The MLB market for top-tier free agents has changed; Will the Giants adapt?

During the winter meetings in San Diego, agent Scott Boras said during his annual scrum near a Christmas tree that San Francisco was ready to pursue “premium players, premium pitchers, on many levels,” and other agents agreed the team was looking to spend.

So far, that has translated into outfielder Mitch Haniger, who’s from the South Bay. Joc Pederson, who is from Palo Alto, accepted the Giants’ qualifying offer.

Is San Francisco a tough sell for those from outside the area? The Giants missed out on Aaron Judge, who is from Linden in San Joaquin County, but it was apparent that a last-second effort from owner Hal Steinbrenner helped lure Judge back to the Yankees, and many of those close to the outfielder had said throughout that he wanted to return to the Bronx.

“I don’t know if we would say San Francisco is an idiosyncratic market, but I do think maybe it is more that way than it was 20 years ago,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said at the GM meetings last month. “I think it’s a little bit of a polarizing place among players in terms of the desire to play there. This is sort of totally independent of the competitive situation, but geography, politics, whatever.

“When we’re doing our research on free agents and we find that players aren’t really that happy even coming into town for a three-game series, they’re probably not going to be that excited to play there for a long time . So I think that’s part of what fueled our strategy of targeting guys with Bay Area ties. … Free agency is really, really competitive, especially at the top of the market. Even when you think you can sign a player, you’re probably not, that’s just how it works. So when you don’t think you’re going to sign a player, you’re definitely not going to sign him.”

In recent days, the Giants have also missed out on Brandon Nimmo, who went back to the New York Mets — another team with an aggressive owner in Steve Cohen — and they’ve watched two of the high-profile free-agent shortstops, Trea Turner and Xander Bogaerts, sign 11-year deals with two other teams that have been unafraid to hand out long, pricey contracts. Pitcher Kodai Senga signed with the shopaholic Mets.

San Francisco, meanwhile, has spent the past week being constantly reminded about failing to sign Bryce Harper, Shohei Ohtani, Giancarlo Stanton, Max Scherzer and so on.

What gives? Are the Giants unwilling to go as long in years? To date, the longest deals Zaidi has given out are three years, to Tommy La Stella and Anthony DeSclafani. The highest-value deal was Carlos Rodón’s $44 million before last season; Rodón opted out of the second year and San Francisco is trying to win him back — but it would take at least seven years and well over $100 million.

The Giants are terrific at finding mid-market pitchers and maximizing their abilities, and they do have a No. 1 starter on their staff in Logan Webb. If the team is hesitant to commit that many years to a pitcher, which can be risky, perhaps they look elsewhere. Rodón, though, is a known quality for the team, and he’s familiar with the city, which could help.

When it comes to position players, there’s no getting around the fact that it will take double-digit length in years and whopping contracts to lock down the top free agents. The Giants have made no secret of the fact they’re interested in that fancy crop of shortstops, and there are only two remaining, with Carlos Correa clearly the top man left on the market. If San Francisco really wants to make a splash, as indicated, waiting around won’t help, nor will trying to save some bucks here or there.

The 11-year deals for Turner and Bogaerts mean Correa, who is two years younger, will want at least 12 years at, conservatively, $30 million per year. That’s Aaron Judge territory in terms of money, albeit with three extra years, but Correa is more likely to be productive at that late stage of his career.

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