The Giants revamped their pitching staff with short-term contracts, and while they did a lot of roster-shuffling heading into the 2021 season, they generally stood pat in the big picture to position themselves for the winter of 2021-22.
Major League Signings
- Kevin Gausman, SP: One year, $18.9MM (accepted qualifying offer)
- Tommy La Stella, IF: Three years, $18.75MM
- Anthony DeSclafani, SP: One year, $6MM
- Jake McGee, RP: Two years, $5MM (including $500K buyout of $4.5MM club option for 2023)
- Aaron Sanchez, SP: One year, $4MM
- Alex Wood, SP/RP: One year, $3MM
- Curt Casali, C: One year, $1.5MM
- Jose Alvarez, RP: One year, $1.15MM (including $100K buyout of $1.5MM club option for 2022)
- Matt Wisler, RP: One year, $1.15MM
- John Brebbia, RP: One year, $800K
- Chadwick Tromp, C: One year, $583K
- Jason Vosler, 3B: One year, MLB contract
- Total spend: $60.833MM
Trades & Claims
- Acquired OF LaMonte Wade Jr. from the Twins for SP/RP Shaun Anderson
- Acquired P Carson Ragsdale from the Phillies for RP Sam Coonrod
- Claimed SP/RP Ashton Goudeau off waivers from the Orioles
- Selected SP Dedniel Nunez from the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft
Notable Minor League Signings
- Nick Tropeano, Scott Kazmir, Dominic Leone, Justin Bour, Silvino Bracho, Anthony Banda, Arismendy Alcantara, Zack Littell, Shun Yamaguchi, James Sherfy, Jay Jackson, Rico Garcia, Jeremy Walker, Phil Pfeifer
- Drew Smyly, Tony Watson, Tyler Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Suarez, Aramis Garcia, Daniel Robertson, Chris Shaw, Tyler Heineman, Chris Herrmann, Jeff Samardzija (still unsigned)
San Francisco was one of baseball’s busiest teams this offseason, both in terms of sheer volume of signings, and even in total dollars considering the relative lack of league-wide free agent spending. Yet once the 2021 season ends, it’s possible that Tommy La Stella and Jake McGee will be the only players remaining from this (modest) spending spree, as the Giants stuck primarily to one-year commitments.
A few of these deals carry some extra term, like Jose Alvarez’s club option or at least one year of additional arbitration control over Matt Wisler, Curt Casali, and John Brebbia. For the most part, however, the Giants left themselves with the “flexibility” that president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi looks for when considering player additions and team payroll.
As it turned out, the Giants’ biggest expenditure of the offseason was one of their very first moves, as Kevin Gausman decided to accept the club’s one-year, $18.9MM qualifying offer and remain in the Bay Area. Gausman received some multi-year offers from the Blue Jays and other teams during his QO consideration period, and also discussed a multi-year arrangement with the Giants before ultimately just accepting the qualifying offer. If these talks provided any sort of foundation, it wouldn’t be a shock if Gausman and the Giants found common ground on an extension over the next few days or weeks.
After struggling in 2019, Gausman rebounded nicely with a strong 3.62 ERA/3.24 SIERA over 59 2/3 innings and an outstanding 32.2% strikeout rate and 25.7 K-BB%. Albeit in a shortened season, these were easily career highs for Gausman, giving him an interesting decision in regards to the qualifying offer. Toronto reportedly had a three-year, $40MM offer on the table, and only seven free agents (and only one pitcher in Trevor Bauer) landed more than $40MM in guaranteed money all winter. However, Gausman chose to bet on himself by locking in that $18.9MM single-season payday and giving himself the opportunity for a richer multi-year deal next winter, when more teams might be more open to spending.
The rotation was a clear priority for a Giants team that had several arms slated for free agency. Of the seven pitchers who made multiple starts for San Francisco in 2020, only three will return — Gausman, veteran Johnny Cueto, and 24-year-old Logan Webb. Filling the next two spots will be some combination of Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez, and Alex Wood, though Wood’s status is uncertain for Opening Day following an ablation procedure on his spine.
As ominous as this injury sounds, Wood may not end up missing much (if any) time, giving the Giants some depth in figuring out their rotation. Aside from Gausman, none of the other starters pitched particularly well in 2020, and Sanchez didn’t pitch at all following shoulder surgery after the 2019 campaign. Having Webb step forward as a big league regular would be a nice building block for the Giants’ future plans, and Cueto rediscovering any of his old form would be a good way to salvage from value from the last guaranteed season of his six-year, $130MM contract. As for the others, the Giants are simply hoping that they’ve found at least one “next Gausman” among the group.
The bullpen remains a fallback option for any of the pitchers, and Wood pitched well enough as a reliever for the Dodgers last season that the relief corps could be his ultimate landing spot if he can’t stay healthy enough to stick as a starter. There isn’t a ton of starting depth down on the farm, but Ashton Goudeau, Conner Menez, Anthony Banda, and Shun Yamaguchi all have at least a bit of MLB experience. Veteran Scott Kazmir is also on hand after signing a minor league deal, though it remains to be seen if Kazmir will continue his comeback attempt in the wake of a rough Spring Training.
