A big offseason looms for the Giants, who will have plenty of work to do as they attempt to rebound from a disappointing 2022 season and reassert themselves as contenders next year. One of their more difficult tasks will be figuring out which veterans to try to retain heading into 2023, especially given their stated goal of getting younger and more athletic this winter.
Here are five Giants with uncertain futures in San Francisco:
1. Brandon Belt
The longest-tenured Giant, Belt underwent season-ending surgery on his troublesome right knee in early September. His rehab seems to be going well so far, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be back for his 13th season with the club, as he’ll be eligible for free agency for the second straight winter.
The Giants extended Belt a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer after he crushed a career-high 29 home runs in 2021, but he couldn’t match that production this year. His balky knee limited him to 78 games and hampered him at the plate, where he recorded a .676 OPS with eight homers in 2022.
While the 34-year-old first baseman has expressed interest in staying with the Giants, he could find himself crowded out of an infield mix that already includes Brandon Crawford, Wilmer Flores, Thairo Estrada, David Villar and J.D. Davis. Belt seems to be preparing for the possibility of a new chapter, as he gave a heartfelt thank you to Giants announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow during a guest appearance on the NBC Sports Bay Area broadcast last month.
“There’s really nowhere else I want to play,” Belt said in the booth. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I know is I’m going to get as strong as I can and get ready to play baseball next year.”
2. Evan Longoria
Longoria landed on the injured list with a right thumb fracture on Monday, ending his season three days early. The injury might not necessarily mean the end of his career, though.
Longoria, who turns 37 on Friday, has considered retirement, though he said he intends to keep playing if the Giants exercise his $13 million club option for 2023, which includes a $5 million buyout. If San Francisco declines the option, Longoria said he’d be willing to renegotiate with the club or test free agency for the first time in his career.
“I’m committed to coming back here,” Longoria said Monday. “I’m a Giant until I’m not a Giant anymore. I don’t have any desire to go anywhere else. I’m very comfortable here.”
While he’s struggled with injuries over the last two seasons, Longoria has been productive when healthy, posting a .767 OPS with 14 home runs over 89 games this year. He also remains a strong defender at third base, which could boost his chances of sticking around in a part-time role next year.
3. Carlos Rodón
Rodón emerged as the Giants’ most dominant starter this season, earning his second consecutive All-Star nod after logging a 2.88 ERA over a career-high 178 innings. He entered Wednesday leading Major League starters with a 2.25 FIP and ranked third with 237 strikeouts, making him a strong candidate to draw National League Cy Young votes this year.
The Giants decided to shut down the 29-year-old ace due to workload concerns on Tuesday, so it’s possible he might have made his final start in the orange and black. Rodón is expected to opt out of the final year of his two-year, $44 million deal and re-enter free agency, where he is likely to land an even more lucrative contract this offseason.
The Giants would be hard-pressed to replace Rodón atop their rotation, but they’ve shown a reluctance to hand out long-term deals under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. They already let another All-Star starter, Kevin Gausman, depart via free agency last year, so it remains to be seen whether they’ll be willing to break precedent and make a serious bid at re-signing Rodón.
4. Joc Pederson
Pederson proved to be another savvy free-agent signing for the Giants, as the 30-year-old slugger blasted a team-leading 23 home runs after signing a one-year, $6 million deal with his hometown team. Zaidi has already expressed interest in retaining Pederson, but the Giants might have to convince the Palo Alto, Calif., native that they’ll be in a better position to compete next year.
This season marked the first time in Pederson’s nine-year career that he didn’t reach the playoffs, an experience he bluntly described as “not fun.” Could that affect his desire to come back for a second season with the Giants?
“It’s a really cool organization,” Pederson said recently. “I’ve played for four really awesome organizations. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see what happens in the offseason.”
5. Tommy La Stella
La Stella is owed $11.5 million in 2023, the final season of his back-loaded contract, but it’s hard to see how he’ll fit into the Giants’ infield plans moving forward. The 33-year-old veteran landed on the IL with neck spasms on Sept. 12 and didn’t play for the remainder of the season, leaving him with a .632 OPS and two homers over 60 games this year.
The Giants recently revealed that La Stella underwent surgery on both Achilles tendons last offseason, which could explain his limited range and mobility on the field this year. With a ban on shifts expected to arrive in 2023, the Giants will have even less flexibility to carry a compromised defender on their roster, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they decide to move on from La Stella at some point this offseason.
Who was the last Giants starter to win the National League strikeout title?
A.) Christy Mathewson
B.) Bill Voiselle
C.) Madison Bumgarner
D.) Tim Lincecum
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Here are some recent Giants stories you might have missed over the last week:
Pitching prospect Sean Hjelle dressed appropriately for the Giants’ final series in San Diego this week, sporting an “Anchorman” T-shirt after striking out a career-high eight over five scoreless innings in Monday’s 7-4 loss at Petco Park. The shirt quoted a memorable line from Ron Burgundy: “I’m Kind of a Big Deal.” The same could be said for the 6-foot-11 Hjelle, especially after he ended his season with his best outing as a big leaguer.
“This is as good a last showing for Sean Hjelle as we could have imagined,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “He's going to go into the offseason with all sorts of confidence that he can get some of the best hitters in the world out.”
Hjelle entered the game in the second inning and immediately gave up a pair of hard-hit singles to Jake Cronenworth and Wil Myers, but he managed to settle in and strike out four of the next five batters he faced. The 25-year-old right-hander became the first Giants reliever to strike out at least eight in a game since Drew Smyly on Sept. 10, 2020.
Hjelle posted a 5.76 ERA over eight appearances with San Francisco this year, but Kapler said he was encouraged by the Minnesota native’s ability to miss bats -- he racked up 28 strikeouts over 25 innings -- and stymie hitters with his sinker-slider combination.
“Being able to do that against the likes of Juan Soto and guys like that, it’s all the confidence you can have,” said Hjelle, who is expected to factor into the Giants’ rotation mix in 2023. “It’s one of those moments where it’s like, ‘Hey, I can do this, I’m doing it, and I’d like to think I can do this for a long, long time.’ Sooner or later, the game is going to come back and humble me. That’s where you go back to your routine to bounce back and hopefully have another outing like tonight.”
D.) Tim Lincecum
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