Where Giants' outfield stands heading into monumental MLB offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
The Giants' lineup could look quite a bit different in the 2024 MLB season -- and for the better.
A critical offseason is underway as San Francisco looks to upgrade multiple positions in an effort to return to playoff contention after a disappointing 2023 season.
The 2022 season was disastrous for the Giants defensively and they were slightly better in 2023, but still led the league in errors with 117. Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made it clear the organization will look to get younger and more athletic across the board defensively and hinted at targeting an upgrade in center field, perhaps in the form of star free-agent outfielder Cody Bellinger or KBO star Jung Hoo Lee.
However, they shouldn't be content upgrading just one outfield position. Here's where the Giants' crowded outfield stands before any moves are made.
None of the Giants' current outfielders have shown enough to be guaranteed roster spots next season. There are a handful of names who very likely will play major roles in 2024, but if you're the Giants you would be wise to evaluate all three positions and you can't rule out any type of move to clear roster space.
Michael Conforto: He officially opted into the second year of the two-year, $36 million contract he signed with the Giants last offseason. Conforto is owed $18 million in 2024 and likely will start at a corner outfield spot on Opening Day. The 30-year-old was the Giants' primary right fielder in 2023 and was a pretty average to below-average defender, but did show flashes of the offensive potential the team saw in him last winter while battling through injuries last season. He should benefit from his first fully healthy offseason in two years.
Mitch Haniger: Speaking of injuries, Haniger perhaps was the most disappointing Giant last season. Two years removed from a 39-home run, 100-RBI season with the Seattle Mariners in 2021, Haniger struggled to stay healthy in 2023. The 32-year-old played just 61 games in the first year of the three-year, $43.5 million contract he signed with the Giants last offseason. When healthy, Haniger struggled at the plate, batting .209/.266/.365 with six homers and 28 RBI. The Giants don't have many options here, which is why he could start at a corner outfield spot again next season.
Mike Yastrzemski: A fan favorite who just signed a modest one-year, $7.9 million contract with the Giants to avoid arbitration. On the surface, his 2023 numbers don't jump off the page. Yastrzemsk hit .233/.330/.445 with 15 homers and 43 RBI in 106 games but had a surprisingly good 113 OPS+, his best since the pandemic-shortened 2020 season in which he received MVP votes. Yastrzemski is a decent defender and can play all three outfield positions. He likely will be pushed out of a starting spot depending on who the Giants acquire this offseason but should be a nice utility option in 2024.
In the mix/depth pieces
Austin Slater: He's been one of the best pinch hitters in all of baseball over the past few years and could retain a similar role in 2024. Slater now is the longest-tenured Giant with Brandon Crawford likely gone and signed a one-year, $4 million contract to avoid arbitration. He and Yastrzemski are two players who could be possible trade chips this offseason, but the Giants certainly wouldn't mind having him back.
Tyler Fitzgerald: One of the more questionable moves the Giants made -- or didn't make -- last season was not giving Fitzgerald a shot in the big leagues sooner after dominating Triple-A all season. Described by former manager Gabe Kapler as having "world-class speed and athleticism," some believe Fitzgerald could be one of the organization's best center field prospects. There's room for improvement offensively, but he did make a name for himself with two big homers against the Dodgers in late September. His versatility as an infielder makes him a very intriguing option in 2024.
Luis Matos: His rookie 2023 season was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. He was streaky and showed signs of his top-prospect potential but his scorching-hot stretch at the plate in Triple-A right before his promotion to the big leagues in mid-June might have been a bit of a Pacific Coast League mirage. He showed great range and athleticism in center field but didn't do much at the plate in 228 at-bats. The 21-year-old could use a bit of extra seasoning, and it wouldn't be surprising if Matos begins the 2024 season in Triple-A or is dangled as a very young, controllable, top outfield prospect in an offseason trade.
Wade Meckler: His meteoric rise through the Giants' system in 2023 was incredible to watch. Unfortunately for Meckler, he clearly was not ready for the big-league level. He almost certainly will begin the 2024 season in Triple-A and likely will not play much of a role next season, but is a name to keep an eye on because of what he showed at the plate across three levels last season.
Not looking great
Heliot Ramos: He and former No. 2 overall pick Joey Bart were supposed to be the Giants' future. Both have had frustrating starts to their respective careers. Ramos showed flashes offensively and defensively last season, including a stretch at the plate where just about every ball off his bat was hit hard. He's been in the minor leagues for the better part of six seasons and the annual yo-yoing between Triple-A and the majors is a sign that maybe he's due for a fresh start somewhere else despite only being 24 years old.