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SF Giants offseason outlook: Key dates, decisions, questions ahead

SF Giants offseason outlook: Key dates, decisions, questions ahead

First on the Giants’ offseason to-do list: Hire a manager.

That, however, is only the start of what promises to be a crucial winter for a club at a crossroads.

When are the key dates this offseason?

Farhan Zaidi, the president of baseball operations, has said he wants to have a new manager in place by the time free agency begins.

While players file for free agency on the day after the World Series, they cannot sign with other teams under five days afterward. On this year’s calendar, that means the start of free agency could fall between Nov. 5 – Nov. 9.

Executives will convene in Scottsdale that same week for the annual GM meetings from Nov. 7-9. The more noteworthy offseason gathering comes a month later, in Nashville, with the Winter Meetings running from Dec. 3-7. That is traditionally the hotbed of free agency and trade activity, and is also when the amateur draft lottery (Dec. 5) and Rule 5 draft (Dec. 6) take place.

In between the World Series and start of free agency, player and team options and opt-out clauses must be exercised. The Giants hold a club option on Alex Cobb ($10M, $2M buyout), while Michael Conforto ($18M 2024 salary), Sean Manaea ($12.5M) and Ross Stripling ($12.5) all have the ability to opt out of their contracts.

In that same period, clubs may extend qualifying offers, like the Giants did to Joc Pederson last offseason. If a player accepts, he would be paid the average of the top 125 salaries from the previous season ($19.65M in 2023); if he declines, any team that signs him must relinquish a draft pick. Because Pederson was extended a qualifying offer last offseason, he isn’t eligible for one this offseason.

The non-tender deadline is Nov. 17, at which point clubs must decide to offer contracts to players on their 40-man roster. That includes those eligible for arbitration, a process that determines the salary for players with three to six years of service time.

The Giants have six players under that umbrella: Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, J.D. Davis, Thairo Estrada, Tyler Rogers, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Mark Mathias. If they have not agreed to a contract by Jan. 12, the team and the players must each exchange salary figures, and a panel of arbiters will determine which is more suitable through hearings held from Jan. 29 – Feb. 16.

Arbitration can be a contentious process, and the Giants typically agree to contracts with their players beforehand.

Who are the Giants’ pending free agents?

— SS Brandon Crawford, age 36

— OF Joc Pederson, age 31

— LHP Alex Wood, age 32

— RHP Jakob Junis, age 30

— RHP John Brebbia, age 33

— LHP Scott Alexander, age 33

— C Roberto Pérez, age 34

Where does the Giants’ payroll stand?

According to Cot’s Contracts, the Giants’ 40-man roster payroll to end 2023 was $193,689,032. Under the formula for the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT), that came out to $220,105,699, or $12,894,301 under the first threshold.

Without factoring in arbitration salaries, the Giants have $130,667,000 on the books for 2024, or $106,333,000 under the CBT threshold.

What are the Giants’ biggest needs?

1. Athleticism, defense

The Giants committed the most errors in the majors. They stole the fewest bases. They had the third-slowest sprint speed. They turned the fifth-fewest number of balls in play into outs. If it sounds familiar, well, this was at the top of the list last offseason, too.

“I think some of these quotes will be compared to what I said last year because they’re going to sound pretty similar,” Zaidi said at his season-ending news conference Tuesday. “But one of the big things is just gonna be to go into next year with as good of a defensive club as we can have.”

2. Star power … or at least stability

The Giants added to their growing collection runner-up ribbons last offseason, missing out on Aaron Judge and backing out of their agreement with Carlos Correa. At least in trying and failing, the franchise has shown a willingness to throw down big bucks.

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They will try again this winter, with the biggest prize of all: two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who even after elbow surgery that will prevent him from pitching in 2024 should command a record-breaking sum. Ohtani considered San Francisco in his initial free agency but was swayed away by the lack of the designated hitter in the National League at the time. That obstacle is gone, though the Giants are still seen as a longshot.

After Ohtani, it is not a strong free agent class. Cody Bellinger could help address their outfield defense, but he is said to be seeking a contract north of $200 million and is only a year removed from back-to-back seasons as a .200 (or worse) hitter. Rhys Hoskins is Sacramento-raised and the type of slugger the Giants need but missed the season with a knee injury and wasn’t exactly renowned for his defense before.

They could instead look to the trade market. Would the Ohtani-less Angels make Mike Trout available? Absent a contract extension, would the Padres consider dealing Juan Soto to a division rival? The deep-pocketed Mets wouldn’t really punt on Pete Alonso, right? With an abundance of young pitching, perhaps the Giants are a match for a team such as the Reds or Cardinals, who posses an equal wealth of young position players?

3. Rookie insurance

Zaidi said the Giants consider Marco Luciano their starting shortstop next season. You can also pencil in Patrick Bailey behind the plate.

Tyler Fitzgerald, Luis Matos and Casey Schmitt are part of their plans to improve their athleticism and defense.

Zaidi said it himself: “I think you’re going to see ups and downs with rookies more than veteran players.”

A low-cost, low-risk infielder who can play shortstop and a veteran backup for Bailey might be wise.