Giants

Do Giants' Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto have two of worst MLB contracts?

Do Giants' Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto have two of worst MLB contracts?

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.”

[RELATED: Cueto excited to take positive vibes into MLB offseason]

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. 

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

Cubs' Theo Epstein explains why Scott Harris will succeed with Giants

The Giants took plenty of criticism last week for their decision to hire Gabe Kapler as manager, but the week's other big move was met with positive reviews. One of the people who complimented Farhan Zaidi's decision to hire Scott Harris as general manager was the executive who had hoped to keep him around. 

At the GM Meetings in Scottsdale, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein told reporters that he was thrilled for Harris and knew it "was an opportunity he couldn't turn down -- a No. 2 (job) of another storied franchise in his hometown." Harris served as assistant general manager of the Cubs before Zaidi hired him last Sunday. 

"We're thrilled for him, but it was bittersweet," Epstein told NBC Sports Chicago. "We loved working with him and he was a big part of our culture and guys around the major-league team love working with him. It will leave a pretty significant void that we'll have to fill. We'll distribute a lot of his responsibilities around to a few different people internally and re-evaluate as we continue to look outside, if there happens to be the right fit outside the organization, too."

Harris' decision was a loss for the Cubs, who have had other notable departures in the front office since winning the World Series in 2016. There has been speculation within the industry that Epstein will leave the Cubs when his contract expires, which could have led to Jed Hoyer taking over that job and Harris getting Hoyer's GM responsibilities. 

[RELATED: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?]

Harris loved his time in Chicago and called working for Epstein and Hoyer a dream situation for anybody looking to break into the game. He was hired as a 25-year-old in 2012, but seven years later Zaidi called with an offer that was too good to turn down.

"He's got incredible work ethic. He's got significant intellectual capacity, but he's very down to Earth, fun to be around," Epstein said of Harris. "He doesn't tell you how smart he is. He's one of the guys everyone loves going to to share things and pick their brain. He's got a good feel around managing up, managing down, managing laterally, (a) good feel with the players and uniformed personnel. He'll do a really good job over there."

MLB free agency: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?

MLB free agency: What are Giants' biggest needs as hot stove begins?

SAN FRANCISCO -- As Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler spent nearly an hour discussing the more controversial aspects of the Giants' manager hire, new general manager Scott Harris sat to Kapler's left and took it all in. Other than his own introductory remarks, Harris was mostly silent, but Zaidi smiled and looked at his GM when a reporter asked Zaidi how he planned to "attack free agency."

"Scott?" Zaidi said, laughing. 

Harris took the question, but he didn't give up much more than Zaidi would have. 

"We're excited to have the three of us in place and to start having those conversations that are full of debate, that are full of challenging each other," Harris said, "To make sure that we're targeting the right players and Gabe feels comfortable deploying those players in the right way to allow them to succeed."

More than anything, Kapler simply needs better players. Zaidi and Harris jumped right in to that process, flying to Scottsdale after the Kapler press conference despite the fact that they had already missed most of the first three days of the four-day GM Meetings. Zaidi and Harris have spent plenty of time over the last month discussing their future plans, but they planned to set up meetings in Scottsdale to start zeroing in on specific free agent targets. 

Who are those players? We know one who is off the list. Closer Will Smith signed with the Braves before Kapler could even move into his office, leaving a big hole in the bullpen. That's where we'll start in this early look at what the Giants need in free agency:

Bullpen

The closer right now is ... maybe Tony Watson? Maybe Shaun Anderson? Tyler Rogers and Sam Coonrod showed flashes as rookies, Trevor Gott is healing well, and guys like Jandel Gustave, Sam Selman and Andrew Suarez should be part of the mix. But that's not a good bullpen on paper. 

The Giants will need to add, although as we saw last year, they're more likely to do so with minor additions and trades -- like the Gott move. Don't expect them to spend big on what's left of the relief market. One of the best arms still out there, Drew Pomeranz, is already familiar to them. They're more likely to find the next reclamation project than sign a player looking for big money. 

Backup catcher

Stephen Vogt is wildly popular and had a very nice year as Buster Posey's partner, but he has talked of trying to win a World Series. He is smart enough to know San Francisco is not the place to do that in 2020. 

Vogt liked San Francisco and may return, but if he signs with a contender, the Giants will need a bridge to Joey Bart. Aramis Garcia is an option, but if Zaidi wanted to go with Erik Kratz last opening day over Garcia, it seems likely another veteran is brought in a year later. 

Lefty infielder

The Giants used more platoons last season and could use a left-handed hitter to take some at-bats away from Evan Longoria and Mauricio Dubon. Longoria had a .722 OPS against righties last season and Dubon is still unproven. Pablo Sandoval did some heavy lifting at third base last season, but he'll miss most of 2020 after Tommy John having surgery and is a free agent. The other backup infield option, Donovan Solano, also hits from the right side. 

Kean Wong, claimed off waivers earlier this month, hits left-handed, but he has just 18 big league at-bats. 

Righty outfielder

Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson (if he can stay healthy) should go into next season looking at meaty roles, but the Giants don't have much from the right side other than Kevin Pillar. Austin Slater's numbers took a nosedive in the second half and Jaylin Davis struggled in a September cameo. Joey Rickard is a candidate to be non-tendered. 

The Giants need outfield help in general, but they're especially lacking in right-handed pop. Zaidi tried plenty of fringe options in 2019. He has the financial wiggle room to take some bigger swings this offseason if he wants to. 

[RELATED: Giants continue Triples Alley work, move bullpens off field]

The Bumgarner situation

If it feels like we've hit on all corners of the roster here, it's because, well, yeah, the roster has a lot of holes. 

The biggest one is now at the top of the rotation, where the Giants very well may be looking for a way to replace their longtime ace. Bringing Bumgarner back would actually pretty much set the rotation. The Giants could feel pretty comfortable going into next spring with Bumgarner, a healthy Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Beede and Logan Webb, followed by the group of Suarez, Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Anderson and any depth options Zaidi is able to scoop up. 

But pull Bumgarner out of that group and you have a big hole, especially because Beede is still mostly unproven and Webb will have an innings limit. Internally, Zaidi and Harris likely have already decided how hard they'll go after Bumgarner. If they're not intent on bringing him back, they'll need rotation help.