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Early offseason decisions for the San Francisco Giants

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Kevin Pillar #1 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates their victory during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays Rogers Centre on April 23, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Kevin Pillar #1 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates their victory during MLB game action against the Toronto Blue Jays Rogers Centre on April 23, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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A busy offseason lies ahead for the San Francisco Giants, and it starts with a handful of crucial roster decisions.

The San Francisco Giants will have some big decisions to make at the onset of this year’s MLB offseason, and ahead we’ll provide a full breakdown of what to watch for.

Several notable players are set to hit free agency, multiple key contributors are arbitration-eligible, and qualifying offer decisions will need to be made.

Ahead is a look at the decisions that will need to be made before free agency kicks into full swing.

Contract Options

Three days after the conclusion of the World Series, MLB teams will need to make decisions on contract options for 2020.

Veteran reliever Tony Watson is the only player on the San Francisco Giants roster with an option that needs to be sorted out, as he carries a $2.5 million player option that comes with a $500,000 buyout.

A fractured left wrist brought Watson’s 2019 season to a premature end, but he was once again an effective late-inning option before the injury, posting a 4.17 ERA and 1.26 WHIP with 25 holds in 60 appearances.

The 34-year-old should have earning power beyond that $2.5 million salary, especially in a relatively thin market for late-inning arms, so expect him to take the buyout and test the open market.

Qualifying Offers

Longtime ace Madison Bumgarner and All-Star closer Will Smith are both eligible for free agency, and both players are candidates to receive a qualifying offer this winter.

Teams have until five days after the conclusion of the World Series to tender an upcoming free agent with a qualifying offer, and players then have 10 days to decide whether to accept or reject the offer.

As one of the top starting pitchers on the market and a safe bet for a lucrative multi-year deal, Bumgarner is a lock to receive and decline a qualifying offer. That means if he winds up signing elsewhere during the offseason, the Giants will receive draft pick compensation.

The situation with Smith is a bit cloudier.

The qualifying offer was worth $17.9 million last season, up from $17.4 million in 2017, and it will likely climb north of $18 million this year. The total is determined by the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players in the sport.

While Smith will have plenty of multi-year offers to choose from in free agency, he might not see an annual value that approaches $18 million. If he’s willing to bet on himself, he could accept the one-year offer, pocket that hefty salary, and then hit the open market again next winter.

There’s no question the Giants would love to have Smith back, but they might not be willing to risk tying up $18 million on a relief pitcher, so it remains to be seen if Smith will receive an offer.

Arbitration-Eligible Players

The most polarizing decision of the offseason for the San Francisco Giants might be whether to offer salary arbitration to Kevin Pillar.

While the 30-year-old led the team in hits (157), doubles (37), RBI (87), runs scored (82) and tied for the team lead in home runs (21), an ugly .293 on-base percentage dragged down his overall value.

He made $5.8 million in 2019, and that value will likely climb north of $8 million for his final year of arbitration control in 2020.

Is that a price the Giants are willing to pay given his shortcomings and the abundance of MLB-level outfield options?

“In a black-and-white sense, the Giants’ decision on Pillar will serve as a clear referendum on how married to the metrics Farhan Zaidi’s baseball operations group will be,” wrote Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic.

How the second-half bullpen audition impacts 2020. Next

It’s going to be an exciting offseason for San Francisco Giants fans, and it all starts with these in-house decisions.

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