Prior to the lockout, the Giants worked quickly to revamp a rotation that appeared poised to lose as many as four members to free agency. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani returned on a three-year, $36MM contract and was joined by lefty Alex Wood, who inked a two-year deal worth $25MM. Right-hander Alex Cobb was add to the mix on a two-year, $20MM deal.
That gives San Francisco three veteran arms to slot in behind burgeoning ace Logan Webb, but the Giants also allowed top 2020-21 starter Kevin Gausman to depart, declining to match the five-year, $110MM contract he received from the Blue Jays. The decision to let Gausman walk is of extra note now, as ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel reports in his latest look at what to expect throughout the league, post-lockout, that there’s a belief the Giants aren’t keen on pursuing any targets with nine-figure asking prices.
That serves as a potential explanation for why the team ultimately let Gausman leave, and it could also be instructive when forecasting what’s on the horizon for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, GM Scott Harris and the rest of the front office. Zaidi has already thrown some cold water on the idea of re-signing Kris Bryant, for instance, and if the Giants are indeed averse to $100MM+ commitments, his return would seem highly unlikely. San Francisco didn’t seem like a great match for most of the remaining free agents with that type of asking price in the first place (e.g. Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, Trevor Story), though eschewing contracts of this magnitude could take them out of the running not only for Bryant but for Nick Castellanos, who has reportedly sought a seven- or even eight-year deal.
An aversion to lengthy deals of this magnitude would align with the approach employed by the archrival Dodgers during Zaidi’s time as general manager under L.A. president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. Like the Dodgers, the Giants are a major-market team with huge payroll capacity, but we’ve yet to see them dole out the type of long-term arrangements that were more common under the prior Giants front office regime. That’s not to say Zaidi’s Giants definitively won’t sign a $100MM+ deal at some point — they reportedly pursued Bryce Harper when he was a free agent — but thus far, indications point more toward the shorter-term, higher-annual-value deals that are increasingly popular as many teams seek to mitigate long-term risk.
Whenever the transaction freeze finally thaws, the Giants still have some work to do. In addition to another proven rotation piece, at least one outfield upgrade would make sense, and there’s always room for a contending club to bolster its bullpen. The Giants have about $126MM in 2022 commitments and about $135MM worth of luxury-tax obligations at the moment, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez, which ought to leave ample room for spending. Michael Conforto, Kyle Schwarber and Seiya Suzuki are among the notable free-agent alternatives still on the outfield market, and the likely implementation of a DH in the National League would give the Giants further runway to explore creative options. As for the pitching needs, Carlos Rodon is seeking a multi-year deal but probably won’t command an especially lengthy deal after ending the season with shoulder concerns.
Beyond the free-agent market, the Giants (and other teams) have myriad trade opportunities to consider. The A’s and Reds are known to have starting pitchers available. The Mets’ recent wave of free-agent spending pushed some notable bats to the bench. Speculatively, San Francisco could swing for the fences and try to pry Ketel Marte from the D-backs or even Cedric Mullins from the Orioles. There’s no real limit to what paths the Giants could explore, particularly since the team’s farm system has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years (landing No. 5 among MLB clubs on Baseball America’s mid-August rankings).