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.
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.
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.
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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.