Giants

Giants have contract decisions to make on Kevin Pillar, other veterans

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Giants have contract decisions to make on Kevin Pillar, other veterans

SAN FRANCISCO -- The move might not have made headlines outside of Baltimore, but it was one that had many within the industry grumbling. 

The Orioles, in full tank mode, opted to place infielder Jonathan Villar on outright waivers last week rather than pay him about $10 million in arbitration. Villar isn't a household name, but he arguably was Baltimore's best player, and in that sense, he's similar to a man who is awaiting a decision from the Giants. 

Kevin Pillar is projected to make nearly $10 million in his final year of arbitration and the Giants could argue that they would be better-served long-term by giving those at-bats to a younger option and spending their resources in a different way. But the Giants are not the Orioles, and in no way should they resemble them, really, which is what makes Monday's decision so fascinating.

The Giants have until 5 p.m. PT to tender a contract to Pillar and five others, and their decisions will tell us a lot about the direction the front office is going. 

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has talked often over the last year of being competitive while building a new foundation, and Pillar, the Willie Mac Award winner, was a big part of the limited success the Giants did have in 2019, hitting 21 homers and driving in 88 runs while providing plenty of highlights in center field.

There are reasons why the tender decision isn't a slam dunk, though. Pillar ranked 68th out of 69 qualified hitters in the NL with a .293 on-base percentage and while his pitchers love having him in center field, the defensive metrics don't match the eye test. Pillar also turns 31 in January, although he said at the end of the season that he doesn't anticipate slowing down at all.  

"When I was in college and working towards getting to this moment, they used to say that baseball players enter their prime around 30 to 32, and I never forgot that," Pillar said. "I know the game statistically is getting younger, but to me age is just a number. I take care of myself, I eat the right foods, I believe in stretching and working hard and working out.

"I think it's no coincidence that at age 30 I'm having my best year."

Pillar's detailed pre-game routine had him on the field 161 times in 2019, and that's a big reason why the Giants are expected to agree to a deal with their center fielder, whether Monday or before a hearing in February. They might be rebuilding, but they still need to give fans a reason to show up next April, and Pillar was a big one in 2019. 

[RELATED: Giants weighing present vs. future with Pillar]

The other decisions don't involve nearly as much money, but they'll shed some light into what Zaidi and Scott Harris are planning. Alex Dickerson is projected to earn about $1.2 million, per MLB Trade Rumors, the same number the reliable site had for Donovan Solano.

Do Zaidi and Harris believe they can find cheaper, more flexible alternatives for the bench? 

Tyler Anderson, who the Giants picked up from the Rockies in early November, is projected at $2.6 million and a commitment that size would be a strong indication that Anderson is part of the 2020 rotation.

Joey Rickard ($1.1 million) is expected to be non-tendered and the Giants also have to make a call on pitcher Wandy Peralta, who is projected at just $800K but occupies a 40-man spot that may be more valuable if used on someone else later in the offseason. 

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

MLB rumors: Cardinals 'entering the fray' to pursue Madison Bumgarner

With the Winter Meetings rapidly approaching, MLB free agency is heating up.

One of the top available pitchers -- Madison Bumgarner -- is expected to be in high demand, particularly now that Cole Hamels has signed with the Braves and Zack Wheeler reportedly has agreed to a five-year contract with the Phillies. For teams who scoff at Gerrit Cole's price tag, Bumgarner might be the logical compromise.

The Giants have been "in communication" with Bumgarner, but rumor has it another interested team has entered the mix.

MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Thursday that the St. Louis Cardinals have been linked to Bumgarner, citing a source.

St. Louis already has brought back veteran Adam Wainwright on a one-year deal, and after he, Jack Flaherty, Miles Mikolas and Dakota Hudson, there appears to be an opening for Bumgarner in the starting rotation. Signing with the Cardinals would not only allow Bumgarner to continue pitching in the National League, but would also allow him to continue taking his own at-bats, which we know he loves so much. He also has been linked to teams such as the Twins and White Sox, but would forfeit his at-bats to a DH in each of those situations.

[RELATED: How Wheeler's reported $118M contract could affect MadBum]

While Bumgarner is expected to receive a contract in excess of $100 million, Feinsand suggests Wheeler's reported $118 million payday might serve to increase the total.

MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

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MLB rumors: Yankees make signing free agent Gerrit Cole top priority

Gerrit Cole is far and away the gem of the 2019 MLB free-agent class.

The former Pirates and Astros ace led the American League in both ERA and strikeouts last season and finished just behind teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young Award race.

The team that historically always has had the deepest pockets in baseball -- the New York Yankees -- have made Cole a priority in free agency, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported Thursday, citing a source.

Cole is a Southern California native with familial ties to the Giants, a team that also features one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the MLB. San Francisco also has been mentioned as a destination for the ace, who reportedly desires a return to the West Coast.

But if the Yankees, who always have jumped to outbid every other team for talent in free agency, decide to back up the proverbial Brinks truck for the 29-year-old, the Giants might be swiftly eliminated from contention for Cole.

Reports indicate that Cole’s price tag will “shatter” the record set by David Price when he signed a $217 million contract with the Boston Red Sox in 2015.

[RELATED: Report: Giants targeted UGA's pitching coach for same role]

While San Francisco has plenty of money to spend this offseason, it likely won’t engage in a bidding war that could approach $300 million.

Even if longtime Giant and current free agent Madison Bumgarner elects to go elsewhere in free agency, it remains to be seen how much money San Francisco would be willing to shell out for an elite talent like Cole in the heart of his prime.