Why Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, free-agent shortstops have Giants' attention

How Giants are approaching big-name shortstops with BCraw in mind originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

LAS VEGAS -- As Farhan Zaidi took questions for an hour on Wednesday afternoon, it became clear how much is about to change for the Giants.

Brandon Belt, their longest-tenured player, is a true free agent for the first time, and Zaidi said the club would wait and see how his knee surgery rehab goes before deciding on next steps. After five seasons in San Francisco, there is uncertainty for Evan Longoria. Buster Posey, formerly the longest-tenured Giant, is now one of Zaidi's bosses, and he will be involved as the Giants chase a new generation of stars.

The end is coming quickly for the leaders of the last decade, but Zaidi didn't hesitate when asked if Brandon Crawford will be the Opening Day shortstop next year.

"Yeah, absolutely. Right now," Zaidi said. "Yes."

It might seem like an obvious answer, but the Giants did go into the winter with some potential awkwardness hanging over the infield. Zaidi has made it clear over and over again that one of his main priorities is upgrading the defense and athleticism up the middle and the Giants intend to check in on the top free-agent shortstops on the market.

Aside from Aaron Judge, the four best position players available are shortstops, and one of the quickest ways back to contention could be pairing one with Crawford and giving a grounder-heavy pitching staff a strong defense up the middle. All four options -- Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson -- also would immediately become the most dangerous hitter in the Giants lineup.

Zaidi said he has already spoken to agents representing shortstops and the Giants could add one "if it makes sense."

"Obviously Brandon Crawford is the best shortstop in franchise history," Zaidi said. "He did a really nice job for us over the last few years and last year, particularly in the second half when he played really well defensively. I think when you're looking at the shortstop market there's really good offensive players and there's a desire to go to the right fit competitively market-wise.

"We've gotten some feedback that some of the players out there are going to be flexible short-term and long-term about what position they play. I don't think anything is going to restrict us from pursuing guys who traditionally have been shortstops. It just seems like there's a lot of flexibility."

That has been a buzz word at Oracle Park since Zaidi took over, and he pointed out that a free agent's flexibility could help in multiple ways. It would allow the Giants to sign a marquee hitter while having an incumbent at short, but it also is their preferred way of managing a roster. The more versatility you bring to Zaidi and Gabe Kapler, the better.

The most obvious fit from that perspective is Turner, who moved to second base when he was traded to the Corey Seager-led Dodgers and then shifted back across the bag when Seager bolted for Texas. The Giants could try something similar given that Crawford is only under contract for one more season.

There have been rumors that Turner, a native of Florida, prefers the East Coast, but sources familiar with his thinking say that's overblown and a remnant of trade discussions. Adding Turner would come with the added benefit of directly harming the rival Dodgers.

Turner and Correa are the best of the class and both are expected to surpass $200 million. They also could view the Giants in different ways. Correa and Bogaerts are represented by Scott Boras, who said Wednesday that his stars may not be headed for position changes.

"I've met with a number of teams and no teams are asking players I represent to move off shortstop," he said.

The Giants do have an incumbent at second base, too, but their hope is that they can add enough talent this offseason that Thairo Estrada can be used as a super-utility type, similar to what the Dodgers have employed with Kiké Hernandez and now Chris Taylor. Any up-the-middle addition would be huge for a roster that finished 81-81 mostly because of awful defense, but this offseason brings an added wrinkle.

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New shift rules go into effect next season, which will make range and athleticism even more important for infielders. It's just one more reason for the Giants to check in on the high end of the shortstop market, even though their most popular player is a shortstop who was an MVP candidate just 12 months ago.

"You hear a lot of chatter around the game about how second base and the defense there is going to become more important than it's been in a while," Zaidi said. "I actually think it's probably one more reason why guys who have historically been shortstops may be more open to moving back over (to second base), is that there's going to be a higher priority placed on it, and I think guys recognize they can create a lot of value over there."

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