Yesterday, when asked, San Francisco Giants GM Bobby Evans said that Johnny Cueto's potential opt-out after the 2017 season would have no effect on how aggressive the team would be this offseason. While I take Mr. Evans at his word, and believe that the team has internal options that could fill certain roles admirably, rolling with both Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker next season could be a big risk for a team that is hoping to contend.
Instead, what I am proposing is an upgrade in left field. While Yoenis Cespedes could become the bell of the ball once again this offseason if he opts out (there's that word again) of his contract with the New York Mets, teams will be lining up to sign him if he does become available, and we've seen free agents snub the Giants in the past.
One player that won't be mentioned among the top tier of free agent outfielders (which includes Mark Trumbo and Jose Bautista) is Colby Rasmus, who spent the last two years of his career with the Houston Astros, the first of which got him a qualifying offer, which he accepted, becoming the first player to ever take the guaranteed one-year salary.
While Rasmus won't be earning nearly as much as his $15.8M salary from 2016, he won't come cheap, either. According to FanGraphs, Rasmus was a 1.4 WAR player in just 107 games this season, which will likely earn him in the neighborhood of $12-14M per year on his next deal. That's just a rough estimate, though.
Why Rasmus? Glad you asked!
While his offensive production was 30 percent below that of the man he'd be replacing in Angel Pagan in 2016, it was a down year for "Colby Jack" (see, he already has a great nickname--just think of the memes!), who had ranged in wRC+ from 107 to 130 the previous three seasons. Even with the worse offensive output, Rasmus was not far behind Pagan in WAR this past season, with Pagan holding a 2.1 wins above replacement in 22 more games played.
If you're wondering how this is even possible, the answer is defense. DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) is a metric that attempts to put a value on how many runs a player prevents (or allows) through their defensive play. We can all agree that the Giants' outfield defense was not very good this past year, and with Denard Span (-7) and Hunter Pence set to return to the orange and black next season, they'll have to look elsewhere for that upgrade defensively. The Giants as a team ranked 24th by this measure in team outfield defense.
In his 241 2/3 innings in the outfield, Williamson posted one of three positive DRS scores for the team in 2016, with the other two belonging to Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson. None of those three accumulated much playing time, however.
In just 672 1/3 innings in left field, Rasmus saved a total of 14 runs, which would nearly set the Giants at zero with last year's -17 mark. If you take out Pagan's -7, Ramsus gives the Giants a slightly above average outfield defense, and the difference between the two is 21 runs saved. That's enough to make a big difference in a close game or 32. And that's just while playing left field. Rasmus can man all three spots in the outfield, and is a plus defender at each of them. In total, he put up a +20 DRS in 2016. If Pence or Span misses some time due to injury, Rasmus could be plugged in wherever he is needed, making Williamson or Parker more comfortable in their own defensive alignment.
While his defense is one of the biggest draws, he's also no slouch at the plate. In 417 plate appearances, Rasmus still hit 15 home runs, a year removed from smashing 25. He walks in roughly ten percent of his plate appearances, but is also prone to strike out a bit. All in all, he would be a tremendous buy-low candidate for the Giants to consider. At the very worst, he vastly improves one of the Giants defensive weaknesses, and at best he'll do that and provide some thump in the middle of the order, which would offer Belt, Posey and Pence some protection in the lineup.
The only real downside with Rasmus is that he dons the number 28, which happens to belong to some guy named Gerald.
Of course, the Giants could roll with the options that they have in Hernandez, Williamson, Parker, and potentially Gregor Blanco if they bring him back, but with potentially just one more year of Cueto left, going all-in seems like the right play here. Williamson could act as the fourth outfielder and a power threat off the bench, able to pinch-hit for Span on any given night with Rasmus sliding into center.