The past two mediocre Giants seasons have set up this winter as pivotal for the franchise, and it appears they’re intent on making the big splash required to turn around the team and reinvigorate its fan base.
According to MLB Network’s national insider Jon Morosi, San Francisco is in the mix for the two top free agents available: generational phenom Shohei Ohtani and Japanese superstar pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
“The Giants are right now set on trying to acquire one or the other,” Morosi reported on MLB Network. “They’re pursuing both very aggressively.”
Both Ohtani and Yamamoto are expected to have several suitors in free agency. Since they’re the two most sought after free agents, the teams interested in them are most likely to be those with deep pockets and legitimate championship aspirations like the Dodgers, Yankees, Braves, Cubs, Red Sox and Rangers.
Ohtani, 29, is testing free agency with mysterious goals. Nobody expected him to choose the Los Angeles Angels when he first came to the states, and it’s unclear exactly what he’s prioritizing most this time around. There have been reports that he’s less concerned about geography than he was in 2018 and prefers to join a competitive team. But the Shohei Sweepstakes could be held largely under wraps, given ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that his camp wants meetings with teams to remain private.
Ohtani underwent elbow surgery this summer, so he won’t be eligible to pitch in 2024. The two-time MVP still likely earn a contract north of $500 million.
The Giants haven’t had a hitter record 30 home runs in a season since Barry Bonds in 2004. Ohtani has done so in each of the past seasons, including leading the American League last year with 44. In his last season that he was unable to pitch — 2019 — he was still worth 2.5 bWAR as a full-time designated hitter, which denotes an above average starter.
Yamamoto, meanwhile, is probably the best starting pitcher available. Part of why he’s so valuable is that the righty is only 25 years old.
Yamamoto is the most touted Japanese pitcher ever. Last year in the Japan Pacific League, he posted a 1.16 ERA in 171 innings. His ERA has been below 2.00 in each of the past three seasons; in those 557.2 innings, he allowed just 15 home runs.
Pairing Yamamoto with Logan Webb, who finished second in the National League Cy Young race, would give the Giants a massive strength at the top of their rotation in their pitcher-friendly ballpark.
Any team’s pursuit of Ohtani, Yamamoto, Cody Bellinger, Matt Chapman and the other top free agents could ramp up next week at the winter meetings starting Dec. 3, where team executives and agents congregate to accelerate the dealmaking process.