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Biggest questions for Giants heading into 2019

GM search, Bumgarner's status lead issues facing San Francisco
September 30, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- This promises to be one of the most intriguing offseasons in recent Giants history. The organization's search for a general manager who will establish philosophies for player acquisition and other crucial areas will keep the Hot Stove burning. Expect the Giants to consider almost anything in their

SAN FRANCISCO -- This promises to be one of the most intriguing offseasons in recent Giants history. The organization's search for a general manager who will establish philosophies for player acquisition and other crucial areas will keep the Hot Stove burning. Expect the Giants to consider almost anything in their attempt to improve from this year's 73-89 record.
1. Who will be the new general manager?
Expect the Giants' hierarchy to take its time in selecting the team's new head of day-to-day baseball operations. Club president Larry Baer even hinted the next GM might not be in place before the annual General Managers Meetings in early November. The Giants are placing considerable importance on this hire and want to make sure they get it right.
2. What's the club's biggest need?
Offense, of course. Entering Sunday's regular-season finale, San Francisco ranked next-to-last in the Majors in scoring, home runs and OPS. Given AT&T Park's spacious dimensions and soaring walls, the Giants probably will never become a bunch of sluggers. But they might pursue some accomplished situational hitters through trade or in free agency.
3. What's going to happen with Madison Bumgarner?
That's for the new GM to determine. Which means that, for now, anything's possible. The Giants might decide to make a decent pitching staff better by holding on to Bumgarner, who's in the last year of his contract and thus is a logical candidate to be traded. At the very least, the Giants will listen to offers for Bumgarner, who could bring a decent hitter or two in return.

4. How active will the Giants be in free agency?
That's another key issue for the incoming general manager. The Giants kept their player payroll under the $197 million threshold this year, so they'll have some economic flexibility entering free agency since they won't have to pay the Competitive Balance Tax. Their pursuit of pitcher-slugger Shohei Ohtani last offseason demonstrated their willingness to seek talent on the open market. But, again, the checkbook will be in someone else's hands.
5. Is health a concern for 2019?
Yes. The two most significant Giants undergoing rehabilitation are expected to report to Spring Training on time: catcher Buster Posey, recovering from hip surgery, and center fielder Steven Duggar, who missed the season's final month with a labrum tear in his left shoulder. But each individual's recovery pace is not guaranteed. First baseman Brandon Belt (right knee), third baseman Pablo Sandoval (right hamstring) and right-hander Jeff Samardzija (shoulder) also are on the mend. Right-hander Johnny Cueto underwent Tommy John elbow surgery Aug. 2 and will miss at least half of next season.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.