SF Giants fans should be especially excited to watch Buster Posey in 2021 because it will probably be his last with the organization that drafted him.
I didn’t want to write this. Buster Posey has meant more to the SF Giants franchise in the last decade than anyone. I remember watching him in Hawaii Winter Baseball just six months after the team drafted him with the fifth overall pick. After another mediocre team had finished 72-90, he was the hope.
The pitching staff already had Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain at the top of their games. Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo looked like a solid closer/setup combo, and Madison Bumgarner had just laid waste to the South Atlantic League at 18. But that offense was… hard to see much in. I may have thought that John Bowker was a future everyday player, but the rest of the lineup was filled with aging late-30s veterans that Brian Sabean had waited too long to trade.
Posey was the final piece to the first World Series champion in San Francisco Giants history. He was the only offensive player that fans heard about from the moment he was drafted. The fanbase had the loftiest of expectations for him, and he somehow found a way to surpass them all.
After opting out this season, Posey should be back next year, and even though no one knows quite what to expect, barring injury, he’ll be the team’s primary backstop. There are few things Giants fans are more accustomed to than seeing Posey in the starting lineup. That’s what will make it so hard. Barring something exceptional, 2021 will be the final year Posey dons a Giants uniform.
Since Posey was drafted, the team did not finish with one of the ten worst baseball records until 2017. The following year, holding the second overall pick in the draft, the same director of amateur scouting that drafted Posey, John Barr, selected another catcher from the ACC. His name was Joey Bart.
In the three years since Bart’s path has mirrored many elements of Posey’s. As an aging team continued falling short, fans have invested more and more in their prospects. None more than Bart.
Current Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was not a part of the front-office that drafted him. Still, he’s seemed as high on the Georgia Tech product as anyone. After all, Bart got an opportunity to be the team’s everyday catcher even though he had just 87 plate appearances above High-A this year.
Bart struggled mightily, but not in a totally unexpected way. He’s still on track to become an everyday player with a chance to be a perennial All-Star. Paired with 2020 first-round pick Patrick Bailey, Bart is half of the best catching prospect duo in baseball. While that’s exactly what the Giants should have done, it makes it even harder to envision Posey spending his entire career in the Orange-and-Black.
The Giants do have a club option over Posey for the 2022 season as a part of his 8-year, $159 million contract. The option is for a $22 million salary in 2022 and includes a buyout of just $3 million. Essentially, the Giants will have to ask themselves whether they expect Posey to be worth $19 million in 2022. It’s hard to envision that scenario.
Posey would probably have to rekindle his MVP-caliber play to ensure the team accepts his option. Otherwise, he would enter free agency. With Bart very likely locked into the starting spot, Posey would very likely look elsewhere. Could Bart become the team’s primary first baseman to offer Posey more consistent playing time? Absolutely. But would Posey want to re-sign when he knew the team had a replacement in waiting?
Every season teams are scrambling to find competent catchers, and plenty of organizations could offer Posey a full-time job without a clear alternative in the system. Maybe he’d prefer to have a timeshare as he ages, and mentoring Bart would appeal to him, but he’s a competitor. No one should blame him if he went to an organization where playing time was easier to find.
There’s even a possibility that Posey plays well enough next season to draw trade interest at the deadline. If the Giants fall out of contention early, Bart is tearing up Pacific Coast League competition, and a contender emerges with a need at catcher, he could consider waiving his no-trade clause for another chance at a World Series.
SF Giants fans are surely excited to welcome Buster Posey back to the team in 2021. However, they should celebrate more than just solidifying the catcher position. It could very well be his last year with the team. Enjoy every play because soon his only highlights in a Giants uniform will all be memories.