The SF Giants have been linked to a lot of free agents this winter. A surprising number are former Dodgers. Among the Giants’ free agent targets in the outfield is former Dodger and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger. One of their bullpen targets is former Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The key word there is “Dodger.”
Sure, Joc Pederson joined the Giants last season and went on to be an All-Star, but he was born and raised in Palo Alto. And yeah, both Bellinger and Jansen have skill sets that the Giants can use. They have strengths (center field defense; a filthy cutter) and weaknesses (forgetting how to hit a baseball; 13 years of wear and tear). On paper, they’re both positive additions to the team. But how easy is it for fans to treat these players as the sum of their fWAR and FIP and not as the mortal enemies of San Francisco that they’ve been for so many years?
It’s not like the Giants haven’t imported Dodger personnel in the past. Team president Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler both came out of the Dodgers organization. And there have been some memorable players to exchange their Dodger blue for orange and black over the years. Jake McGee was a Dodger in 2020 before signing with the Giants. Tony Watson pitched in only 24 regular season games for the Dodgers in 2017, though he did win two World Series games.
Matt Herges was clearly a sleeper agent for his old team when he blew eight saves in 2004 - probably out of loyalty to his brother-in-law Todd Hollandsworth. Guillermo Mota was a Dodger for eight years before winning two titles with the Giants. However, he beaned Mike Piazza and then threw his glove at him, something San Francisco can really get behind.
But those guys weren’t famous Dodgers with years of built-up hatred. The fan base never truly accepted Orel Hershiser when he threw 202 mediocre innings for the Giants in 1998, though he had a palate-cleansing three-year stretch with Cleveland between LA and SF. Dusty Baker was a longtime Dodger before his single season as a Giants player, and then he put in his time as a Giants coach before he became manager. Reggie Smith helped the 1982 Giants deny the Dodgers an NL West title in his final season, after six years in LA.
Usually, the stars go the other way. Brett Butler left the Giants for the Dodgers, as did Jason Schmidt, Brian Wilson, and after two years in Houston, Jeff Kent. Tom Haller was an All-Star when the Giants traded him to LA in 1968 and Bill Madlock was a four-time batting champ (never with the Giants, of course) when he became a Dodger. Juan Uribe was never an All-Star, but he was desirable enough to get $35 million from the Dodgers.
Getting Jansen would be a lot like when the team signed Hershiser. He was on the Braves last year, so he’s not an immediate former Dodger. He’s like a scuba diver decompressing, pausing in Atlanta to let the Dodger poison release from his body tissues. Plus, he’s not stepping into Camino Doval’s closer role - he’ll be a setup man, there to help out. Like when Ser Barristan Selmy left King Joffrey’s Kingsguard to serve Daenerys Targaryan, Jansen has seen the error of his ways and left an evil kingdom.
The Giants signing Bellinger is more akin to when the 1994 team added Daryl Strawberry in 1994. Like Strawberry, Bellinger is a shell of his former All-Star self, who wants a short-term deal to rebuild his value. Both players derailed their careers by going too far in their celebrations.
Both had trouble with rehab, and neither should really ever hit against lefties. Or hang out with Dwight Gooden.
Much like the 1994 Giants, the current team also doesn’t have much competition at their position. After Willie McGee crashed into a wall and tore his Achilles tendon, Strawberry was only competing with Mark Carreon, Dave Martinez, and the legendary Rikkert Faneyte for time in right field. Bellinger would have only Austin Slater and an out-of-position Mike Yastrzemski currently ahead of him in on the depth chart in center. As bad as he’s been at the plate, his 19 homers last year would have tied for second on the team. And he’s only 27 years old.
The difference with Bellinger is that he’s actively harmed the Giants recently, driving in the winning run off Doval in the deciding game of the 2021 playoffs.
He also hit a go-ahead grand slam off Sammy Long last year. Sure, it’s satisfying to take a player away from the Dodgers, but:
- They don’t want him anymore
- The wounds of Bellinger hurting the Giants are still fresh
- Can you really trust a man named Cody, outside of the 2010 NLCS?
There’s another former Dodger who hasn’t been linked to the SF Giants, but could be an interesting addition. Los Angeles non-tendered Edwin Rios, a corner infielder (mostly DH) who slugged .492 in his four partial seasons with the Dodgers. He didn’t play after June 3rd due to a hamstring injury, but he was second on the team in home runs when his injury happened. Rios has a sub-.300 on-base percentage and had a 39 percent strikeout rate last season, but he has massive power. Perhaps a team with three hitting coaches could work with that!