Retaining Joc Pederson was part of the Giants’ “Plan A,” and so will adding more star power to the outfield.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants have “checked in” on free agent center fielders Cody Bellinger and Brandon Nimmo. That’s in addition to the obvious, $300-plus million elephant in the room from Linden — Aaron Judge — whose buzz will only intensify as the offseason progresses.
Nimmo, 29, hit .274 with a .800 OPS last year, leading the National League with seven triples. He’s had trouble staying on the field in the past, but all 151 of his 2022 games came in center field.
Bellinger is the more intriguing option, since he’s had one of the most peculiar career arcs in recent memory. The NL Rookie of the Year in 2017 and 2019 MVP has registered an OPS+ of 44 and 78 in his previous two seasons (league average is 100). While Bellinger is only 27 and remains an terrific fielder, the Dodgers deemed him unworthy of roughly $18 million in arbitration.
Nimmo was on the list of likely Giants targets, and Bellinger would have been too had it been certain Los Angeles was non-tendering him. Although each makes hypothetical sense for the Giants, the “industry source” who linked them the Giants to them is the first tangible evidence of interest.
Both fit the Giants’ need of improving in the outfield defensively and providing stability. Nimmo is a much more polished hitter than Bellinger has been in recent years, but both are everyday players given their gloves and talent.
Seeing Bellinger, particularly, in a Giants jersey would be strange. His ninth inning single off Camilo Doval in the ninth inning of game 5 of the division series in 2021 ended San Francisco’s season. He added several big hits against the Giants this year, including a July grand slam in Dodger Stadium.
San Francisco could use more continuity in the outfield, even if they still opt for a mix-and-match platoon system. The list of players to play outfield for SF last season was ridiculously extensive: Austin Slater, Mike Yastrzemski, Luis González, Joc Pederson, LaMonte Wade Jr., Bryce Johnson, Lewis Brinson, Stuart Fairchild, Yermín Mercedes, Thairo Estrada, Steven Duggar, Mauricion Dubón, Darin Ruf, Jason Vosler, J.D. Davis, Heliot Ramos, and Jason Krizan don’t even complete the full list.
Consolidating that unit should be a priority. As should improving defensively, where San Francisco outfielders ranked last in MLB with -44 defensive runs saved. With Pederson and Davis — not plus defenders — returning, it’s imperative that SF builds enough outfield depth to limit their time in the field.
Adding players like Nimmo or Bellinger would help.