Five questions facing Giants this offseason

October 20th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants’ offseason arrived earlier than expected after being eliminated by the Dodgers in the National League Division Series, but the future appears bright in San Francisco, which is one step closer to establishing itself as a perennial contender in the NL West. The Giants have plenty of work ahead of them to ensure they can carry their momentum into 2022, though.

Here are five questions the club is facing this offseason:

1. How will they rebuild the rotation?

has the potential to anchor the starting rotation for years to come, but the Giants have four open spots behind him heading into 2022. , and will be eligible for free agency, and is expected to join them since the Giants are likely to pay him a $5 million buyout rather than pick up his $22 million club option for '22.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said restocking the starting rotation will be the “No. 1 priority” this offseason, and the club is expected to continue having conversations with its pending free agents to gauge their interest in staying with San Francisco. Retaining Gausman, who developed into an All-Star on the Giants’ watch, should be high on the list, but the 30-year-old right-hander will likely have plenty of suitors after posting a career-best 2.81 ERA over 33 starts this year.

The Giants -- with the help of director of pitching Brian Bannister and pitching coaches Andrew Bailey and J.P. Martinez -- have established a reputation for helping free-agent starters rebuild their value in San Francisco, so it’s possible the Giants could keep panning for gold and try to hit on more bounce-back candidates this offseason. Still, their track record here isn’t pristine -- remember the one-year, $4 million deal they gave to Aaron Sanchez? -- so expect them to explore the trade market for established starters as well.

2. Can and coexist on the Giants’ roster?

Zaidi made it clear that the Giants would love to have Posey back, making it likely the 34-year-old catcher will either have his $22 million club option for 2022 picked up or negotiate an extension similar to Brandon Crawford’s two-year, $32 million deal. Still, Posey’s return could complicate Bart’s future with the organization. Bart, 24, is close to Major League-ready after drawing the necessary reps at Triple-A Sacramento this year, but the club's No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, might be blocked from an everyday role with Posey back in the fold.

If the universal designated hitter is implemented in 2022, the Giants could have an easier time keeping both backstops in the mix, but they also have another promising young catcher -- 2020 first-round Draft pick and No. 8 prospect Patrick Bailey -- in the pipeline, so perhaps they’d consider trading Bart to fill other roster needs.

3. Will be back?

Crawford is locked up through 2023, and Posey will likely be back in some capacity, assuming he wants to keep playing. There is more uncertainty surrounding Belt, the third remaining member of the Giants’ championship core, but Zaidi has been effusive in his praise for the 33-year-old first baseman. Zaidi said the two sides began to have dialogue about a potential extension during the regular season. The Giants are currently weighing whether to extend Belt a qualifying offer, so if he were to accept, he’d be back on a one-year, $18.4 million deal in 2022. If Belt were to decline and sign elsewhere, San Francisco would receive Draft pick compensation. Gausman accepted a qualifying offer last year, making him ineligible to receive one again this year.

4. Who else could be an extension candidate?

Securing reunions with Posey, Belt and Gausman/Wood/DeSclafani will be top of the list for the Giants, but they’ll also have a decision to make on Trade Deadline acquisition Kris Bryant. Players traded midseason can’t be tagged with a qualifying offer, so Bryant will be an unrestricted free agent, which should only strengthen the 29-year-old’s market this offseason. The 2016 NL MVP Award winner checks a lot of the boxes the Giants tend to look for, namely defensive versatility and an unselfish mentality, but Zaidi gave the impression that he’ll prioritize re-signing some of the club’s other pending free agents ahead of Bryant.

Another item on the docket for the Giants could be extending Gabe Kapler, who emerged as the frontrunner for NL Manager of the Year honors after guiding the team to a franchise-record 107 wins. Kapler will be entering the final year of his three-year contract, so the Giants are likely to offer him an extension to avoid having him head into 2022 on an expiring deal.

5. Will the Giants make a splash in free agency?

The Giants owe roughly $40 million to four players on guaranteed contracts in 2022: Evan Longoria, Tommy La Stella, Jake McGee and Crawford. The club is expected to exercise options on Wilmer Flores ($3.5 million) and José Álvarez ($1.5 million), giving the the team plenty of room to flex its financial might this offseason. The Giants seem likely to use a sizable chunk of their resources to re-sign as many of their own free agents as possible, but they can certainly afford to bring in other difference-makers, whether it be Bryant or current Dodgers stars like Corey Seager, Max Scherzer or Chris Taylor.

“We have a very supportive board and ownership group,” Zaidi said. “They've given us everything we've asked for in terms of payroll. ... I know we'll continue to have their support on that. It's just going to boil down to making the right baseball decisions.”