Nick Tropeano has made only one start in the last two seasons, but the righty might also factor into the rotation in a swingman capacity. Tropeano’s minor league deal stands a good chance of being selected for the Opening Day roster, putting him in line to join a few other new faces in the San Francisco bullpen.
After an overall shaky four-year stint with the Rockies, McGee revived his career and picked up a World Series ring by posting a 2.66 ERA over 20 1/3 innings for the Dodgers last season. McGee allowed a lot of hard contact, but countered that problem by missing a lot of bats, recording an eye-popping 33 strikeouts against just three walks. The southpaw now moves to the other side of the Los Angeles/San Francisco rivalry and looks to be the favorite for the closer’s job, though manager Gabe Kapler has indicated that several pitchers could get save chances based on specific in-game situations.
Tyler Rogers, Reyes Moronta (back after missing all of 2020 due to shoulder surgery), or new arrivals Wisler or Alvarez could all be in the mix for those save opportunities. Wisler’s slider-heavy arsenal netted him 35 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings for Minnesota last season, though the Twins still chose to non-tender the right-hander, perhaps due to Wisler’s lack of much real Major League success in five seasons prior to 2020. Alvarez is something of the opposite, having posted solid numbers as a bullpen workhorse for the Angels and Phillies from 2015-19 before a groin injury sidelined him for much of 2020.
For the combined price of $2.3MM, there’s plenty of bargain potential with either Wisler or Alvarez. Brebbia is more of a long-term play, since he is controlled through the 2023 season and might not pitch at all in 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.
While San Francisco didn’t break the bank on any of their winter moves, they did at least check in some bigger names. On the pitching side, Jake Odorizzi and Tomoyuki Sugano were on the Giants’ radar, and they even did some due diligence on signing Bauer. For position players, such names as Jackie Bradley Jr., Eddie Rosario, Joc Pederson, and Marcell Ozuna all received consideration.
Amidst all those outfield targets, however, the Giants’ top free agent splurge added to a seemingly crowded infield. Tommy La Stella’s three-year, $18.75MM deal was a nice signing of a player who has been a solidly above-average hitter (albeit rarely in an everyday capacity) for much of his career, and his addition only further strengths the team’s depth.
Ideally, Brandon Belt will be the starting first baseman and Evan Longoria will get most of the playing time at third base. However, Longoria is still bothered by plantar fasciitis, while Belt is recovering from a miserable offseason that included heel surgery, a case of COVID-19, and then a bout of mononucleosis. While Belt got onto the field for the final week of Cactus League games and might yet be available for Opening Day, it’s understandable why the Giants looked to add corner infield help.
La Stella has played extensively at second base and third base throughout his career, Donovan Solano can handle the same two positions and also back up Brandon Crawford at shortstop, while lefty-masher Wilmer Flores can step in at first, second, or third base whenever a southpaw is on the mound. Moreover, La Stella, Longoria, and (via a club option) Flores are the only infielders controlled beyond the 2021 season, so La Stella’s deal is part of a longer-term infield plan for San Francisco.
The long-term answer at catcher could end up being top prospect Joey Bart, but since Bart struggled in his first 111 MLB plate appearances, San Francisco needed a reliable veteran backstop for Buster Posey. Curt Casali will fill that role in both 2021 and potentially 2022 (given his extra year of arbitration control) once the Giants have a better idea of their next step at catcher. After undergoing hip surgery in 2018, Posey didn’t play well in 2019 and then opted out of the 2020 season, so it’s hard to know what to expect from him this year. The Giants’ $22MM club option on Posey for 2022 doesn’t seem like it will be exercised, so barring another contractual arrangement, Posey could be another of the longtime Giants fixtures hitting the open market.
That upcoming Giants free agent class undoubtedly looms larger in Zaidi’s thinking. Only three players are officially on the team’s books for 2022, totaling roughly $30.8MM in payroll expenditures, which hints at some potentially major spending in the future. Much of that heavy lifting could come in next offseason’s free agent market, though it wouldn’t be a surprise if Zaidi and GM Scott Harris picked up a controllable contract at this year’s trade deadline regardless of whether or not the Giants are in the playoff race.
By holding off on spending now, the argument can be made that the Giants are playing for the second National League wild card spot at best, given how loaded the Dodgers and Padres look in the NL West alone. While the Giants contended for a slot in the expanded playoff field last season, however, they were also still a sub-.500 team (29-31), and Zaidi/Harris may want more time to evaluate what they have in some players after the wholly unusual circumstances of the 2020 campaign.
In the outfield, for instance, Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson have been revelations since joining the Giants in 2019, but one more full season would likely cement them as building blocks even though both players turn 31 this season. Mauricio Dubon might now be the Giants’ center fielder of the future rather than a middle infielder of the future, but with star prospect Heliot Ramos looming, Dubon’s position isn’t yet settled. Signing a Marcell Ozuna or a Jackie Bradley might have solved a question that the Giants could already have an internal answer for, so the team chose to mostly stand pat in the outfield (aside from acquiring LaMonte Wade Jr. from the Twins) and stick with Austin Slater and Darin Ruf as depth options.
San Francisco fans may have been hoping for a bigger spending spree that would fully herald a return to contention, but the Giants have opted to keep building slowly. The tough division may limit the Giants as a surprise team for 2021, yet finding a few more pieces of their next foundation would count as a win, particularly if construction will begin on that foundation in the relatively near future.
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