Giants

How Will Smith signing with Braves in free agency affects Giants' future

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How Will Smith signing with Braves in free agency affects Giants' future

SAN FRANCISCO -- So much of the talk in recent weeks has been about Madison Bumgarner heading home to play for the Atlanta Braves. But Bumgarner, from nearby North Carolina, wasn't the marquee Giants free agent who truly had strong connections to Atlanta. 

Closer Will Smith is from the Georgia area and spends his offseasons in Atlanta, where he lives and dies -- usually the latter -- with his beloved Falcons. Smith had hoped for an opportunity to go back home as a free agent, but more than that, he wanted a chance to play for a contender.

On Thursday, he found his perfect situation. 

A free agent for the first time, Smith turned down the Giants' $17.8 million qualifying offer and instead signed a three-year deal with the NL East-champion Braves that guarantees him $39 million and includes a club option that could make it a $52 million deal. 

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Smith's agent, Jeff Berry of CAA, told teams that Smith would sign the one-year qualifying offer with the Giants if they did not come up better offers by Thursday's 2 p.m. ET deadline to accept or decline. The Braves took him up on it, announcing the deal 19 minutes before the deadline.

For Smith, an All-Star closer and very popular Giant, this is the best possible outcome. For the Giants, there are pluses and minuses. 

Given their situation, the Giants were unlikely to pay that much for a closer in free agency, so Farhan Zaidi took a risk and put the QO on Smith. While $17.8 million would be a lot for a reliever, Zaidi knew that it was not far from the average annual salary you would expect to pay for a high-end free agent closer. He would have been fine with paying Smith that much for one year, knowing that he could try to trade him again in July, and that the ninth inning would be taken care of in the meantime. 

That leads to the downside here. The current closer is ... Tony Watson? Maybe Shaun Anderson? What was one of the best bullpens in the National League in the first half of 2019 has been decimated, with Mark Melancon and Sam Dyson being traded in July, Smith leaving as a free agent, and Reyes Moronta having shoulder surgery.

Looked at individually, those moves have worked out well. The Giants somehow got out from under Melancon's contract and Dyson, once viewed as the 2020 backup plan if Smith left in the offseason, had his own shoulder surgery. The Giants were likely to lose Smith all along, and because of the risk Zaidi took, they'll now get a compensatory draft pick somewhere around the 80th pick in next June's draft, along with excess pool money. 

But grouped together, all these moves have left the new-look front office with some serious lifting to do. They basically have to build an entire bullpen for Gabe Kapler, who didn't get rave reviews for the way he handled that part of the game in Philadelphia. Kapler has vowed to be better the second time around, but he certainly won't be starting out with an experienced group of relievers. 

This is a hit to the 2020 Giants' chances and a hit to the clubhouse. Smith, a Willie Mac Award winner, was well-liked by staffers, coaches and teammates and took young relievers under his wing. He was as dependable as it got in the ninth inning, eliminating the "torture" that's become so infamous at Oracle Park. 

[RELATED: Report: Padres interested in MadBum, to meet with agent]

But it's a hit the Giants expected, and one that was probably unavoidable. Privately, Smith always wanted to head back home. He is desperate to wipe away the sour memories of the 2016 NLDS, his lone postseason experience.

He should get a chance to do it in 2020, playing in front of family members and friends. 

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.