Struggles from trio of veteran players might limit SF Giants offseason flexibility

Tampa Bay Rays v San Francisco Giants
Tampa Bay Rays v San Francisco Giants / Suzanna Mitchell/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

The SF Giants have been more aggressive in handing out opt-out clauses than just about any team in baseball. They have three players with opt-outs this season with Michael Conforto, Sean Manaea, and Ross Stripling. However, there is a very real possibility that all three players decide to opt in, which would limit the team's flexibility this winter.

Struggles from trio of veteran players might limit SF Giants offseason flexibility

The Giants signed Conforto to a two-year, $36 million deal. Manaea and Stripling signed for identical two, $25 million contracts. Each of these contracts contained an opt-out after the first season. The opt-out clause is an extremely player-friendly tool that can be effective at recruiting a player.

Ultimately, a player can have the option to re-enter free agency if he has a solid season with the hopes of landing a larger payday than the one he just received. Or, if he struggles, they still have guaranteed money on the table that they can claim by opting in.

It is likely that Conforto, Stripling, and Manaea all had hopes of re-entering free agency but they will be happy with the guaranteed money remaining on their repsective deals.

Similarly, the Giants likely hoped that at least one or two from that trio opted out because it would mean that they would coming off of a good season. In a sense, the Giants intended to optimize the value of those contracts.

They pulled a similar move with Carlos Rodón by offering him an opt-out in his two-year deal that he signed in 2022. Of course, the veteran pitcher had a career year on the mound and opted out to sign a massive deal with the New York Yankees. The Giants maximized the value of the deal by getting his best production in his lone season with San Francisco.

That will not be the case with Conforto, Manaea, and Stripling. Conforto is coming off of a subpar season in which he is slashing .251/.343/.405 (106 OPS+) with 15 home runs, 55 RBI, and 55 runs in 426 plate appearances. These are not bad numbers but it represents a sharp decline from the .843 OPS he posted through the first six seasons of his career. The 30-year-old is currently on the injured list.

On the other hand, Manaea and Stripling have both struggled equally badly. Manaea has posted a 5.00 ERA in 93.2 innings this year while being relegated to a bullpen role. That is likely where he will remain and where his best role is going forward.

Stripling has a 5.29 ERA while allowing 20 home runs in 78.1 innings. The Giants seem motivated in keeping him in the rotation but it just might not be an option. Similar to Conforto, the veteran pitcher is currently on the injured list.

So, if all three players opt-in to the final year of their deals, it could be problematic from a roster-building standpoint. The Giants will likely look to bolster the starting rotation but adding to the pitching staff might be hard given the number of underperforming contracts they have with Manaea, Stripling, and Anthony DeSclafani.

It is possible that the Giants just decide to cut ties with one or more of those pitchers. Nevertheless, it creates a problem if they do not because they would have three pitchers on the roster who might not be able to start anymore. And, you just cannot carry three bulk innings relievers in the bullpen without cutting into the crop of leverage relievers.

A similar thing could happen with Conforto and the outfield. The Giants likely want to add at least one player to the mix but that could be hard with Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Mike Yastrzemski, and Austin Slater all under contract or team control next year.

There might be a little more flexibility here because Yastrzemski and Slater could be traded in the offseason to chip away at the surplus. It is not that Conforto is a below-average player. He is not, but heading into next season with the same group of outfielders is not going to inspire any confidence.

The Giants likely secretly hope that at least one of the three players decides to opt out of his deal. Not necessarily because of the money it would save. That certainly helps, but because it would open up a roster spot that gives them a little more flexibility.