SAN FRANCISCO -- The easiest decision the Giants make this offseason will be picking up Madison Bumgarner’s $12 million contract option for 2019.

What comes next will represent the most difficult decision.

Bumgarner has only one year remaining on a below-market contract extension that he signed in 2012. He has, in recent years, been the best big-game pitcher in the sport, but the Giants are far from realistically playing in postseason games next October, and there are some people in the Giants organization who believe it's finally time to trade him for a collection of young prospects who can accelerate a rebuild.

Giants executive Brian Sabean said the question of what to do with Bumgarner will be part of any discussions with candidates to take over the team's baseball operations department.

“That would certainly be heavy in the equation, and I’m sure that would come up in the interview process,” Sabean said.

Bumgarner has said he'd like to stay with the Giants long term, but the sides haven't had substantial contract talks as his final season approaches.

A year ago, team officials would brush off any questions about Bumgarner. This time around, there is a greater acknowledgment that he's their greatest trade chip, and the trade discussions must at least be had, even if they don't result in anything.

Bumgarner posted a 3.26 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in a 2018 season shortened by a pinky injury. This was the first of two option years that were tacked on to a five-year, $35 million deal.