A lot of teams will fancy themselves as a free agent landing spot for Springer. The Giants are going to be featured in the rumours despite the best outfield season in recent memory in the orange and black half of The Bay.
After years of outfield strife, bad contracts to Angel Pagan and Denard Span to name a couple, the Giants were seventh in outfield wins above average in the shortened 2020 season. They were 22nd in 2019, 24th in 2018 and 30th in 2017. The last time they were competitive, when they went to the playoffs in 2016, they ranked 16th in that category – there have been lots of problems for the Giants over the last few years, but the outfield has been the greatest issue of all.
They were in the mix for Giancarlo Stanton when he was traded by the Miami Marlins. They were involved in the chase for Bryce Harper as a free agent. Ultimately, though, Farhan Zaidi has rebuilt this outfield on a budget. Splits have been used to their advantage, and they rode massive overperformance last season.
Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson were elite hitters, both registering over 150 in OPS+. Mauricio Dubon became a serviceable defensive centre fielder and hit for league-average level. Darin Ruf was a platoon bat on the corner. Over a full-length season, Yastrzemski and Dickerson are not going to keep up that standard. They can be good, but they’re not MVP candidates.
The Giants are projected to start next season with Dickerson and Ruf platooning, Dubon in centre and Yastrzemski in right.
Does Springer make sense for the Giants?
Springer, an All-Star hitter, arriving on the market as a free agent looks perfect for the Giants on the surface. San Francisco is heading for a payroll around $130 million. Ownership has been willing to spend in the past, often heading into the tax. They were happy to take on Harper or Stanton’s contracts – Springer will be a much smaller, shorter-term financial commitment.
They are also about to gain a massive amount of payroll flexibility. Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford could all be free agents after 2021. Evan Longoria‘s contract is the only salary on the 2022 books.
The Giants are poised to spend. With contracts ending, they could splash on Springer and still go big in next winter’s free agency.
It isn’t that straight forward, though. Springer is already 31. The Giants would have to relinquish a draft pick to sign him. While he improves them for 2021, Springer alone does not elevate the Giants to legitimate contention or even a likely playoff team in a division with the Dodgers and Padres.
Springer doesn’t feel like a Zaidi-type signing. His contract could be a burden by the time the Giants are ready to really compete. Next offseason’s outfield free agent class isn’t loaded, but the Giants could go after Michael Conforto if he makes it to the open market. Maybe Zaidi unearths another gem like Yastrzemski and the need for an outfielder lessens.
A deal for Springer can be justified if it partners another one or two major free agent signings. Add a couple of strong starters along with Springer and the Giants can be taken more seriously as a contending team. Ultimately, though, it’s probably a year or two too soon for the Giants to be sacrificing draft picks to sign a 31-year-old outfielder.