The 2022-23 free-agent class was deep on star shortstops, and the Giants came agonizingly close to landing one before their megadeal with Carlos Correa fell apart over medical concerns.
With Hot Stove action expected to pick up at next week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., one of the more intriguing questions for the Giants will be how active they might be in exploring shortstop help again this offseason.
Brandon Crawford is a free agent for the first time in his career, though the Giants have a potential heir apparent in No. 2 prospect Marco Luciano, who is expected to get the chance to seize the everyday shortstop job next year.
“As we sit here now, we want to give Marco Luciano the chance to be the everyday guy next year,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said during the Giants’ end-of-season press conference on Oct. 3. “If anything, his callup was slowed down by the injury he had this year. We would have liked to see him up here a little bit more, but he’s worked his way up and earned this opportunity. We’re really excited about what we saw the last couple of weeks.”
The 22-year-old Luciano made his Major League debut in July and hit .231/.333/.308 with three doubles over 14 games with San Francisco, but he made impressive strides on defense and showed flashes of his tantalizing power, recording an average exit velocity of 93 mph, which would have ranked 14th among qualified MLB hitters in 2023.
Still, the Giants will need to have a backup plan in case Luciano struggles to solidify himself at the position next year. Luciano is currently playing winter ball with Leones del Escogido in his native Dominican Republic, but he entered Wednesday hitting .170/.339/.255 with one home run and 18 strikeouts over 59 plate appearances. He’s also dealt with injuries in the past, missing time with a stress fracture in his lower back and a hamstring strain in 2023.
Thairo Estrada, Casey Schmitt and Tyler Fitzgerald could also be candidates to play shortstop, though Estrada is a stronger defender at second base, and Schmitt and Fitzgerald are unproven like Luciano.
Unlike last winter, there aren’t any obvious upgrades on the open market, though Tim Anderson, Amed Rosario, Elvis Andrus and Isiah Kiner-Falefa are among the shortstops who will be available in free agency. Crawford is also having conversations with teams, though Zaidi has said he views the 36-year-old veteran as “a challenging fit” for San Francisco’s roster.
The Giants could also try to improve their depth by targeting established infielders like the Brewers’ Willy Adames or the Cardinals’ Tommy Edman in trades.
Adames, 28, is heading into his final year before free agency, but he’s crushed at least 24 home runs in three consecutive seasons and is an elite defender who has experience playing both middle infield positions. Edman, 28, is under club control for two more years and offers plenty of defensive versatility, as he played four different positions in 2023, including shortstop and center field.
Either way, the Giants will need to find a way to straddle the line between giving Luciano enough runway to show he can be the starting shortstop and building in some insurance in case things don’t end up going according to plan.