The San Francisco Giants will need to look for outfield help this offseason after declining the club options for Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd. Aoki and Byrd are now free agents, meaning that the Giants now have seven players on the open market.
Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News reports that Aoki’s option was worth $5.5 million, but he will instead receive a $700,000 buyout while Byrd’s option did not include a buyout. Baggarly added that the Giants like Aoki and are open to re-signing him at a cheaper price.
Aoki, the Giants starting left fielder and lead-off hitter, batted.287 with five home runs and 14 stolen bases in 93 games last year. The 33-year-old got off to a great start hitting.317 with a.385 on-base percentage before fracturing a fibula after getting hit by a pitch on June 20, which cost him to miss a month. After returning to action, he sustained a concussion on August 9 from getting hit with a pitch in a game against Chicago and was out the remainder of the season.
Giants’ general manager told Baggarly that Aoki is cleared of all concussion symptoms, which should allow Aoki to command a multi-year deal this winter. Aoki is a high-contact, low-power hitter and is considered to be an average-to-good defensive outfielder. He had the lowest strikeout rate in the majors last year (6.4) and ranked third in contact percentage, per Fangraphs, connecting in on 91.6 percent of his swings this past season.
Aoki has spent four seasons in the majors after coming over from his native Japan. The left-handed hitter has a career stat line of.287/.353/.739 along with 24 home runs and 81 stolen bases in 531 games. He has spent two seasons in Milwaukee and one year in Kansas City before playing in San Francisco this past year.
Byrd had a solid year after recovering from a slow start. The 38-year-old, who was traded to San Francisco late in August, was hitting just.169 at the end of April. He started to turn things around in May and finished with a.247 average to go along with 23 home runs as well as 73 RBIs in 135 games. Byrd hit.272 with four homers and 31 RBIs in 39 games with San Francisco.
Byrd fell only six plate appearances short of the 550 that he needed to guarantee him his $8 million payday for next year. He should draw plenty of interest as a platoon outfield bat but at a price that is likely too far short of the $8 million that he could’ve gotten this season. Byrd hit southpaws extremely well, as he typically does, last year compiling a strong line of.271/.324/.476.
Aoki and Byrd joins OF Alejandro De Aza, RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Mike Leake, RHP Tim Lincecum, and RHP Ryan Vogelsong as free agent from last year’s team, per USA Today Sports.
If the Giants are interested in Aoki why did the Giants not pick up his option?
Evans said that the reason that Aoki’s contract was declined was because it gives them more flexibility.
“The timing is bad because we have a lot of things to address this winter and a lot of things we want to look at, and it’s about keeping our options open. To predetermine left field today is just premature. We’re definitely not closing any doors. There’s certainly interest in having him back, and if we do bring him back, I want to be sure everyone is clear on his role and what he’s walking into in terms of his situation on the roster. We’ll know more about that in the next weeks or months. We’re definitely not closing any doors.
“There’s certainly interest in having him back, and if we do bring him back, I want to be sure everyone is clear on his role and what he’s walking into in terms of his situation on the roster. We’ll know more about that in the next weeks or months.”
Buster Olney of ESPN believes that the Giants (84-78) are one of the teams that can improve this offseason with the right moves. San Francisco has a very strong positional core with 3B Matt Duffy, SS Brandon Craword, 2B Joe Panik, and 1B Brandon Belt – if he is fully recovered from his concussion-like symptoms – as well as catcher Buster Posey and OF Hunter Pence.
Two areas of need for the Giants is starting pitching and outfield. San Francisco is expected to make strong runs at some of the top-tier starters on the open market like Zack Greinke (who declined his option with the Los Angeles Dodgers), David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Scott Kazmir, and Johnny Cueto.
HNGN believes that the Giants, Texas Rangers, and Washington Nationals are the top landing spots for Greinke.
With Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan, along with Pence, the only outfielders assured of a spot on the opening day roster, the Giants will likely pursue a top-flight outfielder like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, and Alex Gordon.
However, Evans said their first order of business when the free agent frenzy begins on Saturday is to restart talks with Leake. Leake, who is expected to garner interest from the Arizona Diamondbacks, went 11-10 with a 3.70 ERA and two complete games last season.
[photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]