“What Comes Next?” is a song in the musical “Hamilton,” and it’s sung by King George III, who serves as the show’s comic relief. George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and their compatriots have succeeded in defeating the powerful British and winning the Revolutionary War. Now, King George wonders from afar, “What comes next?” You won your war of independence–but do you know how to run a country?
It’s a good question, and one we could still ask today, but it’s time to segue back to our Giants. The Giants of the 2020s are now firmly under the leadership of Farhan Zaidi, Scott Harris, and Gabe Kapler. The team not only avoided a fifth-straight losing season but also set a new franchise record for wins with 107, and in so doing, they dislodged the powerful Brit–I mean, the Dodgers–from the NL West crown that they’d worn for eight revolting seasons (see what I did there?).
And now–what comes next? The face of the Giants franchise for the past decade-plus, Buster Posey, shocked the baseball world this week by announcing his retirement at age 34. The hitting coach who helped turn the team’s offensive fortunes around in 2020-21, Donnie Ecker, jumped ship to Texas for a promotion. A major rotation piece for the past six years, Johnny Cueto, has been given a gold watch instead of a $22 mil contract. (OK, technically Cueto’s getting a $5 mil buyout of his team option year, and that would buy him a really nice watch if he wants one. But he’ll probably buy a pony or something.)
Beyond those major departures also loom the free agencies of Kevin Gausman, Brandon Belt, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Donovan Solano, and Kris Bryant. Tommy La Stella had Achilles surgery.
The times, they are a-changin’. What comes next?
Well…I don’t know, neither do you, and to a lesser extent, neither does Zaidi. The biggest wild card, of course, is Dec. 2, which is the day after the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires. At that point, the owners are expected to impose a lockout, and things like trades and free agent signings won’t happen until the contract negotiations are resolved. But there are almost four weeks between now and Dec. 2, and it’s hard to predict what, if anything, might happen, Hot Stove-wise. But here are a few things that will happen in November. This article from mlb.com provides a helpful reference.
- Teams will have to decide whether to give any of their free agents a qualifying offer (QO) of $18.4 million. The deadline for this action is tomorrow (November 7) at 2 p.m. Pacific time, which reminds me–set back your clocks tonight or you’ll be early for church/the 49ers. It is widely assumed that Belt will receive a QO and that DeSclafani might. Gausman (already had a QO last year) and Bryant (traded midseason) are not eligible for QOs. Players then have ten days to decide to accept or decline the QO. Over the history of QOs, most players have declined them, but Gausman was a notable exception last year, along with Future Giant Marcus Stroman. Other prominent free agents who can’t get a QO are Kenley Jansen and Zack Greinke (had them before) and Max Scherzer (traded midseason).
- Options (team, player, opt-in, opt-out) will have to be exercised. As with the QOs, the deadline for this is five days after the conclusion of the World Series (i.e., tomorrow). The Giants, as mentioned, have already declined their 2022 team option on Johnny Cueto and will instead pay his $5 mil buyout. With Posey retiring, his team option year becomes moot, and it’s unclear what will happen to his $3 mil buyout. (The Giants don’t have to pay it, but rumor has it that the money will be repurposed for some kind of personal services contract that keeps him working in some capacity for the team.) The other team options to hear about are Wilmer Flores ($3.5 mil) and Jose Alvarez ($1.5 mil). I couldn’t find anything announcing that those options have been picked up, but Cot’s Contracts seems to assume that they will be.
- Teams will have to make various 40-man roster moves. November 19 is the date by which minor leaguers have to be added to the 40-man roster to protect them from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Before that, other things will happen. First, free agents will drop off the roster. If you look at the Giants’ current 40-man roster, you will not see Belt, Gausman, etc. Solano is still on there, which I assume is just a mistake. (You might not want to look at the catcher section of the roster, though, because that part will make you sad.) Also, injured players on the 60-day IL will have to be activated and added. The Giants currently have four: three minor league pitchers (biggest name: Tyler Beede) and a minor league outfielder. Counting those four injured players, not counting Solano, and counting the three new players claimed off waivers yesterday (pitchers Hunter Harvey and Joe Palumbo, outfielder Austin Dean), the Giants have 37 players on the 40-man roster. Clearly some will have to go to make room for new additions of minor leaguers who could be lost to Rule 5.
- Teams will have to decide about their arbitration-eligible players (Dec. 1). As we’ve discussed here before, the Giants have eight of those, and Zaidi’s already stated the obvious, which is that Curt Casali will be tendered a contract. Given that November 19 comes before December 1, we may see a couple of arbitration-eligible players cut earlier to make 40-man roster space if the Giants don’t plan to tender them. (Most likely to be cut: Alex Dickerson and John Brebbia.)
Beyond that–trades, free agent signings, extensions–it’s anyone’s guess. There could either be a frantic flurry of activity (get stuff done before a possible labor shutdown) or none at all. Nonetheless, for the Giants, the biggest “what comes next” question involves the fallout of Posey’s decision to retire:
- The Giants will have an additional $20 mil or so to spend on payroll
- They likely will not trade Joey Bart now
- They need to pursue some veteran catching depth
- They will need to shop for a replacement for Posey’s right-handed bat because they can’t assume that Bart/Casali will replace that production
- It could be harder to convince premium free agent pitchers to come work with rookie Bart than it would have been if Posey were still here.
Now that Cueto’s and Posey’s salaries are off the books, the Giants’ payroll for 2022, which includes arbitration salary estimates and salaries for younger major-league-minimum guys, is a bit under $73 million. If they non-tender Dickerson and Brebbia, knock another $4.5 mil off that total. After all those years of top-heavy salaries, it seems strange to look at the payroll in Cot’s and see only Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford making over $15 mil, and then the third-highest 2022 salary drops all the way down to $5.25 mil (La Stella). We are definitely in a different era of Giants baseball, and not just because Posey, the last remaining member of the 2010 championship team, is no longer with them.
I don’t have much to add to what Greek Giant and others have said about Posey. I’m still stunned and saddened. I just wasn’t ready for this. We can be glad that we still have Crawford, hope that the Giants bring Cap’n Belt, Gausman, and others back, and we can enjoy our young talent like Logan Webb, Camilo Doval, and (hopefully) Bart. We’ll get excited about the Giants’ future again, but–right now, it’s OK to grieve a bit. We can be happy for him and sad for ourselves. It’s allowed.
What comes next? We’ll find out, one way or another. Lefty out.
(Yeah, yeah. I know Dylan wrote it. I like this version better.)