Giants Free Agent Additions Haven’t Translated To Wins Yet

It's time to talk about what has gone wrong, what has gone right, and what should get better for the San Francisco Giants.

Jung Hoo Lee of the San Francisco Giants celebrates a team victory with Wilmer Flores during a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Jung Hoo Lee #51 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates a team victory with Wilmer Flores #41 during a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on March 30, 2024 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Getty Images)

Despite the San Francisco Giants having entered the 2024 season with one of the best offseasons in Major League Baseball in their rearview mirror, their new additions haven’t added up to a winning record. 

The work done by president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Pete Putila helped put an end to the recent trend of notable free agents avoiding the Bay Area. 

However, the new smiles found in the clubhouse of Scottsdale Stadium, where the club prepares for the 162-game campaign during spring training, haven’t exactly traveled north to San Francisco.

At 13-15, the Giants have yet to find a groove with this fresh mix of talent, which includes first-year manager Bob Melvin.

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Here’s what has gone wrong, what has gone right and what should get better for San Francisco:

Introspective Introduction

Production from the three position players acquired this offseason — OF Jung Hoo Lee, DH Jorge Soler and 3B Matt Chapman — hasn’t been terrible on the surface.

Lee has pretty much been as advertised. He’s making a lot of contact, even more than perennial batting champ Luis Arraez. His strikeout percentage (8.8%) is the lowest in the National League.

Despite being the offspring of legendary Korea Baseball Organization player Jong Beom Lee, who was known as Son of the Wind, the Grandson of the Wind is not as quick as his lineage would make you think. He never stole more than 13 bases in Korea and never attempted more than 20 in any of his seven seasons there.

So far, Lee has been successful 40% of the time in MLB, getting caught on three of his five attempts.

Soler appears to be the same player he was in Miami. His walk and strikeout rates are almost identical through his first 115 plate appearances of 2024, and he has four doubles and five home runs in 28 games.

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Yet, there are some underlying concerns. His slugging percentage is down and most areas of his Baseball Savant page are an icy shade of blue. Oracle Park is not doing him any favors either. Soler has an OPS that is 485 points less at home than on the road through the first month. It’s a small sample size, but it’s worth monitoring.

Chapman has also struggled to find his power stroke in San Francisco. While he’s yet to hit one out at home, he’s finding new ways to make up for it. The third baseman stole a career-high four bases last year and already has three at Oracle Park in 15 games. Entering the year, he had a career total of three steals in his home ballparks over the previous seven seasons.

The triumvirate has combined to be worth 1.5 bWAR so far. Though that’s less than what Shohei Ohtani has provided the Los Angeles Dodgers on his own, the Giants’ new trio has performed better than others in the division.

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed DH Joc Pederson and OF Randal Grichuk after acquiring 3B Eugenio Suárez this offseason. The San Diego Padres brought back OF Jurickson Profar to play in the outfield alongside 20-year-old rookie Jackson Merrill, who had never played an inning of center field in the minors. A group of players worth a combined 0.4 bWAR filled in at the hot corner while Manny Machado was recovering from injury.

None of those groupings have been better than the Giants trifecta, which may be why all three clubs stand within one game of each other in the standings. The biggest difference of them all, however, is that San Francisco is paying its trio about $35.8 million this season, or $13.5 more than Arizona’s three.

Better Than Advertised

Jordan Hicks had never pitched above High-A before he made his big league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals as a 21-year-old in 2018. The catch: he had to accept the title of “failed starter” in order to make the leap.

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Hicks had a 2.82 ERA in the minors as a starting pitcher. St. Louis gave him a brief chance in their rotation in 2022, but the so-called experiment lasted only eight games.

Finally a free agent and able to negotiate his place on a pitching staff, Hicks chose the Giants and, more importantly, the opportunity to be a starter. So far, so great.

Still only 27 years old, Hicks has emerged as one of the better starting pitchers in baseball in 2024. His 1.59 ERA is fourth-best in the National League. His strikeout numbers are down, but his ability to induce groundballs is still present, and his 59.6% groundball rate also ranks fourth in the NL.

Walks have been a problem for Hicks at times and could suggest some regression is coming in his next outings. Yet, could he harken back to his days as a reliever and continue to strand runners at a higher rate than normal? Actually, yes. His 82.8% left-on-base percentage is seventh-best in the Senior Circuit.

Gotta Be Better, Right?

Blake Snell did not look right over his first three starts. Those outings produced an 11.57 ERA. Yet, underlying stats, like a .410 BABIP and an 18.2% HR/FB, suggest he was rather unlucky.

Now he is on the 15-day injured list for a left adductor strain, retroactive to April 23. More bad luck. Or maybe an opportunity to retool and be more ready than he was when he made his Giants debut on April 8, less than three weeks after signing with the club.

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There’s no real way to reset the lack of spring training, which is one of the reasons so many teams were leery of acquiring the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner after the start of the exhibition season.

Will he be better than what we’ve seen? Certainly. Will he get back into the hunt to defend his title as the best pitcher in the NL? Not a chance.

Strange as it may seem, San Francisco may have to operate like the Dodgers or Texas Rangers. They must hope to be good enough through the first half of the season as they wait for the best arms in the rotation to return in the second half when postseason preparation begins.

Let’s Not Overlook

A lot is going well for the NorCal Nine. 

Patrick Bailey has emerged as a potent bat in the middle of Melvin’s lineup. Whereas some of the vote-getters for the 2023 NL Rookie of the Year have entered a sophomore slump, Bailey has thrived at the plate as his walks-per-strikeout have more than doubled.

Camilo Doval now has one of the most memorable entrances in the ninth. He ceremoniously led the NL with 39 saves last season and might be a dark horse to close out the 2024 All-Star Game.

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The bullpen, as a unit, has had some issues. Yet, while the team’s earned run average ranks 29th in MLB, the arm barn has closed the door all but once when leading through the sixth inning or later. The Giants had a 1-0 lead through six innings last night but ultimately lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3.

As for starting pitchers, Logan Webb may well be the favorite to win the Cy Young Award after finishing second to Snell last season. Outside of a rough outing against the Dodgers, he’s gone at least six innings in every start, including 29.0 innings in his last four starts. His 2.33 ERA is up there with the best in the game. 

Perhaps the most hopeful note for the Giants right now is that despite all their issues in the early going, the rest of the division has not crept away from them. Only one team, the Dodgers, is above .500, and even L.A. is only 4.5 ahead of San Francisco. The final Wild Card spot — as if anyone is actually looking at Wild Card standings right now — is only 2.5 games away from the Giants.

And unlike the Diamondbacks and Padres, the Giants still have all 13 games remaining against the cellar-dwelling Colorado Rockies, who they have dominated (38-13, .750) over the last three seasons.

Be patient, Bay Area baseball fans. This is one team that isn’t going anywhere any time soon.