San Francisco has used 10 different players in their major-league outfield this season.
Through 40 games in the 2019 regular season, the San Francisco Giants have used 10 different players in their major-league outfield. Not only do they have a bountiful outfield, but they continue to add to it in the form of trades, waiver claims, and signings.
The Giants, who hold down the fort at the bottom of the NL West with a 17-23 record, have employeed Steven Duggar, Gerardo Parra, Michael Reed, Mac Williamson, Brandon Belt, Kevin Pillar, Yangervis Solarte, Tyler Austin, Connor Joe, and Mike Gerber in their outfield this season. Aaron Altherr is also on the roster, but has yet to appear in a game since he was acquired.
San Francisco’s Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento is also home to several outfielders, with Anthony Garcia, Henry Ramos, Austin Slater, and Mike Yastrzemski on the roster in addition to the aforementioned Reed and Gerber, as well as Courtney Hawkins and C.J. McElroy who were just purchased from the ALPB’s Sugar Land Skeeters.
Before breaking down what the Giants should do with this plethora of outfielders, let’s take a look at who they are and what they’ve done.
- Steven Duggar is a 25-year old outfielder who made his big-league debut in 2018 and has impressed so far this season, starting a team-leading 36 games in the outfield and appearing in right field and center field. He has made 83 putouts, three assists, and one error in the outfield this season while slashing .265/.306/.388 at the plate. Duggar is on the one and only year of his $558,125 contract.
- Kevin Pillar is a 30-year old center fielder who was acquired by San Francisco from the Toronto Blue Jays this spring in exchange for a trio of lesser-known players, including two “Four-A” guys. Pillar has started 32 games in center field (plus one appearance off the bench) this season, making 72 putouts on 75 attempts and slashing .213/.240/.376 at the dish. Pillar earned a $5.8 million contract for the 2019 season by way of arbitration, a hassle which he will encounter again following this season.
- Gerardo Parra is a 32-year old outfielder who recently parted ways with the Giants and signed with the Washington Nationals. In San Francisco, Parra appeared in 29 games, starting 23 of them. He made 53 putouts and just one error while slashing .198/.278/.267.
- Mac Williamson is a 28-year-old who has been in the Giants organization since 2012. Through five games in right and left field, Williamson has made eight putouts and an assist while slashing just .143/.182/.286. Williamson is arbitration-eligible through 2022.
- Yangervis Solarte is a 26-year-old utilityman who has appeared in the Giants’ outfield nine times this season, making 13 putouts and slashing .205/.247/.315. Solarte no longer remains with the Giants as he was sent to the minors and chose to try out free agency.
- Tyler Austin is a 27-year-old who has made three putouts in seven games in the outfield while slashing an impressive .286/.362/.500. Like Williamson, Austin is arbitration-eligible through 2022.
- Connor Joe is a 26-year-old Rule 5 selection who spent a small amount of time in San Francisco before being returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers early in April. While in San Francisco, Joe made seven putouts in five games while slashing just .067/.125/.067.
- Mike Gerber is a 26-year-old who was recently optioned to the minors. While in San Francisco’s outfield, Gerber made three putouts in four games and slashed .067/.125/.133. Gerber will make the league minimum this season before he hits free agency ahead of the new decade.
- Brandon Belt is a 31-year-old veteran who has spent a decade in the Giants organization. Usually an infielder, Belt made an assist, an error, and three putouts in five games in the outfield, while slashing .228.347.480 in 147 total at-bats this season. Belt is due $48 million over the next three seasons, divided into equal yearly increments. Belt, who has a modified no-trade clause, can hit free agency follow the 2021 season.
- Michael Reed is a 26-year-old who appeared in the opening series for the Giants but has been in the minors ever since. He made two putouts and an assist in the majors while posting an empty slash line after going hit-less in eight at-bats (six strikeouts). Arbitration and other team control policies have Reed on the west coast through 2023.
- Aaron Altherr is a 28-year-old outfielder who was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies last weekend. He has yet to appear in a Giants game, but through 22 contests in Philly, he made 15 putouts and one assist from the outfield while slashing .034/.067/.069. Arbitration policies will keep him in the Giants organization through 2021.
So what does this all mean for the Giants?
Do they need to clear up space in the outfield? If so, do they part ways with some veterans, or some younger folk?
Do they do nothing about the outfield?
These are all tough questions, and each question comes with fine print and a bunch of possible answers and solutions.
The most likely outcome, though, is that they will trade away some of the Four-A guys, such as Gerber, Reed, or Williamson.
Tyler Austin’s batting average and ability to roam several positions will attract trade interest, but it would be in San Francisco’s best interest to hold onto Austin at the moment. Perhaps things will be different come July, but as of now, Austin is on track to remain in Cali. Likewise, there is no reason Steven Duggar or Kevin Pillar should be traded, as they, along with Austin, round out a solid outfield.
That leaves Gerber, Reed, Williamson, and Altherr. The fact that Altherr was a recent acquisition via waivers hints that he won’t be traded, but there is always a chance he gets designated for assignment, which could lead to a trade. As for Gerber, Reed, and Williamson, I see no reason why one of them wouldn’t be traded. Of those three, Williamson has the highest WAR, but he is also the oldest. Gerber is the youngest and has more major league experience than Reed. Finally, Reed doesn’t have much going for him that the other two don’t, so we can pretty safely negate any possibility he is the main piece in a trade.
So… Gerber or Williamson?
In this case, I just can’t rule out the idea of a Williamson trade. While he is two years older than Gerber, which is a lot when you’re talking about fringe players, he has more big league experience and that is a selling point, even if you’re talking about an outfielder you will stash at the bottom of your major-league depth chart. (Plus, it helps my case that Williamson is in the majors right now, while Gerber is in the minors.)
So now that we have a decision on who is the most likely to be traded out of San Francisco, who does that leave to be called up if needed? Keep in mind that Gerber and Reed are in the minors, along with Garcia, Ramos, Slater, Yastrzemski, Hawkins, and McElroy. While it doesn’t seem that any of these players would be in the running for a long-term stay in the bigs, a lot can fall apart in any outfield.
We can rule out Hawkins and McElroy at the moment because they just joined the Triple-A club. Reed can also be ruled out because he is injured (not to mention he was struggling prior to suffering the injury).
Ramos, Garcia, and Yastrzemski, despite the first two batting in the .280s and the final in the .310s, are not on the 40-man roster, so it would take a little extra for them to get the call. (It’s worth noting the Giants do have one open 40-man roster spot.)
That leaves Slater, who is slashing .299/.436/.542 in 31 minor-league games, and Gerber, who has slashed .327/.383/.625 in 27 contests. Both Gerber and Slater have already been optioned to the minor leagues this season, so recalling them and sending them back down would not have much effect on their statuses when it comes to sending them up and down.
So the answer is pretty obvious. Austin Slater should be the next Sacramento River Cats outfielder to get a promotion to the show. Why? Well, cue the Moneyball scene, because Slater gets on base. His on-base percentage is more than 50 points higher than Gerber’s, so it makes sense.
While there are so many ways the Giants could go with their outfield, there are always going to be rights and wrongs. Giants fans should have faith in president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, that he will handle the outfield situation correctly as the club looks to turn things around and become contenders again in a challenging National League West division.