What happened to the Giants’ big plans to add power to the lineup?

The SF Giants could add former fan favorite Hunter Pence in free agency and still give young outfielders valuable playing time this season

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – NOV. 13: Farhan Zaidi, president of baseball operations for the San Francisco Giants, speaks during a press conference introducing Gabe Kapler, the team’s new manager, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, at Oracle Park in San Francisco, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
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SAN FRANCISCO — Few teams in baseball began the offseason with a checklist longer than the one belonging to the San Francisco Giants.

After suffering through a third consecutive losing season, the Giants needed to hire a general manager to work under Farhan Zaidi, a manager to replace Bruce Bochy and eventually a coaching staff that would grow to become the largest in major league history.

Despite all of the pressing obligations, the Giants still needed to address holes on a team that hasn’t been competitive since 2016 and didn’t appear as if it was only a piece or two away from threatening the Dodgers.

With pitchers and catchers set to report to the Giants’ renovated complex in Scottsdale on Tuesday, time is running out for Zaidi and recently-hired general manager Scott Harris to add to the roster. In a 30-minute roundtable with reporters on Thursday, Zaidi indicated the Giants don’t have any late-winter plans for major changes.

“I think as we’re rounding out the roster here, we’re probably going to pay attention to those things on the margins and target players who are going to be more valuable with some of the rule changes,” Zaidi said.

A new MLB rule will expand regular season rosters from 25 to 26 players and limit teams to carrying 13 pitchers at a time. Another new rule will force all pitchers to face a minimum of three batters unless an inning ends when a relief pitcher who has faced just one or two is on the mound.

Zaidi said the new rules will give position players with bigger splits a chance to become more valuable in platoon roles while it will make pitchers who can get both righties and lefties out more important for a staff.

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#SFGiants update—As spring training approaches, here’s the latest on where the Giants’ pursuit of another outfielder stands.

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These rules aren’t the only thoughts guiding the front office’s decision-making processes, but they were put in place at a time when Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler are determined to identify members of the team’s next core. Any free-agent commitment to a corner outfielder with power would preclude the team from evaluating younger, inexperienced players including Jaylin Davis, Austin Slater and Chris Shaw at critical periods in their development.

While many fans wished to see the Giants make more of an effort to sign known commodities in the outfield including free agents such as Nick Castellanos and Marcell Ozuna, any significant financial commitment to a veteran player would prevent the Giants from giving at-bats to the in-house candidates the team believes is poised for breakthroughs.

Zaidi and Kapler are confident a coaching staff assembled with player-development in mind will help young outfielders such as Steven Duggar grow comfortable against major league pitching. The Giants believe they have a large enough group to draw from that one or two players fighting for jobs will emerge as consistent power threats, but they’re also eager to create competition in spring training.

That’s why Zaidi said the Giants have been aggressive in targeting non-roster invitees and could indicate why the team is reportedly interested in a reunion with former fan favorite Hunter Pence. A free-agent who signs a minor league contract isn’t guaranteed a role with the club and still gives younger players with minor league options a realistic path to making the Opening Day roster, but that type of signing does give the Giants valuable insurance if they want to create depth and send a few outfielders to Triple-A.

“Sometimes when you’re bringing veterans in on non-roster deals, it makes some of your other players feel like, ‘I still have a chance to make this team. They haven’t given out a guaranteed contract with veterans locked in at a certain spot,’ ” Zaidi said.

Pence, who played in 83 games for the Rangers last year, is a solid target as a minor league free agent because he’s a part-time player who posted a .327 average with a 1.015 OPS against left-handed pitchers last year.

Signing Pence or a veteran at a similar point in his career isn’t the type of deal that’s going to suddenly energize the Giants fan base, but this is a franchise that is still at least a year from having legitimate hopes of contending for a playoff spot.

At this juncture in time, the Giants are looking to create more chances for players who might contribute to future playoff rosters, and there’s no way to do so if they load up the roster with average veteran players on guaranteed contracts.

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