SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants realize they have a window of opportunity that must not slam shut on their fingers.
So nobody should be surprised if they sacrifice short-term fiscal prudence for the potential of a big long-term payoff and celebrate the end of the offseason by acquiring a proven third baseman or left fielder. Those are the positions where the club can particularly use an upgrade as the 2017 season approaches.
Having exceeded the $195 million competitive balance tax threshold for the third consecutive year, which would force them to add a 50 percent surcharge to each contractual agreement they forge, the Giants might be unwilling to make significant moves. But the hunger to win could sway the front office, especially as Spring Training nears and free agents become available at discount rates.
At third base, Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe are among the most useful performers available in free agency. Valbuena earned $6.125 million in 2016; Plouffe had a $7.25 million salary. Each could become more affordable as spring reporting dates near.
Also, the Chicago White Sox are said to be entertaining trade proposals for third baseman Todd Frazier, a two-time All-Star whose home run totals have risen for three consecutive seasons (from 19 in 2013 to 29 in 2014, 35 in 2015 and 40 last year). However, Frazier likely will command an eight-figure wage in salary arbitration.
Presently for the Giants, Eduardo Nunez can play third base, but might be better suited as a super-utilityman. Conor Gillaspie's statistics indicate that he's more effective when he's platooning instead of starting everyday.
Should the Giants opt to pre-empt the imminent left-field competition featuring Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson, Michael Morse and Justin Ruggiano, they could explore free agency (Michael Saunders) as well as trade options such as the New York Mets' Jay Bruce (who'd have to switch from right field) or Detroit's J.D. Martinez (who was linked to the Giants early in the offseason). The Mets probably would be willing to absorb a significant portion of Bruce's $13 million salary. Martinez, due to earn $11.75 million this season, might actually be more costly.
At a glance, the Giants appear poised to return to the postseason. In catcher Buster Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford, they possess two of the game's best all-around performers. Their solid starting rotation features the enviable combination of left-hander Madison Bumgarner and right-hander Johnny Cueto. Their top offseason acquisition, right-hander Mark Melancon, is widely considered among the Majors' top closers.
However, the relatively recent experience of winning World Series titles in 2010, '12 and '14 taught the Giants that no roster is strong enough. Each of those teams made timely personnel upgrades that proved beneficial in October. For these Giants, the time might be now.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.