With the amount of money coming off the books for the San Francisco Giants, a big splash in the 2014 free agency is in order.
The long time rival Los Angeles Dodgers have made it clear that they have money to spend, and to keep up in the division, the Giants have to upgrade their team. The Giants have a number of contracts ending and various players’ salaries increasing entering the 2014 year, so it is difficult to calculate the money coming off the books, but the Giants could be spending even more than that to stay competitive in the NL West. I’ll do my best to calculate the money freed up for the casual fan:
During the 2013 season Tim Lincecum earned $22.25 million, Barry Zito earned $20 million and Hunter Pence earned $13.8 million and all of their contracts expire at the end of the year. That’s roughly $56 million coming off the books. Before exploring signing Hunter Pence to a new contract, let’s just figure out how much freed money the Giants will have to play with just to match the same payroll as 2013.
In addition to Lincecum and Zito, Ryan Vogelsong’s $5 million will come off the books unless the Giants elect to extend his contract, which would cost $6.5 million. Keeping track of low-level contracts begin to be fairly pointless, but I will add that Andres Torres’ $2 million will be freed up.
After these calculations, the Giants will have a grand total of $63 million, unless they elect to extend Volgelsong for an additional year; in which case the team would have $56.5 million coming off the books.
Complicating matters further is the back-weighted nature of some of the Giants players contracts. Feel free to move to the next paragraph if you would rather skip the details. Madison Bumgarner’s salary jumps by $3 million to $3.75 in 2014, and then jumps $3 million each of the next two years to $9.75 in 2016, finally topping off at $11.5 million in 2017. Buster Posey’s salary will jump by $4.5 million in 2014, another $4 million in 2015, $3.5 million in 2016 to reach $20 million. The next year Posey’s salary jumps another $1.4 million to settle at $21.4 million a year from 2017 to 2021. Additionally, Pablo Sandoval’s salary will increase by $2.5 million and Angel Pagan’s salary by $2 million in 2014.
So the Giants will have $51 million to spend next year [$63- 3 (Bum) – 4.5 (Buster) -2.5 (Pablo)- 2 (Pagan)] without Vogelsong or they can use their option on the 37-year-old pitcher and have $44.5 million freed up to spend.
The Giants will have to keep the back-weighted nature of Bumgarner and Posey’s contracts in mind when signing players: the available $51 million turns to $44 million in 2015, $38.5 million in 2016, and $35 million in 2017 if they include their star catcher and pitcher’s salary increases. These numbers remain accurate besides the $51 million figure if the team keeps Vogelsong, as his contract will last for a year.
For the sake of this article, the Giants will extend Vogelsong an additional year, leaving two rotation spots open. The Giants could use their own talent to fill these two spots. Chad Gaudin (who is arbitration eligible) and Yusmeiro Petit could fill the fourth or fifth starting pitcher spot on the roster. Gaudin was one of the better Giants’ pitchers this year with a 5-2 record and 3.06 ERA, and after Petit’s recent 10-K game, the Giants now have inexpensive options with whom fans are familiar with.
The Giants can elect to bring in a big name to replace Lincecum with the likes of a Chris Carpenter, Hiroki Kuroda, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Josh Johnson, Daisuke Matsuzaka, or A.J. Burnett.
Will the Giants bring back Hunter Pence? Probably — the team desperately needs quality outfielders, and Pence’s passionate team speeches are good for the locker room. If the team adds Pence they’re looking at a price tag of around $15 million a year. But that’s not a big enough splash, the Giants will likely look to add another outfielder and can choose to negotiate with any of the following big names: Carlos Beltran (although Giants fans may still be frusturated with the 2011 trade to acquire him and find it difficult to move on), Shin-Soo Choo, Nelson Cruz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Morse, Curtis Granderson, or possibly Chris Young.
I expect to see the Giants make a big splash in the free agency market this year, and there is nobody more coveted than Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. The Giants owe a fan base who continued to sell out games even during the poor 2013 season an improved lineup and the team needs to upgrade if they want to compete in the NL West against the biggest spenders in all of baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Cano would take the place of Marco Scutaro, who the Giants have under contract through 2015 at $6.67 million a year. Unfortunately the move would clog the infield, but would add great depth to the middle infield positions.
Adding a bat in the outfield this offseason is a certainty, and likely that bat will be Pence. In addition to an outfielder, I expect the Giants will make an additional expensive acquisition this offseason. The team can choose to upgrade their starting pitching, add a second outfielder to fill left field, or make offseason headlines by signing Cano. I hope it’s the latter, but whatever it is, fans will eagerly await news of Brian Sabean’s actions in the 2014 free agent market.