AT&T PARK — The braintrust of the San Francisco Giants had to come to terms on Tuesday with the last-place season they put together.
Shake-ups are coming: The team was too old, too lackluster at key positions, to consider coming back in 2018 with largely the same look. But there are significant barriers to their rebuild.
The Giants had the sixth-highest payroll in 2017 and could be looking at a fourth-straight year paying the luxury tax unless they find a way to shed salaries.
One of their primary objectives is getting better in the outfield. Denard Span can expect to move from center to left field, ensuring he can play high-level defense at age 34 next season.
In that same vein, manager Bruce Bochy mentioned Hunter Pence as a candidate to be ousted from his current position. That could mean he’ll share time with Span in left field or be used as a pinch hitter/substitute.
“We’ve done a good job of being creative and doing these type of things, and that’s what we need to do now,” Bochy said.
Left field was a consistent issue for the Giants from Opening Day. And after trading Eduardo Nunez, third base was almost as bad.
The Giants brought back Pablo Sandoval to mixed results. Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones each got time at the position. Jones hit .173/.244/.273 in his first action in the big-leagues. Arroyo came on in a flourish before fading and ultimately getting hurt.
“I think it’s hard to answer right now but I think we’ll be open-minded to be as strong there as we can,” Evans said. “Yeah, we’re pleased with the options that we have, but we also want to look beyond that.”
Evans indicated that if they do add skilled players this offseason, it’ll likely be through trade due to the kind of players that are typically available in free agency, which is to say older and more expensive players.
What about the bullpen?
One of the silver linings those around the Giants pointed to most of the season was the improved bullpen. Despite blowing a couple saves late in the season, Sam Dyson mostly turned around his season after being traded to San Francisco. Mark Melancon should be healthy by Opening Day, and Will Smith will be back on the mound after spending this season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean seemed somewhat content with what they have but also expects the team to be competitive in adding more arms.
“The long and short: Any general manager wants four or five guys that can pitch a[n] inning, so you’re not constantly playing matchup baseball,” Sabean said.
He also noted that Kyle Crick and Reyes Moronta impressed sooner than earlier expected. But Sabean added that they could still add some power pitchers with strikeout ability before expressing faith in Evans’ search, which begins now — if not a couple months ago.