With the news that Giants general manager Brian Sabean once again worked his magic on Monday by signing Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell to a low-risk contract, it's clear that the Giants have their long-term success in mind, even with a hot start this season.
The deal, which is worth a guaranteed $3.175 million over four years plus an additional $3.5 million in incentives, gives the Giants a potentially game-changing outfielder. And yet, while the signing undoubtedly improves the club, it's worth noting that Giants fans would be wise to keep their expectations in check, especially with the immediate success of Cuban players like Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu.
To be clear, the Giants signed Carbonell to a major-league contract, but he is not expected to reach the majors this season. The contract requires only that Carbonell be placed on the 40-man roster, but the team can determine whether or not it sees fit to place him on the 25-man active roster.
The move is a badly needed one for a Giants farm system that is severely lacking in outfielders. The organization lost its best outfield prospect, 23-year-old Mac Williamson, for the season with Tommy John surgery back in April, and only one other outfielder, the ever-disappointing Gary Brown, cracks the Giants' MLB top 20 prospect list.
At the very least, the signing could mitigate the damage caused if the Giants fail to re-sign outfielder Michael Morse. However, given Morse's self-proclaimed happiness in San Francisco and Sabean's propensity to re-sign players even with lavish demands (i.e. Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum), it's hard to imagine the Giants would let Morse walk. However, when Carbonell does reach the majors—presumably next season—he could fill the role that Gregor Blanco currently plays.
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General manager Sandy Alderson said his club is in a position to acquire major league talent this year, rather than trade it away.
Blanco has served as the team's starting left fielder in the wake of Brandon Belt's thumb injury, which pushed Morse over to first base, but his primary purpose when everyone is healthy is to provide late-inning defensive relief for Morse while filling in as the fourth outfielder when someone needs an off-day. If Morse stays on with the club and Carbonell shows signs of improvement in the minors this season, it's not unreasonable to expect the Cuban outfielder to assume Blanco's current role sometime down the road.
In terms of a timeframe, the Giants will acquire a work visa for Carbonell in about three weeks, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman. From there, Carbonell will report to the Giants' facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., then get assigned to a lower level in the minors after working out to prepare for real competition. As Schulman noted, Carbonell hasn't played competitively for almost a year, which means he'll need quite a bit of fine tuning before he plays regularly in the minors, let alone reaches the big league club.