Thomas Shea, USA Today

San Francisco Giants: Another Free Agent Option to Consider

Could the Giants also add some depth to their bench this winter?

This year's free agent market is relatively weak, except for the area in which the San Francisco Giants could definitely use some help--the bullpen--and some other spots here and there. The Giants bench isn't necessarily a concern, but their lack of power in the lineup has caused some squirming amongst the fan base. This could lead to an under-the-radar addition that could help in a number of areas. 

Luis Valbuena has spent the last two years with the Houston Astros, and as a 31-year-old corner infielder, there isn't an obvious spot to put him. Brandon Belt was given an extension during the 2016 season, and Eduardo Nunez is penciled as the team's everyday third baseman. Adding Valbuena isn't going to be high on anyone's list, that's for sure. 

In his time with Houston, Valbuena accounted for 38 home runs, even while missing nearly half of the 2016 season. The power that he could bring to the lineup would be a nice boost. The last three seasons (one with the Cubs) his wRC+ has been 118, 107 and 123, which is three well above average years at the plate. 

Defensively he has been no worse than Nunez, as both rate as right about average with the glove. Offensively Nunez hasn't been quite as productive, and his power outage since coming to the Giants is likely to continue into 2017 given AT&T's spacious dimensions. 

To make room for Valbuena, Nunez could be a jack-of-all-trades utility man, or he could become trade bait this winter to help bolster the farm system. 

The one problem here is that Christian Arroyo is likely going to be ready to make his big league debut at some point in 2017, and with Crawford and Panik entrenched up the middle, Arroyo will more than likely be taking over at third base. Because of this, a potential addition of Valbuena shouldn't be something that the Giants seek to accomplish immediately. Instead, if the free agent frenzy hits a snag and Valbuena is still on the market in say, January, then he could certainly be worth the investment on a short-term deal. 

The likelihood of this happening may be fairly high, too, with Justin Turner being the best third base option on the market (until the Dodgers snatch him back up) and rumors swirling that Evan Longoria may even be available via trade. The number of teams that are out there looking for a third baseman this winter isn't terribly high, so the likelihood of Valbuena hanging around for a while is up there. The likelihood of him accepting a one-year deal and trying the market again next year when the Angels, Royals, Pirates and White Sox will all be in search of a replacement for their current options may not be extremely high, but is certainly worth considering. 

If the Giants do sign Valbuena to a one-year deal, it would mark the third time that he could be ousted by a hot prospect in the past few seasons. The Cubs traded him to Houston with the impending arrival of Kris Bryant, and Valbuena's playing time diminished last year due to injury, and the fact that Alex Bregman had arrived. 

Do the Giants need to add Valbuena? No. They need a closer and potentially a left fielder. Would Valbuena be a slight upgrade worth considering this winter? If the cards fall the right way, certainly. 


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