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The San Francisco Giants aren’t one player away, even if that player is Giancarlo Stanton. Or Shohei Ohtani.
But what if you change “one” to “two” and “or” to “and”? Then the Giants might have something.
It can’t be Stanton or Ohtani. It has to be Stanton and Ohtani.
Then you can call the Giants a true contender for the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
Add Stanton or Ohtani and the Giants would have a star on a team without enough depth to win. The farm system is thin, the budget would be tight and there would a strong and legitimate argument that what they really ought to be doing is tearing down and rebuilding.
“Didn’t Miami just go through this?” asked one National League scout who knows the Giants well.
The Marlins couldn’t win with Stanton, even in a year when he hit 59 home runs and was the National League’s Most Valuable Player. For that matter, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters couldn’t win this year with Ohtani, although that had more to do with injuries that limited the two-way star to 65 games at the plate and just five on the mound.
Now Stanton and Ohtani are the twin prizes of baseball’s winter market, with very different price tags but perhaps a similar impact. Each can basically choose his next destination, Stanton because of a no-trade clause and Ohtani because he is coming to America through the posting system.
Ohtani narrowed his field to seven teams last Saturday, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, and the Giants made the cut. Stanton’s field is less certain, but as Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported, the Marlins allowed him to meet with the Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals last week as a prelude to possibly accepting a deal. While Stanton may well prefer a move to the Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s not at all clear that the Dodgers have any willingness to take on that big a contract this winter (Stanton has $295 million and 10 years remaining).
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If the Dodgers somehow added both Ohtani and Stanton, that would be interesting. But as anyone who paid attention in 2017 realizes, the Dodgers already have a great team.
If the Giants end up with both? Now that would be fascinating.
“Would be fun to watch,” said another scout based in the west.
It’s hard to know for sure how much chance it has of happening. Stanton has kept quiet about what he wants. Ohtani has kept even quieter, and while one scout with ties to the Japanese market predicted Tuesday that Ohtani will go to either the Giants, the Seattle Mariners or the San Diego Padres, it’s worth noting that plenty of people who thought they knew considered the New York Yankees the favorites to sign him, all the way up until he eliminated them without even holding a meeting.
The Giants and Dodgers both got Ohtani meetings Monday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Twitter.
The Giants sent nearly their entire front office to meet with Ohtani on Monday, according to a report by Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area. Their Ohtani pursuit hasn’t received as much national attention as that of some other teams, but they have been working hard on it. In an earlier story, Pavlovic quoted manager Bruce Bochy as calling Ohtani “special” and saying he could see him taking a regular rotation turn and also getting 300 to 400 at-bats.
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The Giants need what Ohtani could give them, and also what Stanton could provide. Their 128 home runs last season were by far the fewest in the majors. Their middle of the order consisted of Buster Posey and little else. Their rotation should have Madison Bumgarner back for a full season but still needs another top arm.
“They need to upgrade their pen as well,” said another American League scout.
They’re not going to be able to do enough this winter to supplant the Dodgers as NL West favorites, even if they add Stanton and Ohtani. A Stanton trade could also cost them a player from their current lineup, with second baseman Joe Panik mentioned in some reports.
There would be more work to do and a limited budget to work with. It wouldn’t be simple, which is why it’s so easy to say the Giants aren’t one player away. In a normal winter, you’d probably say they’re not two players away either.
This winter is unusual with two big stars, both young enough to have a long-term impact (Stanton is 28, Ohtani 23). This winter is unusual because baseball’s international signing rules severely limit how much money teams can offer Ohtani and make him a bargain the Giants and other teams can easily afford. This winter is unusual because Stanton is from California and Ohtani seems to have a preference for the West Coast (five of his seven finalists are out west).
Finally, this winter is unusual because, after a 98-loss season, the Giants have begun to worry that fans might stop packing AT&T Park on a nightly basis. If they’re not going to rebuild, they badly need to show they’re going for it.
Getting Stanton or Ohtani would only get them halfway there. Getting Stanton and Ohtani?
Now that would be fascinating.
Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.
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