What to watch for from Giants over first week of 2019 MLB offseason


What to watch for from Giants over first week of 2019 MLB offseason

SAN FRANCISCO -- The most exciting month of free agency ahead of the 2019 Giants season was actually one that's not really supposed to be part of the offseason. 

In early February, Giants officials flew to Las Vegas to meet with Bryce Harper, kicking off a dramatic chase that ended February 28 when Harper signed with the Phillies, when the Giants were well into their workouts and Cactus League games. 

There's a chance that there's similar action -- with fellow Scott Boras client Gerrit Cole, maybe? -- late this offseason, but some of the biggest decisions will come early. Madison Bumgarner is about to hit the open market, and any decision he makes will have a huge impact on the Giants one way or the other. 

That decision could drag out, but here's what you need to know in the opening days of the offseason:

Bumgarner and Smith

The Giants have until Nov. 4 to place the $17.8 million qualifying offer on their free agents, and both Bumgarner and closer Will Smith are candidates. If they then go elsewhere, the Giants would recoup a draft pick. 

It's a lock that Bumgarner will get an offer, and while that hurt Dallas Keuchel's market last offseason, Bumgarner has never been all that worried. He's confident he'll find the right situation, and he's not at all the type to sit out half a season. If the QO does eliminate some suitors, though, that would help the Giants' chances of a reunion. 

Smith is fascinating and could be a surprise recipient of an offer. The Giants have been considering it, knowing that they don't have another steady option for the ninth inning and that top-of-market closers generally make about $15 million a year anyway. Smith, coming off an All-Star season, wouldn't be a bargain, but he wouldn't weigh down the payroll, either, and he once again could be used as a trade chip in July. 

Smith would have a tough decision to make if the Giants tag him. He's 30 and ready to cash in, but $17.8 million is a lot to turn down given where the market has been recently. 

Tony Watson

The left-hander signed an incentive-filled deal during spring training in 2018 and has a player option that will be worth roughly $7 million. With some second-half struggles that brought his numbers down, Watson may decide that free agency won't be any more fruitful. At the end of the season, the sense around the team was the 34-year-old would pick up his option, but Watson has until Nov. 4 to make a decision. 

The Others

Pablo Sandoval is about to get one last nice payday. He's due a $5 million buyout on his $17 million club option, which the Red Sox will pay. What a steal that ended up being for the Giants. 

Stephen Vogt is also about to hit free agency and he should find plenty of suitors after a strong season as Buster Posey's backup. Vogt recently said on MLB Network Radio that he wants to win a World Series, which makes the Giants an unlikely fit. Joey Bart is getting close, anyway.

[RELATED: Muelens reportedly close to leaving Giants]

Roster Moves

The Giants currently have 46 players on their 40-man roster and the guys who were put on the 60-day IL have to be added back, causing a bit of a crunch. The free agents should clear most of the spots, but expect another steady stream of moves -- like the Tyler Anderson claim on Wednesday -- as the Giants scoop up guys who were let go elsewhere. 

Giants broadcasters recall Madison Bumgarner-Clayton Kershaw battles


Giants broadcasters recall Madison Bumgarner-Clayton Kershaw battles

When Madison Bumgarner is on the mound, he’s unstoppable. Things don’t change when he approaches the plate, either.

“When Madison Bumgarner took the mound at Dodger Stadium, or at Oracle Park, and he’s facing the Dodgers, and it usually was [Clayton] Kershaw, it was always an event,” Duane Kuiper told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Amy Gutierrez. “And you knew it was probably going to be a one-run, two-run, low-scoring game until the eighth or ninth inning.”

On Wednesday night, the re-air of MadBum’s first home run off of Kershaw will be broadcasted on NBC Sports Bay Area. It’s a matchup and a battle that has commenced for more than a decade. 

Kuiper compared what Bum could on both sides of the ball to that of 15-year veteran Donnie Robinson, who was a former teammate of Mike Krukow’s.

“Yeah, Donnie Robinson, ‘The Caveman,’ was a great hitter,” Kuiper said. “And he was a great pitcher.” 

Still, Bumgarner was a different breed. He was intimidating, just as Kershaw was. When the hitter would face him, he would feel the presence of the three-time World Series champion, as would everyone in attendance and watching from home. 

[RELATED: Looking back at the 19 homers Giants have hit off Kershaw]

Imagine having that reflected on both sides with Kershaw and Bum going up against one another. The two had that demeanor about one another that would create something dynamic out on the field. 
A head-to-head you wouldn’t want to miss.

Giants announce additional funds to take care of event-based workers


Giants announce additional funds to take care of event-based workers

It's unclear when games will return to Oracle Park, but the Giants on Wednesday announced a program that will help keep stadium employees afloat while the sport is shut down by the coronavirus. 

The program, announced by president and CEO Larry Baer and vice president and general counsel Jack Bair, has two tiers and will cover about 2,600 employees who work at Oracle Park during games and events. In addition, Baer said all full-time Giants employees will remain employed and have been working from home. 

Major League Baseball had previously announced that all teams would pay $1 million each to help pay ballpark employees, and the Giants' ownership group and executives are chipping in an additional $700,000. It will be distributed in two ways.

The first part of the program covers event-based employees who technically work for a third party, such as the 900 Bon Appetit workers who handle food and catering at Oracle Park. Those employees will get a one-time grant of $500. The Giants expect about 2,000 workers to request this grant. 

The second part covers event-based staffers and will provide an additional $100-250 per month depending on length of employment and how many hours were worked during the 2019 season. This primarily benefits people like ushers, security guards and maintenance workers, along with game-day workers like the scoreboard operators and group that tosses t-shirts into the stands. 

"They are in many ways, in our view, really the backbone of what we're doing," Baer said of the collective group. "They're the people that work hard, work diligently and serve our fans, which is the lifeblood of our sport and our business. Without games, obviously many of them will encounter hardship."

The majority of event-based employees had a second job elsewhere, though many work at places like Chase Center, which also has been shut down. The Giants have encouraged everyone covered by their program to also apply for unemployment benefits. They have confirmed with local and federal government officials that these supplemental payments won't impact unemployment eligibility. 

"The benefits that we're offering, in addition to unemployment, should roughly equate to what people would have made if games were played, and in some cases it could be more," Bair said. 

None of the newly announced funds came from players but Baer said some have expressed an interest in working on their own programs, and he intends to reach out to them. When the players do return to Oracle Park, it should look different. 

Some work continues on the Mission Rock development since it has been included in the "essential work" description given by the city because some of the project is dedicated to affordable housing. Workers in what used to be Lot A are practicing social distancing and wiping down equipment as they work. 

Baer also said construction on the bullpens and outfield walls has been stopped but will restart when the Giants are given the all-clear by the city. 

"We have timelines available and when we have a game at Oracle Park, we would have enough lead time to perform that work," Baer said. "Much of that work had been done already."