. Zaidi has been active here in the past, selecting relievers Travis Bergen, Dany Jiménez and Dedniel Núñez and outfielder Drew Ferguson in recent Rule 5 Drafts, though none wound up sticking on the roster.

Hunter Bishop, the club’s 2019 first-round MLB Draft pick, and fellow outfielder Jairo Pomares are the most notable Giants prospects who were left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft, but neither has played above High-A Eugene, which could make it difficult for rival teams to carry them on their Major League roster for a full season.

Burning question
Can they lure Judge away from New York?

The Giants pulled out the stops during their two-day meeting with Judge before Thanksgiving, but the Yankees still seem to be viewed as the favorites to re-sign their franchise star. While Judge grew up rooting for San Francisco, it might be difficult for him to turn down the chance to become the Yanks' next captain and return to a team that reached the AL Championship Series in 2022. New York reportedly offered Judge a new deal in the neighborhood of $300 million, so it remains to be seen if the Giants will be willing to outbid the Yankees in their pursuit for the generational slugger.