San Francisco Giants 2024 outlook: Key roster additions, new manager still no match for top rival

San Francisco Giants
Credit: Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports

After firing manager Gabe Kapler with three days left in the season, the San Francisco Giants needed to make some moves this winter to prove to the fan base that they’re actually trying. Last year’s club went 79-83, outperforming their Pythagorean record by three games. That would suggest that Kapler was adding value to the team, but the pieces that he was given just weren’t playoff material.

At the beginning of the offseason, the team hired Bay Area native and former Giants’ catcher Bob Melvin away from the San Diego Padres. The Giants are hoping that Melvin can lead them to the postseason consistently, like he did in his tenure with the Oakland A’s, making the playoffs six times in ten seasons across the Bay.

Melvin’s former team, the Padres, spent a lot of money assembling the roster they had, which included some big-time star power, but they too ultimately missed out on postseason play.

The Giants front office has been under fire in recent years for failing to secure big name free agents. Whether it has been Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, Carlos Correa, or more recently, Shohei Ohtani or Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Giants have not landed that capstone player in free agency. That said, the team had a fairly productive winter that should put them in the middle of the postseason hunt.

San Francisco Giants additions and subtractions

San Francisco Giants
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Up until a couple of weeks ago you could argue that the San Francisco Giants really needed to make another move. Then they went out and signed Matt Chapman to a three year, $54 million deal with an opt-out option after the first two seasons. That dollar figure for Chapman could end up being a steal.

The team could still use another starting pitcher to pair with Logan Webb in the rotation, and there are two pretty good ones still on the market in Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell, the defending NL Cy Young winner from Melvin’s Padres team.

In terms of what the Giants actually did, Chapman wasn’t even their best addition. That title will likely go to Jung Hoo Lee who they signed out of the KBO. The 25-year-old is San Francisco’s projected starting centerfielder and he is a contact machine. His highest projected strikeout rate for the upcoming seasons is 10.6%, since 2020 he has maxed out a 7.6% in the KBO, and the league average last year in MLB was 22.7%. If he can find some gaps, he’ll be playing half of his games in the right park for him to do some damage.

The Giants also signed slugger Jorge Soler, and power arm Jordan Hicks to be a starting pitcher. Soler has the potential to hit the most home runs by a San Francisco player sine Barry Bonds in 2004. The current leader is Hunter Pence in 2013 when he hit 27. The Hicks addition will be an interesting experiment. If he pitches well, then they have him at a nice value at $11 million per year over four seasons. If he struggles, then he’s a solid bullpen arm.

The other big addition the team was via trade, adding 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, who will miss the first half of the season.

In order to land Ray, they traded Mitch Haniger and Anthony Desclafani to Seattle. Sean Manaea will be the team’s biggest loss from last season, as the left-hander put up 1.1 WAR. The rest of the departures were decent players, but they’re all sub-one win players, like DH Joc Pederson (0.6), longtime shortstop Brandon Crawford (0.4), and relievers John Brebbia (0.3), Jakob Junis (0.7), Scott Alexander (0.7).

The players that are no longer with the roster put up a combined 3.4 WAR last season, while the new additions are projected for 12.1 WAR, a difference of 8.7 wins. That doesn’t exactly mean that the Giants will go from a 79-win team to an 86-win team, but it does suggest that their baseline talent is a bit better than it was a year ago.

San Francisco Giants 2024 outlook

san francisco giants
Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

According to the projections over at FanGraphs (81 wins) and Baseball Prospectus (83.5 wins), the San Francisco Giants are going to be right in the thick of the NL Wild Card battle this season. Nobody is going to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, but the Giants are nuzzled right next to the NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks in the the division, with the D-Backs holding a slight edge.

Both projection systems have San Francisco as the third wild-card and set to face a comparably projected St. Louis Cardinals team in the first round. That all said, FanGraphs also has the Chicago Cubs, Miami Marlins, and San Diego Padres projected for 81 wins, while BP has Mets, Cubs, Padres, and Marlins within just a few games of each other.

The determining factor in this race could be the Giants starting pitching and how well they hold up, and how well they perform early on. Righty Tristan Beck is in the middle of not throwing for eight weeks, and Sean Hjelle has an elbow sprain that is set to be reevaluated in the coming days. The team’s rotation depth is being tested early.

That said, they should be getting veteran Alex Cobb back in the coming weeks as he wasn’t placed on the 60-day IL in camp. How soon is still up for debate. Then, around the All-Star break, they should also be getting Robbie Ray back in the mix. How effective each of these arms is will be another question that will need to be answered, but if they’re all pitching well late into the season and the Giants end up making the postseason, they have an ace in Logan Webb that can go against anybody.

One interesting stat for this club is that they led MLB in ground ball rate last year at 48.7%, more than three percent higher than the second-place team. With that in mind, they’ve added Chapman, a four-time Gold Glove winner, and have Ahmed’s two awards waiting in the wings at short if Luciano falters.

The Giants may not quite be there as a title contending team, but they made some nice additions to the roster this winter that should at the very least keep the fanbase happy, if not provide a postseason berth.

San Francisco Giants player to keep an eye on

San Francisco Giants
Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of talk in the Bay Area about shortstop Marco Luciano, the team’s second-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline and whether he can handle the position by himself with the departure of Crawford. In his debut last season, Luciano struck out at a 37.8% clip in 14 games, and it wasn’t much better in his brief taste of Triple-A last season either. The San Francisco Giants brought in some insurance in two-time gold glover Nick Ahmed as a non-roster invitee just in case, so they at least have a backup plan.

That means that the player to watch will be the team’s top prospect, left-hander Kyle Harrison. We said that the rotation could make or break the 2024 campaign early on, and that means that there will be a decent amount of pressure riding on the southpaw this year.

Harrison made his MLB debut last season right after his 22nd birthday, and in seven starts down the stretch he pitched to a 4.15 ERA, which is impressive given that he hit four batters and allowed eight home runs in 342/3 innings. This season he’s projected for a 4.23 ERA across 28 starts, and you have to believe the Giants would take that in his first full season in the big leagues. While his ERA was lower in a smaller sample size last season, his FIP also stood at 5.53, which is what the team will be hoping to avoid.

If Harrison is consistent and gives them quality innings more often than not, then the Giants should be able to stay in the thick of things until reinforcements start arriving in Cobb and Ray. Until then, they’ll need Harrison to shine.

Jason Burke covers MLB for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: