The Giants ended the 2019 MLB season with the 13th-worst record in the league at 77-85, but the fifth-highest payroll at $178.5 million. A large chunk of that went to a pitcher who only appeared in four games this season.
Johnny Cueto has pitched in just 13 games the past two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and also has earned $21 million in each of those seasons. Cueto, 33, will be paid another $21 million by the Giants in 2020, too.
He isn't the only aging Giant that will earn a large chunk of change next season. Michael Ginnitti of the contract expert website Spotrac lists two Giants in his 10 toughest MLB contracts for 2020. Joining Cueto on the list is catcher Buster Posey.
For the fifth straight season, Posey, who mainly batted in the middle of the Giants lineup this season, saw his power numbers dip to a staggering career low. The former NL MVP only hit seven home runs this year -- actually up from five in 2018 -- but drove in just 38 runs and had a .368 slugging percentage.
Posey's 149 total bases also was a career low, and his 89 OPS+ -- OPS adjusted to a player's ballpark -- was 16 points below league average. This was the first time Posey finished a season with an OPS+ below 100, which is league average, and a bWAR (0.9) below 1.0.
The 11-year veteran who turns 33 in March still is an elite catcher, though. His 14 defensive runs saved ranked third among NL catchers, and he threw out 24 baserunners -- tied for third in the league. The Giants hope a healthy offseason can rejuvenate Posey at the plate, but that's hard to predict.
Oh, and we haven't even gotten to his contract yet. Posey is due $21.4 million next season, the highest figure on the Giants. With top prospect Joey Bart on the way and Posey possibly at the point of no return as a presence in your lineup, that's a whole lot of money.
For everything he has done for the Giants throughout his career, Posey has earned what's in his bank account. But producing enough to be worth that $21.4 million figure surely will be a tall task.
Right behind Posey for the most expensive contract on the Giants next season is Cueto. He could be in a different position, though.
Cueto finally is healthy after years of arm issues, and looked like an ace at the end of the season at times, despite his 5.06 ERA. All nine of the earned runs he allowed this season came in his final two starts against division winners in the Braves and Dodgers.
Having Cueto on a major league mound this season was a surprise in its own right. He attacked Tommy John rehab and lost over 20 pounds.
“It’s a long process and what I wanted to do was see how I felt,” Cueto said after his final start of the year. “I wasn’t too worried about the results. I felt great so I’ll take this into the winter as a positive.”
Cueto is confident and excited for next season to start. If he stays healthy, the Giants still have one of the top arms in baseball in their rotation.
Simply put, it all comes down to health for Posey and Cueto. The pitcher seems better set up than the hitter, but the Giants are banking on big seasons from both of them. Literally.