Exactly one year ago, the San Francisco Giants became National League Western Champions. The Giants’ division victory was one of the biggest surprises of last season. While they haven’t posted a winning record since 2016, and while few outside of San Francisco viewed them as a serious threat to the Los Angeles Dodgers entering the season, they nonetheless won 107 games en route to to become the first team other than the Dodgers to conquer the West in nearly a decade. The giants were adorable for other, smaller reasons as well.
They seem to have found a way to help their seasoned hitters turn back the clock, and they’ve proven they can get the most out of a set of lucrative acquisitions. It said that the Giants may have become the maestro of exploration and development, and this combination made them a threat to exceed expectations again this year.
This did not happen, although at first it seemed that it could happen. Rather, the Giants continued their hot start 14-7 with a series of disappointing months. Indeed, the Giants set winning records in April and September, the first and last month of the season, and that was it. The combination of injuries and forward performances that properly followed the traditional aging curve left them in a tough spot. Their 21–34 overall run in July and August left them outside the playoff picture.
The Giants will now head into the off-season trying to figure out how to bring back some of that 2021 magic. To do this, they will have to answer these three big questions.
1. Can they keep Rawdon, Pederson?
The Giants season may not have gone according to plan, but a couple of off-season additions have played their part. Lefty Carlos Rodon led his second consecutive All-Star Game thanks to his undefeated fastball, and former Dodgers and Braves outfielder Jock Pederson had the best season of his career, according to OPS+.
Both Rawdon and Pederson may be back on the open market this winter, prompting us to wonder: Can the giants keep them?
Rodon activated a opt-out clause in his contract by breaking the 110-inning threshold at the start of the season. Assuming he actually takes advantage of this clause, he will be looking to beat the one year and $22.5 million left on his Giants deal. At a minimum, Rodon should be able to secure a long-term contract. Teams should be more receptive to the idea this winter than they were last, when he had a longer injury record than his record as a top-notch starting pitcher.
Pederson, for his part, has made $6 million this season after his stock has tumbled in recent years, along with his ability to play center field. However, he made a significant recovery at the plate, and he could be in line for a multi-year deal of his own.
The Giants have expressed interest in having each player return next year. They must have the financial flexibility to carry out such transactions.
The Giants have guaranteed commitments for next season at just over $90 million this season, according to Cot’s Contracts. That puts San Francisco well below this year’s opening day payroll of $155 million. They do have a handful of eligible arbitrage players who will eat up the difference, including rookie Logan Webb. However, nothing else is stopping the Giants from making competitive bids, giving them a chance to keep both clubs after the winter.
2. Will Longoria and Belt retire?
While the question with Rodon and Pederson is whether they will play for another club next season, the question with experienced players Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt is whether they will play at all.
Longoria technically has one year left on his contract, but the Giants can buy him out for $5 million if they want to. That way, the Giants will save $8 million, which they can distribute elsewhere, not to mention the game time they’ll free up for David Villar and Jason Vossler. Longoria, who turns 37 on October 7, told reporters earlier this year that he intends to return if the Giants exercise their right. Clarity should come soon after the end of the season.
Meanwhile, 34-year-old Belt linked his retirement decision to knee reconstruction after it severely limited his availability and performance this season. Belt called his decision “playable”, suggesting that even the Giants might not know if he would return or not until the end of the offseason.
The uncertainty in each case suggests that there is at least some chance that the Giants will enter next season with a new combination of starting corner and field. Keep for updates.
3. Can they harass the judge?
In the first subheading, we noted that this winter the Giants will have financial freedom. Secondly, we recognized that they could replace two corner bats. Which brings us to our third: Will they show up as fans of free agent outfielder Aaron Judge?
San Francisco was named by some raters who spoke to CBS Sports as a dark candidate to sign Judge this winter. It should be noted that others have rejected this idea, suggesting that it is not a consensus. The Giants have been chasing Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper in recent years, indicating they had the desire and willingness to add a well-known slugger to their ranks.
Signing a referee would also give the Giants a new face for the franchise. While not as important as adding his products to their lineup, it’s worth remembering that this Giants franchise is in transition. Buster Posey has retired, Belt and Longoria could follow, and Brandon Crawford is probably not far behind. In other words, the giants of the era of Bruce Bocha are rapidly fading into the past.
In addition, Giants CEO Farhan Zaidi knows the value a franchise can bring from an A-list superstar. Prior to taking over the Giants, he was an important member of the Dodgers organization. Landing Judge will be the most Dodger-like move Zaidi has ever made in San Francisco. That’s okay: The Dodgers are where the Giants want to be in several respects, including top of the division again.