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From Aaron Judge to JD Martinez, Why Stars Are Giving San Francisco the Cold Shoulder: Giants’ MLB Free Agent Freeze Out

Published 02/25/2024, 9:30 AM EST

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Amidst the hustle and bustle of the offseason, one story has gone untold – the inability of the San Francisco Giants to attract top-tier free agents. While one could point out Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani, and now JD Martinez as recent examples, the issue extends beyond them. Yes, the Bay Bombers did sign Jung-Ho Lee but he isn’t a proven MLB player yet. In the past 32 years, the Giants’ top-tier free agent signing list includes – Barry Bonds and…That’s it.

Of course, the team has signed quite a few free agents but Bonds was the last true-blue superstar to choose them. Even then his reasons to join them were more familial than anything. So in a way, the Bay Bombers aren’t attracting top-tier talents despite having the money and rich history. Why is it that a team that has won 3 World Series this century looks so helpless in the offseason?

Is the Bay Area an issue for being a Bay Bomber?

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The San Francisco Giants co-owner and 3x World Series winner Buster Posey once opined to The Athletic that most players had issues with playing and living in San Francisco. Posey explained how the fact that the city’s almost always in headlines due to its less-than-good elements has affected its standing among players. “Something I think is noteworthy, something that unfortunately keeps popping up from players and even the players’ wives is there’s a bit of an uneasiness with the city itself, as far as the state of the city, with crime, with drugs…”

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There’s a saying – first impression is last impression. Also sometimes perception becomes your reality – is it what is happening with the Giants? It could be a reason but to say that it’s the main issue doesn’t quite ring true. Especially as the issues that plague San Francisco are there in other major cities as well including LA. So why is it that the Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to spend $1 billion on superstars this offseason while the Giants aren’t? 

Maybe there’s more to this story than just the city. While one can agree with Posey, one can’t imagine but feel – perception is recent so why haven’t the Giants been able to sign top-tier free agents for over 30 years?

The Oracle Park – A gift and a curse for the Giants

The Oracle Park is undoubtedly a great ballpark. It has proven advantageous to the Bay Bombers due to its pitching friendliness. However, that rightfield has also been one of the major reasons why hitting free agents tend to avoid the Giants. The fact that it has consistently produced fewer home runs than other parks isn’t hidden from anyone.

So why would a slugger hitting 40 homers come to a stadium that hasn’t seen a slugger hit 30 homers since Barry Bonds did in 2004? Even then Bonds was a generational talent – arguably the no.1 of his time. So the Oracle Park could be a major reason why the Giants haven’t been able to attract superstar slugging free agents. But then that begs a question – what about the pitchers?

If Oracle Park is so pitcher-friendly, it should help the Bombers in attracting top-tier pitchers, right? So how come Yoshinobu Yamamoto chose the Dodgers over them? Yes, they’re linked with Blake Snell but even those links still haven’t turned into a deal  – why aren’t superstar pitchers coming in? It’s almost as if, the issue lies somewhere else. 

Do the San Francisco Giants have something different to offer?

At first glance this question seems funny – of course, the team that has won 3 World Series this century has something to offer! But think deeply, what does the recent iteration of the Giants have to offer? 3 World Series is no doubt amazing but only 9 playoff appearances since 1990 sure isn’t. One playoff appearance since 2017 isn’t good enough. 

In the past 7 seasons, the Giants have had a losing record in 5 of them. The team just hasn’t been competitive when it has counted and that’s something that free agents like Shohei Ohtani would surely have taken account of. The Bay Bombers had shared that they gave Ohtani an offer similar to what the Dodgers gave but Ohtani didn’t budge. For the record – Dodgers have been in every playoff since 2012 and success breeds success.

Could it be that the absence of a tangible project is hampering the attractiveness of the Giants? But then why are the Bay Bombers even trying to be something they are not? The franchise’s greatest success came precisely when they stopped trying to attract major free agents.

The Bay Bombers’ path 

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Remember that time between 2010 to 2014? The time when between 5 years the Giants won 3 Fall Classics. What was peculiar about that period was that the Bay Bombers focused more on creating their own stars. The franchise finally recognized what system would suit it the most and that gave them the greatest success they’ve ever experienced. 

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So the fact that the Giants have regressed to their older ways is quite depressive. This is a team that was once doing miracles every other season. They never needed to bring in someone else’s star – they created their own. Maybe that’s the path of the Bombers and maybe that needs to be recognized again.

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Written by:

Sanskar Dubey

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One take at a time

“Rigidity leads to demise, while adaptability paves the path to vitality." Driven by a deep passion for sports, I’m glad I found baseball. Now serving as an MLB writer at EssentiallySports, I love to write about the thrilling tussle between the National League and American League throughout the season, although I may have a fondness for a particular Yankees icon named Alex Rodriguez.
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Edited by:

Deepanshi Bajaj