San Francisco Giants Play It Close to the Vest

I saw a post today from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman saying the Giants don’t intend to make their intentions known about Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez until after the World Series is over.  Nothing particularly surprising about that — the Giants are notorious for their ability to keep their internal deliberations secret until they actually make a move.

I haven’t written anything to date about Hunter Pence‘s five-year $90 million extension because I don’t really have a lot to say about it.  It’s an awful lot of money, probably too much, but not particularly surprising given his 2013 final numbers, his career to date, his free agency and the fact that the Giants were determined to keep him because he’s their kind of player (athletic, high energy and good in the clubhouse).

Rumors have it the Giants intend to give Lincecum a qualifying offer of $14.1 million, although they haven’t done so yet.  That makes sense to me.

A long-term offer is a lot riskier.  mlbtraderumors.com speculated that Lincecum in spite of his struggles the last two seasons will still command a three-year $30 million offer from someone, based on his past success and the fact that he’s still striking plenty of batters out.

However, accepting the qualifying offer might be Lincecum’s (and the Giants’) best outcome.  If Lincecum in 2014 can return to the pitcher he was as recently as 2011, he will command a much bigger long-term deal next off-season than he does now.

It’s worth noting, however, that not one of the nine players given a qualifying offer last off-season, the first year of the new free agency compensation system, accepted the qualifying offer.  However, given the money Lincecum has made in his career already, it might be worth the gamble to try for a better deal after 2014, than signing a multi-year deal this off-season.  It’s not like Lincecum needs a long-term deal this off-season to become a rich man.

With Vogelsong, the Giants have an option to extend him for $6.5 million next year or give him a $300,000 buyout.  While Vogelsong was hurt and pitched poorly in 2013, his strikeout to walk ratio (1.76) and strikeout rates (5.8 per nine IP) weren’t terrible.  There’s at least a reasonable chance he could bounce back for one final good season in 2014, and at $6.5 million, he’s not particularly expensive for a bottom-of-the-rotation starter.

One commenter on mlbtraderumors.com suggested that based on Vogelsong’s age (36 next season), his poor 2013 and his desire to return to the Giants, the most sensible outcome would be for the Giants to decline the option and resign Vogelsong for a lower figure.  This makes a lot of sense to me.  For example, give him the $300,000 buy-out and a $5 million contract for 2014.  The Giants save $1.2 million while Vogelsong still makes more than he made in 2013 ($5 million) or perhaps what he’s reasonably likely to get on the open market.

Javier Lopez is coming off of a two-year $8.5 million deal and his best season as a major league pitcher.  However, Lopez will be an old 36 next year (he turns 37 in July 2014), and as a left-handed shortman, it’s questionable how much he’s really worth given that he only pitched 39.1 innings last year.

Fangraphs says that Lopez’s contribution was worth $3.9 million this past season and an average of only $2.73 million per season for his three full years as a Giant, even though he was arguably the best left-handed shortman in baseball during that period.  Another two-year $8.5 million deal would make sense for the Giants, but Lopez probably expects a raise, and it remains to be seen what another team might offer him on the open market.

My own feeling is that it would be nice to see all three pitchers return to the Giants in 2014, but only if the price is right for each of them.  The goal has to be returning to the play-offs, not running out the same old favorites every night to a losing season record.

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