What's next for Giants after Correa agreement falls apart?


On a morning when Aaron Judge took part in a press conference to celebrate a nine-year contract with the Yankees, the Giants, as they had planned for so many months, were trending nationally on Twitter. But for all the wrong reasons. 

As bad as the reaction to the Carlos Correa ordeal was on Wednesday morning, the Giants won't fully feel the effects for months of even years. They already are coming off the worst attendance in Oracle Park's history and they now must prepare for even smaller crowds next season. After going 81-81, their roster is not any better than it was in 2022, in large part because their most valuable player -- Carlos Rodón -- has departed

In future offseasons, the Giants also will find out what kind of chilling effect their last-second decision with Correa will have as they chase other stars. Perhaps they can write checks big enough to cover any concerns, but every pursuit will likely start with a question or two about what happened with Correa and end with concerns about whether the contract will actually go through. 

There is a lot to digest, and it will be a long and disappointing holiday break for people throughout the organization. It also will be one in which the immediate next steps are discussed at length. 

The Giants go into every offseason with Plans A, B, C, D, and so on, but Correa was supposed to be the finishing touch on what looked to be a very strong winter. Now, there's no obvious solution for what's next. 

When Correa signs -- and there's little doubt Steve Cohen will push this one through -- the top 22 players on MLB Trade Rumors' offseason top 50 list will be gone (Mitch Haniger and Sean Manaea were among the 22). The best available player is right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who isn't really a fit given that the Giants already have seven starters. 

Next up is Taylor Rogers, and given the PR hit the Giants just took, it wouldn't be a bad idea to make a big offer to Tyler's twin brother, who also would give the Giants a left-handed partner for Camilo Doval late in games. At the very least it would be compelling, and the Giants right now are seriously lacking in that department. 

Their bullpen needs help, but the focus still needs to be on an area that would have been helped quite a bit by Correa. At the Winter Meetings in San Diego earlier this month, as Judge rumors swirled, the Giants continued to -- correctly -- harp on the need to improve their defense up the middle. 

"I really genuinely believe that if we had caught the ball better, we are a playoff team," manager Gabe Kapler said on Giants Talk. "Now, are we a 107-win team? No, of course not. Those years are few and far between for any organization in baseball. But are we a team that becomes immediately credible relative to the teams around baseball? Yes."

Kapler said he felt the Giants left five or six wins on the bone in May, June and July just because of poor defense, but the Giants haven't fixed the issue now that Correa is set to be a Met. Brandon Crawford will slide back over to short and give them strong defense there, but the rest of the infield remains suspect defensively. 

Upgrading in center field was still a need even if the Correa agreement had come together, but the two best options on the market -- Brandon Nimmo and Cody Bellinger -- are long gone. The price on Bryan Reynolds is sky-high, but the Giants have discussed the Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder.

They could perhaps make a call on Baltimore's Cedric Mullins, who is getting into his arbitration years, and Victor Robles (Washington Nationals) and Michael A. Taylor (Kansas City Royals) are good defensive center fielders on non-contending teams. They would help with run prevention, which should be the theme in 2023 given that the current roster is built around starting pitching. 

Any of those moves would require giving up prospects, though, and this is where the next few months get tricky. Even with Correa, the Giants would have been picked well behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres in the NL West. Without him, they might finish behind the young Arizona Diamondbacks, too. Given all that, is this really the time to trade prospects?

The smarter move would be to do what Farhan Zaidi has done well in previous offseasons. The Giants have had plenty of hits on one-year deals late in the process and they can fill some roster holes with lesser names before pitchers and catchers report. It's possible some of those players become trade chips by the end of July. While there haven't been many hits over the last calendar year, the Giants did well with the Darin Ruf trade to the Mets, adding J.D. Davis and three intriguing young arms.

That kind of addition should be the focus right now, as this latest disappointment was another reminder that the Giants cannot count on free agency to solve their problems. They have struck out too many times, and in too many heartbreaking ways, to simply wait for the next class, which is considered to be relatively weak anyway. 

Shohei Ohtani will be the headliner of the next free-agent class and the Giants will have interest and -- once again -- financial flexibility. But the Dodgers are waiting for their shot, and given how Cohen has blown others out of the water this offseason, how can the Giants realistically think they'll be able to keep up next winter? 

The 2023-24 free-agent class will include Crawford, and over the next few weeks one key task for team officials should be to make things right. The longest-tenured Giant found out he'd be changing positions after the Giants agreed to terms with a new shortstop, and teammates and staffers aren't thrilled about how it all went down.

RELATED: Why Giants backed away from Correa agreement

Crawford's situation is a reminder of how things used to go at Oracle Park. He is homegrown and never tested the market, signing a long-term extension early in his career and then a two-year deal during the 2021 season. The Giants hope that's the path with others, and at some point this season perhaps they'll get the opportunity to try and discuss parameters with Kyle Harrison or Casey Schmitt. 

Across the country, the Atlanta Braves have mostly skipped out on free agency while signing their own prospects to early long-term deals. The Giants are still waiting for their kids to arrive, but there's one player they can easily meet with right away. Logan Webb is arbitration-eligible for the first time and a clear candidate for an extension, and given how this offseason has gone and what's left on the market, there's really no better way to spend some of that money the Giants kept bragging about having.

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