After the Giants signed Joc Pederson last spring, Farhan Zaidi sat on the bench inside the first-base dugout of Scottsdale Stadium and began to talk through his latest acquisition. “It’s cool,” he began, “I mean, for me personally, I go way back with him.”
A year later, the Giants and their hometown slugger extended their marriage. But for Zaidi, their relationship dates back to their Dodger days. And with free agency underway, the Giants have already been linked to two more former Dodgers.
Free agent outfielder Cody Bellinger and reliever Kenley Jansen are reportedly two of the club’s targets this offseason. Bellinger, 27, was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and MVP in 2019 but was non-tendered by the Dodgers. Jansen, 35, signed with Atlanta last offseason and saved 41 games but posted the second-highest ERA of his career.
Still, both players could fit well on the Giants’ roster next season.
There was plenty of speculation leading up to last week’s non-tender deadline that the Dodgers could cut ties with Bellinger, who not long ago was regarded as one of their top homegrown success stories. He hit 47 home runs with a 1.035 OPS in his age-23 MVP season, but he has totaled 41 homers with a .648 OPS in the three seasons since.
While the Dodgers scoffed at the possible $18 million-plus they would have owed him through arbitration, Bellinger was still their everyday centerfielder despite his offensive struggles, for the same reason that should make him attractive to the Giants: his glove.
If the eye test wasn’t enough, the metrics were nearly unanimous: the Giants’ outfield ranked last in defensive runs saved (-44), tied for last in outs above average (-25) and second-to-last in ultimate zone rating (-21.8).
Bellinger was also a Gold Glove winner during that MVP campaign. Adding a centerfielder like him — or Brandon Nimmo, to whom the Giants have also reached out, per the San Francisco Chronicle — allows them to shift Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater back to a corner spot, where Yastrzemski was a Gold Glove finalist in 2021.
“Yaz is a really solid center fielder and did a nice job for us, but he’s a gold glove caliber corner outfielder,” Zaidi said at the end of the season. “That’s an example of a case where if you add somebody up the middle, it has a chance to improve you at two or three positions. That’s going to be the goal.”
Bellinger’s agent, Scott Boras, attributed his offense deficiencies to a shoulder injury and believes he will continue to gain strength. For that reason, Boras is also said to be seeking a one-year deal for his client, one of the youngest on the free-agent market who could still cash in on a major payday with a bounce-back season.
Zaidi also said the Giants would be “opportunistic” in adding to a bullpen that already began to reconfigure itself toward the end of last season.
Although they have been reticent to declare an official closer, Camilo Doval appeared to be pretty entrenched in that role, especially after adding a third pitch and even more velocity to his heater. Tyler Rogers, John Brebbia and Scott Alexander will also return, but they could be used in lower-leverage situations if the Giants add a top-line reliever like Jansen, who spent the first 12 years of his career with the Dodgers (2.37 ERA, 350 saves).
According to David Vassegh of SportsNetLA, Jansen and the Giants were discussing a two-year deal. He made $16 million last season. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi was the first to report the mutual interest between the parties.
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No surprise the Giants and Dodgers have only made three trades — none since 2007 — since they moved to California nearly 70 years ago. There have been more than a few players to wear both uniforms, though.
Some of the more notable names in recent history: Jeff Kent, Jason Schmidt and Juan Uribe, who were all Giants first before donning Dodger blue. The group also includes current KNBR host F.P. Santangelo, who went straight from San Francisco to L.A. after the 1999 season. Even Juan Marichal and Orel Hershiser traded jerseys at the end of their careers. And of course, there’s this year’s World Series-winning manager, Dusty Baker, who was best known as a player in Los Angeles before getting his start as a skipper in San Francisco.
In addition to Pederson, the Giants got 26 starts and 17 relief appearances last season from former Zaidi-era Los Angeles players Alex Wood and Scott Alexander. Jake McGee did the reverse-Santangelo, going straight from the Dodgers’ bullpen to the Giants’, before he was designated for assignment last season.
Could Bellinger or Jansen — or Trea Turner — become the next player to add their name to the list?
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Whether it’s Bellinger or Nimmo or their white whale, Aaron Judge, the Giants appear to be set on signing an outfielder. One possible Plan B: Mitch Haniger, who was limited to 57 games this past season but has been effective when healthy over five seasons in Seattle (an .817 OPS).
The Giants are one of four teams, including the Dodgers, with reported interest in the 32-year-old, who has played mostly right field over his career. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal first reported the Giants’ interest.
Haniger, a graduate of San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty High School, would also join a growing list of Bay Area natives to return home and play for the Giants, including Pederson (Palo Alto) and Alexander (Santa Rosa).
Fun fact: You can find Haniger’s name on a brick behind home plate at Archbishop Mitty’s baseball field. Perhaps with a free-agent deal in hand, he’ll make a large enough donation for the full naming rights.