San Francisco Giants' best-case and worst-case scenarios for 2024: Blake Snell helps?

Mar 17, 2024; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; A detailed view of the scoreboard in the first inning
Mar 17, 2024; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; A detailed view of the scoreboard in the first inning / Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants are the Johnny-come-latelys of the 2023-24 MLB offseason.

After a largely quiet winter marked mostly by the team’s fruitless pursuit of star free agent Shohei Ohtani, the Giants -- just since the opening of spring camp -- have signed free agent slugger Jorge Soler, free agent third baseman Matt Chapman and Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.

As Opening Day approaches, the result of the patient maneuverings by team President Farhan Zaidi and GM Peter Putila is a team beginning to look suspiciously like a postseason contender.

2024 San Francisco Giants Best-Case Scenario

The upgrade work actually began in December when the Giants signed free agent Jung-hoo Lee out of the Korean Baseball Organization to play center field. His credentials include 2017 Rookie of the Year honors, a 2022 MVP win, and a career .340 average, so he comes with possibilities.

Soler hit 36 home runs for Miami last season on an .853 OPS. Snell won 14 games for San Diego with a league-leading 2.25 ERA and picked up his second Cy Young.

After a hot start that saw him hitting .379 on May 1, Chapman faded to .240 with the worst power production in a full season since his 2017 rookie year. But he’s only 31, healthy and those two factors make a bounce back at least plausible (plus, the defense is exceptional).

All those late moves also plug significant holes in a 2023 Giants team that got little out of center field, third base or DH, and which searched desperately all season for rotation depth.

The Giants were 79-83 and a total also-ran last season. But if those four additions merely play to their established potential – or, in Lee’s case, to expectations -- it’s not difficult to imagine San Francisco approaching or even exceeding 90 wins and being solidly in the playoff picture.

The returning supporting cast is good enough. It begins with starter Logan Webb, runner-up to Snell in the Cy Young voting. Snell’s arrival takes some of the heat off rookie Kyle Harrison, who’s being counted on as an every-fifth-day rotation option. Harrison, just 22, debuted in August and made seven credible starts.

It will also enhance the Giants’ hopes if they can hang in contention until mid-season when Robbie Ray is expected back from Tommy John surgery. Ray came over from Seattle in a January trade that cost pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and outfielder Mitch Haniger, so hopes are high for him as well. But there’s reason for that hope; as recently as 2021, Ray was the AL ERA leader.    

2024 San Francisco Giants Worst-Case Scenario

If you’re a Giants fan looking for something to fear, begin with Snell. There are reasons – several of them – why he stayed on the open market so long. He may be coming off a Cy Young season, but he’s never put up good seasons back to back, he’s only worked more than 130 innings twice in eight major league seasons, and his two Cy Young years are the only two when he’s won more than eight games.

If Snell isn’t exceptional in 2024 – not just okay or even good, but exceptional – then the Giants rotation remains what it was last season: Webb followed by issues. Snell will not be ready for Opening Day, either.

Chapman’s 2023 decline was noted above; if it continues, then San Francisco’s lackluster 2023 offense has at least one ineffective patch job. The Giants were 24th in the majors in runs scored per game last season, and a resurgent Chapman is a big part of the hope for improvement in 2024.

The same goes for Soler. His 36 home runs for Miami in 2023 looks impressive, but Soler’s career track record is flighty. On a scale where 100 equals the MLB average, his OPS+ the last five seasons has been 99, 78, 131, 95 and 128. If the 131 Soler guy shows up, that’s dandy. But if the Giants find they’ve signed the 78 Soler guy, they’re not going anywhere.

Finally, there’s the great unknown: Lee’s ability to transition his game from dominance in the KBO to something approaching stardom in MLB. Ha-seong Kim, Padres shortstop, and Shin-soo Choo, recent outfielder for several teams, are the role models for making that transition.

But other Koreans have come before Lee, many with far less success. Hee-seop Choi was a touted slugger in Korea before flailing with the Cubs, Hyun-soo Kim never broke through with the Orioles, Jung-ho Kang couldn’t make the transition to Pittsburgh, and the Giants themselves washed out hotshot Korean Jae-gyun Hwang inside of one season.

Lee arrives with more established credentials than any of those guys, but that still doesn’t ensure success.

Most realistic scenario for 2024 Giants

The Giants are making one other big gamble, turning the shortstop position over to rookie Marco Luciano. At 22 years old, he got 45 plate appearances toward the end of last season, and the Giants hope that’s enough to replace Brandon Crawford, who was set free after 13 seasons as the incumbent at that position.

There’s a lot of hope embellishing the Giants forecast…hope that Chapman will return to form, that Soler and Snell will prove more consistent than they have been, that Lee will transition effectively, that Ray will return in July from his surgery, that Harrison will be effective as a full-time starter, and that Luciano will slide smoothly into the most important defensive position on the field.

The most realistic scenario is that half those things happen and half don’t. If so, the Giants will be improved, but not by enough to challenge the Dodgers or Diamondbacks.

Cleveland Guardians' best-case and worst-case scenario for pivotal 2024 season (