The 2018 San Francisco Giants have the second highest payroll in the league and hopelessly out of playoff contention. In 2016, they had the worst record in baseball after the All-Star game. In 2017, they lost 98 games. In 2018, as of August 24, their record is 63-66, three games below .500 and heading closer to San Diego instead of chasing Colorado, Los Angeles and Arizona.
This week, they finally realized their plight and put Andrew McCutchen on waivers but no team claimed him. The next move that they need to make is to put Buster Posey on IR and perform surgery on his injured hip so he can be ready for the beginning of the 2019 season. This is an example of poor management decisions made since they promoted Bobby Evans to run baseball operations in 2015. After last year’s dismal 98 loss season, Brian Sabean re-inserted himself to again be the top dog running operations but kept Evans on their payroll. Therein lies the biggest problem that the Giants have… they hang onto losers much too long simply because they have done a good job for them in the past.
In my previous article, I lauded the Oakland A’s, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Atlanta Braves. All four of these teams have payrolls in the lower half of the league and they are all Playoff contenders. These teams have outstanding management in terms of scouting, drafting, and trading for players who don’t command top salaries but who play as well as the top salaried players in the league.
The mindset of the SF Giants management is that they have the need to compete against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers to go after the most expensive players in the league. Even in 2010 when they won their first of three World Series since coming to San Francisco, they made some horrendous financial decisions by giving Aaron Rowand a $60 million five year contract and Barry Zito a $126 million seven year contract. While I do have to say that Zito came through and helped win the 2012 World Series, his overall performance as a Giant was dismal. And Rowand never played in any of our World Series playoff games because he was so bad.
Let us not forget that in 2010, Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner were both in their second year and making rookie money and Sergio Romo was in is his third year. In 2012, when the Giants won their second World Series, both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford were in their second year and were paid rookie salaries and Pablo Sandoval was in his third year making a rookie salary.
In terms of pitchers, while both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain were in their prime, the Giants rewarded Cain with a $112.5 million contract over five years in 2012 when he had already pitched for 8 years. They gifted Tim Linecum with a $32 million contract over two years when he had already pitched for 7 years. Tim actually took a pay cut as he was earning $18 million per year on one year contracts. I must confess that both of these contracts were well deserved as both Lincecum and Cain meant so much to this organization and they grew up as Giants. Having said that, I would have preferred that they paid Cain more per year for 2 or 3 years like they did for Lincecum. And the Barry Zito story is a classic example of what not to do. A seven year contract for any pitcher is about four years too long as all pitchers are prone to arm injury.
Our good position players came up through our draft and farm system during our winning years. And other than the Rowand and Zito disasters, the Giants brought in players that “fit” and had reasonable salaries. Jeremy Affeldt, Pat Burrell, Aubry Huff, Javier Lopez, Edgar Renteria, Cody Ross, Juan Uribe, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, and Marco Scutaro were all great contributors during our World Series years and they didn’t break the bank.
Before the 2019 season starts, what should the Giants do with their payroll and player woes? Here is my humble opinion. In looking at the player and salary chart below, the situation is fairly bleak.
The “buried” salaries list shows how much the Giants are paying to players no longer on the team. Matt Cain’s $7.5 million will go away next year. Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin were both traded to the Texas Rangers on July 8 as salary dump moves. I never understood why they signed Jackson as he has never been a good player. It was a desperation move as they couldn’t sign anyone else. Cory Gearrin is simply a minor league pitcher who was a disaster in the majors. As approximately $10 million comes off of the buried salary list due to these players next year, I recommend that list grow next year as the Giants need to part ways with some expensive players.
Brandon Belt is being paid $17.2 million per year through 2021. The Giants had plenty of opportunities to trade him as some teams like the NY Yankees were in need of a good first baseman. Belt is a great defensive player but very inconsistent at the plate. He can go on a hitting streak of 10-15 games, then fall into a .200 hitter for the next month. I would try real hard to trade him and hope that his new team picks up some of his Giant contract. The rest would go into the Giants buried salary list. Another key reason to move Belt is that Buster Posey’s days as a catcher is now numbered and he must be moved to first base. The catcher position has taken a toll on his body to the point where Buster can no longer use his lower body to hit the ball. Thus, his home run total is at an all-time career low. The Giants made a wise drafting move by picking Joey Bart as their #1 pick. I’m hoping that the Giants bring Bart up to the majors in September when the roster size expands to give him some major league experience with the hope that he can become our every day catcher in 2019.
