Giants unveil wish list for Hot Stove season

Club seeking upgrades at third base, center field, bullpen

Giants unveil wish list for Hot Stove season

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fittingly enough, the Giants marked Monday's unofficial start of the offseason by revising their previously announced Hot Stove wish list to include specifics.

"Center field needs to be upgraded," vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean said on a conference call with reporters. "We have to find an everyday third baseman. And we have to be resourceful in how we reconstruct the bullpen."

Giants no strangers to free-agency excitement

But two weekend developments -- picking up left-hander Madison Bumgarner's $12 million option for 2018 and receiving right-hander Johnny Cueto's decision to collect $21 million annually through 2021 and not to opt out of his contract -- will push the Giants' payroll toward the competitive balance tax threshold.

Hot Stove Tracker

Sabean said that he, general manager Bobby Evans and team president Larry Baer soon will convene to chart the offseason course.

"I think the next two days are critical to map what our threshold is," Sabean said. "We do have some preliminary thoughts, and ownership has passed on some of their guidelines. But it's going to take a session with Larry, Bobby and myself."

Cueto not opting out of contract

A stringent monetary cap could limit the Giants' spending in free agency and perhaps hamper their pursuit of a center fielder. That need became apparent as the club compiled the Major Leagues' third-worst Defensive Efficiency Ratio last season.

As for the bullpen, the Giants have a sufficient number of prospects and returnees who could adequately fill most relief roles.

Overall, Sabean indicated the Giants will avoid the lethargy of last offseason, when they did little of consequence after signing free-agent closer Mark Melancon in early December.

"We admit after a 98-loss season that we do have some glaring weaknesses," Sabean said.

All this reflects an adjustment since the regular season concluded a little more than a month ago. Fresh off ranking last in the Majors in homers (128) and slugging percentage (.380) and next-to-last in runs (639) and on-base percentage (.309), the Giants vowed to improve their pitching and defense, borrowing football's best-offense-is-a-good-defense approach.

On Monday, the offense in general and third base in particular provided a clearer target. The average Major League team received 26 home runs and 87 RBIs from its third basemen, who posted a slash line of .258/.330/.495. By comparison, Giants third basemen totaled nine homers and 51 RBIs with a slash line of .216/.268/.300.

The Giants nevertheless saw fit to pick up third baseman Pablo Sandoval's 2018 contract option. It was a low-risk move for the Giants, who are responsible for only the Major League minimum portion of his salary ($545,000), while Boston, which released him last July, must pay him approximately $16 million.

The 31-year-old fan favorite recorded a .226/.263/.375 slash line in 47 games, to go with five homers and 20 RBIs, while shaking off the rust that collected as he played three games in 2016.

"We saw enough to be intrigued to bring him into camp and see how the chips fall," said Sabean, who stopped far short of penciling in Sandoval as a regular.

"We have to have somebody more prototypical or more run production-oriented in the present than what we've seen last year," Sabean said.

That could serve as the outlook at other positions.

"Lord knows we need more power," Sabean said. "Does that come in the form of more doubles? Being able to hit some more home runs? Adding a bigger bat in the middle of the lineup?"

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.