Giants decline options on Aoki, Byrd
SAN FRANCISCO -- Enticed more by possibilities than certainties, the Giants declined the options on the 2016 contracts of outfielders Nori Aoki ($5.5 million) and Marlon Byrd ($8 million).
Giants general manager Bobby Evans acknowledged during a Wednesday night conference call that refusing to secure the services of Aoki and Byrd exacerbated the club's need for outfield help. But Evans noted that the Giants have not yet ascertained which outfielders could be available through trade. Signing Aoki or Byrd or both, Evans said, would limit San Francisco's flexibility with player acquisitions.
"It's just tough for us to make a decision right now," Evans said. "We want to look at all options."
Though Evans indicated the Giants might have interest in reacquiring Aoki or Byrd later in the offseason, clearing their salaries from the ledger conceivably would give the club more economic flexibility to pursue a top-notch, free-agent pitcher. Yet while strengthening the starting staff is an avowed Giants goal, Evans said concentrating primarily on pitching would be a "shortsighted" approach for the club to take.
Thus, most of the conversation with Evans involved outfield personnel. He sounded unenthusiastic about obtaining a first baseman and moving Gold Glove Award finalist Brandon Belt to left field. Evans noted that "in a perfect world," a rookie outfielder such as Mac Williamson or Jarrett Parker would play his way into a starting cornerman's role, much as third baseman Matt Duffy did last season. But since neither Williamson nor Parker is a sure thing, the pursuit of an outfielder will continue.
Evans said that Kelby Tomlinson, the bespectacled infielder who was sent to instructional league to work on playing outfield, proved that the latter wasn't his best position. But, Evans added, Tomlinson has drawn interest from a Mexican Winter League team. If Tomlinson accepts that offer, it could afford him the opportunity to play more outfield.
Aoki was a legitimate candidate to make the National League All-Star team before he sustained a fractured fibula on June 20 at Los Angeles when he was struck by a pitch from Dodgers starter Carlos Frias. Aoki then endured a concussion after being struck in his batter's helmet by a pitch from Cubs ace Jake Arrieta on Aug. 9. Aoki finished with a .287 batting average, a .353 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases.
Byrd was obtained from Cincinnati on Aug. 20 for Minor League right-hander Stephen Johnson after right fielder Hunter Pence was sidelined with an oblique injury. Byrd hit .272 with 12 doubles, two triples, four homers and 31 RBIs in 39 games for the Giants.