This week, FanGraphs analyzed teams’ offseasons through the lens of wins above replacement. Which clubs had gained the most, and which teams had lost the most, from last season through free agency?
The Giants, despite their five signings, were still at a net loss.
Down 0.8 fWAR, they were still better off than the subject of the article, the suspiciously quiet Dodgers, who have lost 14.3 fWAR from last year’s 111-win club, as well as the Padres (minus-2.1) and Rockies (minus-1.2) among their NL West foes. However, the Giants enter the season with a 30-game handicap on the division race. (The D-Backs were the only division team with a net gain, at plus-2.8.)
The Giants may not be entirely done, but the foundation of the roster is set. Is it enough to compete for the NL West, or at least a wild card berth? Take a look at how it’s shaping up with our projection below.
Starting pitchers (6)
Projected: Alex Cobb, Anthony DeSclafani, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling, Logan Webb, Alex Wood
Other 40-man options: Tristan Beck, Sean Hjelle, Sam Long, Keaton Winn
Total WAR (Steamer projection): 12.1 (Cobb 3.1, Webb 3.0, Manaea 1.9, Wood 1.8, Stripling 1.4, DeSclafani 0.5, Harrison 0.4)
One player accounts for the majority of the WAR the Giants must replace from last season: Carlos Rodón, who totaled 6.2 fWAR, the second-most in the majors, and parlayed that into a $162 million contract — and a clean shave — in New York. Their two additions, Manaea and Stripling, combined to throw more than 100 more innings last season than Rodón but were worth 2.0 fewer wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs.
What they lost at the top of their rotation, however, they hope to make up for in depth. And, maybe, a little creativity.
“There may be some situations in which we go to a six-man rotation for a period of time,” Farhan Zaidi said last week. “There will be times we do that. There will be times we tandem guys and try to use two of our starters to get through an entire game. … We don’t have a group of 34-start, 200-inning guys, so I do think an element of this will be managing workloads more generally across the course of the season.”
How it shakes out to start the season is still to be determined, but this much is certain: Webb will suit up for Team USA during the World Baseball Classic, and a few weeks later, make his second straight Opening Day start for the Giants.
It will certainly be a goal of Webb’s to reach 200 innings, after a career-high 192⅓ last year, but for the first time in his career the 26-year-old righty from Rocklin will be without a co-ace at the top of the rotation. By the end of the season — maybe even before the All-Star break — he could be joined by another homegrown arm in Harrison, 21, the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, who is expected to start the year at Triple-A.
There is some room for positive regression to the mean: Giants starters led the NL last season in FIP (fielding independent pitching), with a 3.43 mark. However, their ERA (3.86) ranked seventh. It was the second-widest gap of any team in the majors.
Relief pitchers (7)
Projected: Scott Alexander, John Brebbia, Camilo Doval, Jakob Junis, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Rogers, Thomas Szapucki
Other 40-man options: Yunior Marte, Randy Rodriguez, Cole Waites
Total WAR (Steamer projection): 2.4 (Tay. Rogers 0.7, Doval 0.6, Junis 0.5, Szapucki 0.2, Alexander 0.1, Brebbia 0.1, Marte 0.1, Waites 0.1, Ty. Rogers -0.1)
Six spots are locked down, and the Giants are working to add another reliever, which would fill the seventh and final slot. But, for now, the leader in the clubhouse is Szapucki, one of the four players the Giants got in return for Darin Ruf and who is out of options.
We’ve already gotten a “Step Brothers” reference from the Rogers twins, but Zaidi stressed that the addition of Taylor Rogers was more than a good story. The Giants were concerned about the stress put on the arm of their talented young closer last season, so they added an opposite-handed option who also saved 31 games last year.
Projected: Joey Bart, Austin Wynns
Other 40-man options: Blake Sabol
Total WAR (Steamer projection): 2.0 (Bart 0.9, Sabol 0.7, Wynns 0.4)
Despite Bart’s well-documented struggles last season, the Giants’ catching position still ranked 16th in the majors in fWAR. There was room to improve on the trade market, with Oakland sending Sean Murphy to Atlanta and Toronto dealing Gabriel Moreno to Arizona, but Zaidi has reiterated his confidence in the duo of Bart and Wynns.
Sabol, a Rule 5 pick acquired in a trade with Cincinnati, would give the Giants the left-handed-hitting partner they have been seeking to pair with Bart — and his .284/.363/.497 batting line last season, mostly at Double-A, is intriguing — but evaluators have questioned his ability to serve as a primary backup behind the plate because of his defensive shortcomings.
Projected: Brandon Crawford, J.D. Davis, Thairo Estrada, Wilmer Flores, David Villar, LaMonte Wade Jr.
Other 40-man options: Isan Diaz, Brett Wisely
Total WAR (Steamer projection): 10.6 (Estrada 2.9, Crawford 2.0, Flores 1.8, Villar 1.5, Davis 1.1, Wade. 0.8, Wisely 0.3, Diaz 0.2)
With Carlos Correa in tow, the Giants … ah, well, never mind.
So, the Giants will have the shortstop position to address next offseason. (It’s a big year for top prospect Marco Luciano, who missed much of last year with a back injury that flared up again in winter ball.)
Crawford, who turns 36 in January, will be penciled in for his 12th consecutive opening Day start at shortstop, after all. He was better at the plate and back in old form defensively after returning from a three-week IL stint, and the Giants plan to balance his workload to keep him fresh this season. Without any other additions, however, Estrada would be their only other capable shortstop, and he is expected to start everyday at second.
This group will also be challenged by the new restrictions on infield shifts. The Giants were one of the most effective teams at positioning their infielders last season, and despite intentions to upgrade its athleticism, the group is largely the same from last year.
The emergence of Villar at the end of last year (eight home runs in September/October) allowed the Giants to move on from Evan Longoria, who recently found a comfortable landing spot with the Diamondbacks, an up-and-coming club in need of a veteran presence (whose stadium is conveniently located a short drive from his home). He and Davis will share the load at third with Flores and at first with Wade. It’s possible top prospect and defensive whiz Casey Schmitt gets a look at third base by the end of the season, too.
Is this group looking a little right-handed heavy? Brandon Belt remains a free agent.
Projected: Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Joc Pederson, Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski
Other 40-man options: Luis González, Heliot Ramos
Total WAR (Steamer projection): 8.9 (Yastrzemski 2.3, Haniger 2.0, Pederson 1.7, Conforto 1.6, Slater 1.1, González 0.2)
With Aaron Judge in tow, the Giants … ah, well, never mind.
At least the additions of Conforto (whose deal is not yet official, though he has passed his physical) and Haniger should bolster the league’s worst outfield defense and stabilize their lineup. Provided they stay healthy, that is, given Conforto missed all of last season and Haniger has played 100 games twice in seven seasons.
With some combination of the free-agent additions in the corners and the Slater/Yastrzemski platoon covering center, it allows the Giants to use Pederson as their regular designated hitter, where his offensive contributions (23 home runs, .873 OPS in 2022) won’t be outweighed by his defensive shortcomings (rated the worst left fielder in the majors).
González has an option remaining, so he will likely shuffle between Sacramento and San Francisco all season, but hopefully the Giants can fit the Hermosillo, Mexico, native on the roster for their trip to Mexico City at the end of April.