Dodgers, Giants Operating on Periphery of Rosters as Spring Training Progresses

Dodgers, Giants Operating on Periphery of Rosters as Spring Training Progresses
Enrique Hernandez (8) of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on July 28, 2023. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Dan Wood

Having committed an astronomical $1.2 billion-plus in free agency during the offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers have almost certainly completed their heavy roster lifting.

The rival San Francisco Giants?

They’ve laid out some bucks too, more than $207 million, as much as any other team in Major League Baseball. Fans and Bay Area media, however, continue to clamor for the Giants to do more.

Certainly, there are still available free agents who could help San Francisco, or any club. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and fellow front-line left-handed starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery remain on the market, as does four-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman Matt Chapman. All are represented by powerful agent Scott Boras, and all are pursuing hefty contracts.

For now, at least, the Giants, like the Dodgers, appear content to make roster moves only on the periphery.

San Francisco on Feb. 26 signed former Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to major-league spring training. The move is ostensibly to serve as insurance for rookie Marco Luciano, whom the Giants are counting on to be their starter at the key infield position.

Nick Ahmed (13) of the Arizona Diamondbacks at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on July 1, 2023. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Nick Ahmed (13) of the Arizona Diamondbacks at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on July 1, 2023. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

That same day, after trading outfielder Manuel Margot to the Minnesota Twins in a deal that also featured a swap of minor-leaguers, Los Angeles re-signed super-utility man Kike Hernandez to a one-year, $4 million contract.

Hernandez, 32, spent six productive seasons with the Dodgers before leaving for the Boston Red Sox via free agency in 2021. He returned to Los Angeles in a trade last July and is expected to be ready for Opening Day after undergoing offseason double-hernia surgery. A right-handed hitter, he figures to play mostly against left-handed pitchers and add further versatility to an already stacked lineup.

The Dodgers, who open the regular season March 20–21 with two games against the San Diego Padres in Seoul, South Korea, have little need for more reinforcements. Los Angeles went nuclear during the offseason after having captured the National League West division championship for the 10th time in the past 11 years. Coming off yet another disappointing playoff defeat, this one at the hands of upstart Arizona, however, the Dodgers are intent on adding to the one World Series title they’ve won in the past three and a half decades.

Los Angeles signed unparalleled superstar Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract, with a huge majority of the money deferred, and inked Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto for $325 million over 12 years. In addition to re-signing erstwhile ace left-handed pitcher Clayton Kershaw and outfielder Jason Heyward, the Dodgers also added starting pitcher James Paxton and outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, and traded for starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow, who subsequently signed a five-year, $135 million deal.

San Francisco, which finished four games below .500 and a distant fourth in the NL West last season, has been anything but quiet. After swinging and missing on bids to land Ohtani and Yamamoto, the Giants signed highly touted South Korean center fielder Jung Hoo Lee to a six-year, $113 million contract, hard-throwing pitcher Jordan Hicks for $44 million over four years, and slugging designated hitter Jorge Soler to a three-year, $42 million pact.

Veteran catcher Tom Murphy, who is likely to back up rising star Patrick Bailey, also arrived via free agency, while San Francisco acquired left-handed starting pitcher Robbie Ray in a trade with the Seattle Mariners.

Ray, though, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and is unlikely to pitch until after the all-star break. Holdover starter Alex Cobb, meanwhile, is coming off hip surgery and won’t be ready for some time, and Hicks is something of an unknown quantity as he converts from a bullpen role to the starting rotation.

The Giants, who begin the regular season March 28–31 with a four-game set in San Diego, are counting on youngsters Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck to fill out their starting corps behind ace Logan Webb, highly regarded young left-hander Kyle Harrison, and Hicks. Winn and Beck, though, have both already faced physical setbacks in the early days of spring training. The addition of a big-time starter such as Snell or Montgomery, then, would appear to make perfect sense but there have been no indications that San Francisco is pursuing either one.

Chapman, who formerly played for new Giants Manager Bob Melvin with the Oakland Athletics before spending the past two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, continues to be linked in media reports to San Francisco.

“As you survey the landscape of Major League Baseball right now, I still do not see a better fit out there than the San Francisco Giants,” insider Jon Morosi said Feb. 27 on the MLB Network’s Hot Stove morning show. “We know the Giants have been aggressive in signing players throughout the offseason. Chapman, I think, would fit in nicely to the overall schematic of their offseason.”

As of now, the left side of San Francisco’s infield shapes up as the unproven Luciano at shortstop and J.D. Davis at third base. Davis and Chapman, notably, are former collegiate teammates at Cal State Fullerton. Both also started off well offensively last season but tailed off considerably in the second half.

Ahmed, 33, is a two-time Gold Glove winner who hit 19 home runs in 2019 but has fallen off dramatically offensively in recent years.

The addition of Ahmed signaled the definitive end of any chance the Giants might re-sign fan favorite Brandon Crawford, their standout shortstop for the past 13 seasons. Crawford, in fact, later in the day agreed to contract terms with the St. Louis Cardinals, who announced the one-year deal Feb. 27.

Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.
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