Big decisions loom for Giants in offseason

Six veterans (Pagan, Blanco, Romo, Casilla, Peavy, Lopez) eligible for free agency

October 12th, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO -- This likely will be an offseason of change for the San Francisco Giants, who began the transition process during the 2016 season before they reached the National League Division Series as one of the NL's two Wild Card teams.

The Giants' decision-making process has accelerated now that they're no longer preoccupied with trying to win games on the field. The Cubs bounced them from the postseason by defeating them Tuesday, 6-5, in Game 4 of the NLDS.

San Francisco's front office must ponder the list of six players eligible for free agency: outfielders and , right-handers , and and left-hander .

:: NLDS: Giants vs. Cubs coverage ::

Their combined salaries for 2016 slightly exceeded $50 million. But the payroll flexibility that the Giants gain from their possible departure will be tempered by the $25 million the club has allocated to salary increases.

San Francisco's braintrust began altering the roster's look at the non-waiver Trade Deadline by acquiring reliever , third baseman and left-hander . Having demonstrated a knack for actively pursuing players in free agency or trade, and needing a left fielder as well as bullpen and bench help, the Giants can expect to enter Spring Training next February in Scottsdale, Ariz., with even more new faces.

Most, if not all, of San Francisco's free agents are long shots to return. But surprises occur every offseason.

One eligible free agent who might stay is Romo, who has spent his entire professional career with the Giants' organization. Romo's savvy should attract multiple suitors, despite his injury history. The 1.42 ERA he recorded in his final 25 appearances suggests that he still can be effective.

"I can't tell the future," Romo said, striving to contain his emotions after Tuesday night's game. "It's hard to erase the time and history I've been here. I'm very appreciative of it all. In '05, I got drafted. Here we are, in 2016, and it'll be the first time there's a possibility [I won't come back]."

Romo happens to be 132 appearances behind Gary Lavelle (647 games) for No. 1 on the Giants' all-time list. There's some thought that he's partly motivated to stay with San Francisco to try his luck at breaking Lavelle's record -- assuming the front office shows interest.

At the very least, Romo left his legacy as part of the "Core Four" relievers who helped the Giants win World Series in 2010, '12 and '14. Two other members of that quartet, Casilla and Lopez, are almost sure to depart ( retired after last season).

Under ordinary circumstances, Casilla should be a keeper. He recorded 31 saves, limited opponents to a .235 batting average and struck out 65 in 58 innings. But Casilla matched a Major League high by blowing nine saves, prompting booing from the typically docile AT&T Park crowds and forcing manager Bruce Bochy to remove him from the closer's role. Bochy spoke volumes by not summoning Casilla during Tuesday's futile five-reliever scramble that accompanied Chicago's go-ahead four-run rally in the ninth inning. Casilla's days as a capable reliever aren't finished. But it's inconceivable that he could perform effectively again in a San Francisco uniform.

Lopez, 39, probably will gauge the interest he draws on the open market before weighing whether to retire or to continue playing. As a left-handed specialist, he's at once valuable and limited. The co-winner of this year's Willie Mac Award as the team's most inspirational player made his mark with the Giants since they acquired him from the Pirates at the 2009 Trade Deadline. Lopez ranks eighth on the all-time franchise list with 446 appearances, between Hall of Famers Juan Marichal (458) and Amos Rusie (427).


Lopez spoke with finality after Tuesday's game, mentioning that the Giants "have a lot of needs" to address before they would consider retaining him. "I've enjoyed my time here," he added.

Peavy, 35, has enjoyed an enviable career. But the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner's age and recent injury history has no apparent role with the Giants.

Pagan, 35, improved upon his 2015 season by compiling a .277 batting average with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and 15 steals in 19 tries. But San Francisco probably will seek an offensive upgrade in left field, which Pagan occupied this year after switching from center.

Blanco hopes he can retain the reserve role that has become familiar to him.

"This is my home," said Blanco, who has appeared in 649 games for the Giants since joining them in 2012. "I'm not the kind of player who needs more money. I'd rather be here."

San Francisco has six players eligible for salary arbitration: infielders Nunez, and ; right-handers and ; and left-hander Smith. Their impact on the payroll should be negligible, since none appears to be destined for an astronomical raise.