Madison Bumgarner deserves a big payday even though he may be approaching the age where his pitching skills start to decline. He has been the Giants best pitcher and is the acknowledged G.O.A.T of World Series pitching. MadBum has been extremely underpaid and now needs to be rewarded. Clayton Kershaw is being paid $30 million per year for seven years. The Giants should pay MadBum $25-30 per year for a maximum of three years. If he demands a five or more year contract, the Giants should listen to trade offers.
Major mistake by signing Evan Longoria for $81 million through 2022. He is batting .250 at age 33. The Giants won’t be able to trade him without paying for most of the remainder of this huge contract.
The signing of Johnny Cueto was not necessarily a bad move but the amount and length of the contract was a huge mistake ($150 million for seven years). Apparently the Giants did not learn from the Barry Zito fiasco. He is out indefinitely as he just had Tommy John surgery. The only choice that the Giants have is to keep him and hope that he comes back next year with almost the same stuff that he had as a winning pitcher.
The most atrocious signing was that of Jeff Samardziya to a $90 million five year contract. The Oakland A’s in 2014 had a very weak pitching rotation and Samardziya was still cut by them. The Giants picked him up, gave him a huge contract and his pitching didn’t improve… surprise surprise… The Giants need to cut their losses and simply cut him and eat his contract. They won’t be able to trade him as his trade value is zero.
Finally, the signing of Mark Melancon to a $62 million contract for four years is beyond atrocious. He has ONE save this year. So, that one save has cost the Giants $20 million this year. The Giants need to eat his contract as well since he no longer adds value and no other team will want his services.
If they release Longoria, Samardziya and Melancon and eat their salaries, their buried salary will total $146 million.
To get themselves out of this salary hole, their seemingly only option is to rely on their top prospects. Next year, they should:
- Bring up Helios Ramos to play Center Field and rotate with Steven Duggar.
- Bring up Chris Shaw to play Left Field and rotate with Buster Posey at First Base. Move Austin Slater to Right Field.
- Bring up Tyler Beede to replace Jeff Samardziya.
The Giants MUST avoid chasing big contract players for the next several years at all cost. They have made some noise about going after Bryce Harper. He will command a salary over $300 million. That is simply NUTS !!! He is batting .249 this year and like Giancarlo Stanton who is batting .276 and making over $325 million, he either hits a home run or strikes out.
They need to get back to the 2010-2012 years and build their core from within and add complementary players as needed.
GO GIANTS !!! (I hope)…
|Joe Panik||2B||$3,450,000||ARB 2||ARB 3||UFA||–|
|Kelby Tomlinson||2B||$560,000||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3||UFA|
|Alen Hanson||2B||$545,000||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3|
|Chase d’Arnaud||3B||$545,000||ARB 2||ARB 3||UFA||–|
|Miguel Gomez||3B||$545,000||TC||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2|
|Ryder Jones||3B||$545,000||TC||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2|
|Gorkys Hernandez||LF||$561,500||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3||UFA|
|Austin Slater||LF||$545,000||TC||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2|
|Mac Williamson||RF||$545,000||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3|
|Chris Stratton||SP||$552,500||TC||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2|
|Casey Kelly||SP||$545,000||ARB 2||ARB 3||UFA||–|
|Sam Dyson||RP||$4,425,000||ARB 3||ARB 4||UFA||–|
|Will Smith||RP||$2,500,000||ARB 4||UFA||–||–|
|Hunter Strickland||RP/CL||$1,550,000||ARB 2||ARB 3||ARB 4||UFA|
|Ty Blach||RP||$565,000||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3|
|Josh Osich||RP||$558,000||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3||UFA|
|Reyes Moronta||RP||$545,000||TC||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2|
|Pierce Johnson||RP||$545,000||TC||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2|
|Jose Valdez||RP||$545,000||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3|
|Derek Law||RP||$545,000||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3|
|Steven Okert||RP||$545,000||TC||ARB 1||ARB 2||ARB 3|
|Retained/Buried Payroll Figures|