The San Francisco Giants have already executed one of the biggest trades of the offseason, that being acquiring Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, but they have unfinished business; they should set their sights on signing Kansas City Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain.
The biggest storylines of the MLB offseason have been the bundle of blockbuster trades such as Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals, Longoria to the Giants, and the remarkable silence on the free agent front. With stars such as Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez, Mike Moustakas, and Greg Holland remaining unsigned, free agency has been an ongoing display of stubbornness between teams and players unwilling to meet each other’s demands — leading to the lack of big signings.
In the midst of their struggles to find and agree upon deals, Cain is a free agent who has fallen under the radar and it’s hard to understand why. In fact, he’s one of the best at fielding his position. Ranging from his ability to get behind any ball, to making a number of diving grabs, to even the very few errors he commits, Cain is exceptional in center. Simultaneously, he’s one of the better contact hitting center fielders in MLB.
Hitting .300 at the plate in 2017 and a career .290 hitter, Cain is adept at hitting for contact. At the same time, he’s also capable of providing a power plug when necessary. With 16 home runs in 2015 and 15 in 2017, Cain has shown an ability to be a versatile, well-rounded hitter. Couple his productive bat with his stellar glove and Cain is one of the better all-around outfield commanders the game has to offer. And while the 31-year-old’s skill set would logistically make him a sought-after commodity at a high price, another free agent outfielder may have made it easier and more plausible for the Giants to sign Cain at a lower price.
Wednesday night, ESPN‘s Jerry Crasnick broke the news that right fielder Jay Bruce agreed to a three-year, $39 million deal with the New York Mets. Bruce, a power hitting lefty, while productive at the plate, is not known for his glove, despite being able to play both right field and first base. Despite his limitations, the Giants were one of the teams linked and said to have interest in his services, but after seeing the very small and unexpected deal Bruce agreed upon, the Giants may be able to get Cain — the better player — for a sum not too much higher.
While Cain is the more well-rounded player than Bruce, power hitters tend to collect more green than players who hit for contact. If Bruce, who has hit 69 home runs over the last two seasons, is only going to collect $39 million, then chances are Cain’s market is not too much better, in terms of money per year, nearly two and a half months into free agency.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old likely won’t get an insane amount of years in contract discussions, but a deal for three or four years would be doable on both ends. When it comes to the total amount of money given to a player of Cain’s standard, a four-year, $60 million would seen to be fair based on the limited interest in him by other teams.
The interest in Bruce on the Giants’ end was a bit puzzling. While he may not be the All-Star outfielder he once was, Hunter Pence can still provide the Giants with a reliable glove in right and a player who can hit for average (Pence is a career .282 hitter). Plus, in the deal that brought Longoria to San Francisco, center fielder Denard Span was sacrificed, creating a void in the outfield.
The Giants’ biggest weakness is their outfield; it needs to be bolstered. Adding one of the better fielding center fielders in Cain to AT&T Park would be a welcome addition to Bruce Bochy‘s roster and a huge improvement over Span. And signing Cain would allow the Giants to keep their farm system in place — after already dealing away prospects for Longoria — which trading for Andrew McCutchen or Billy Hamilton would require them to take away from.
General manager Bobby Evans and the Giants showed that they were all-in on winning after they made the Longoria deal. Just a year removed from the playoffs and getting a healthy roster back with an All-Star to man the hot corner will significantly help their efforts in returning to October ball after winning just 64 games in 2017. Signing Cain would further their efforts in doing so and make the competition for the National League Wild Card even more intense.
Being in the same division as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies is not ideal, and pursuing the one-game playoff with two of those teams, as well as the Milwaukee Brewers and improved Cardinals, will be a daunting task. However, the Giants have shown their cards and need to go all the way in their attempts to make it back to the postseason.
Trading for Longoria was a good start, but now it’s time for the next course of action: Signing Cain.