Which free agents will Giants bring back?

Which free agents will Giants bring back?

SAN FRANCISCO — General manager Bobby Evans walked through a somber clubhouse earlier this week and said goodbye to as many players as he could. Buster Posey did the same in a situation that was new and somewhat awkward. 

The Giants have grown accustomed to only two endings. In odd years, they get eliminated with enough time to fully wind down before the final out. In even years, they gather for parades and then retreat to AT&T Park, packing up in a glow of euphoria. 

This was different. For the first time in the Bruce Bochy era, the Giants exited the postseason before it was over.

As Posey worked the room, several players said quietly that they weren’t sure what they would do next. In the moment, they mostly opted for hugs, knowing this particular group won’t be together again. The Giants have six free agents who have 14 total rings in orange and black. All could be gone. 

“When I addressed the team after we lost, I made a point to thank all the free agents,” Bochy said. “We don’t know whats going to happen. It’s baseball, but what they’ve done for us and our success, I couldn’t thank them enough. I made a point to thank all of them at that point and talk to them after things settled down.”

Bochy, Evans, Brian Sabean and the rest of the staff will spend October discussing future plans. Here’s an early look at the free agents, and the likelihood of reunions: 

Javier Lopez: Some team officials expected the 39-year-old to call it a career after the final out, but Lopez, the only active big leaguer with four rings, did not sound like a man headed for the TV booth quite yet. “I don’t know what’s next for me,” he said. “Free agency is going to be what it is. If I have an opportunity to come back, I’ll welcome that. It’s out of my hands at this point.”

Lopez is as good as it gets in a clubhouse, but he had a down year by his standards, working carefully to the lefties he sees almost exclusively. Left-handed hitters posted a .318 on-base percentage against him, a far cry from the .177 of 2015.

Lopez is said to have a very small list of teams that he would play for next season, but the Giants likely will go with Will Smith, Steven Okert and Josh Osich from the left side.

Sergio Romo: He briefly regained the closer job in late September, but he gave the lead back in Game 3 and was a key part of the Game 4 collapse. As he spoke to reporters Tuesday, Romo seemed to sense that his time in the room might be up. He said he would love to be back, but he understands that his status has changed. 

The Giants will bring in a closer, and Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, George Kontos and Cory Gearrin — who replicates much of what Romo does — are likely returning from the right side. Where does Romo, 33 years old and coming off an injury-marred season, fit in? The Giants know Romo’s positives and negatives, and he is a player who values comfort, but a return is a long shot. 

Santiago Casilla: A key part of three championship clubs, he lost his ninth-inning role in mid-September and Bochy didn't even have him warm up in Game 4. That should really tell you all you need to know. Casilla wept after the game, and Bochy said he would reach out in the coming days. 

“He did so much for us,” Bochy said. “I know there were some hiccups with him. I was trying to keep him out of high-leverage situations because of that towards the end, but this guy really helped us put some rings on our finger and I’ll never forget that. "

Casilla posted the highest strikeout rate of his career and lowered his walk rate. He still throws 95 with a good curveball, and his ERA+ was 15 points better than the league average. Casilla is capable of pitching in the late innings. It won’t be in San Francisco. 

Angel Pagan: After five years of peaks and valleys, Pagan deemed himself unable to play the two most important games of the season because of back spasms. Only he knows the precise level of his pain, but it did not play well in the clubhouse. Pagan helped the Giants win the 2012 title, and for that they will forever be grateful, but he was worth just 1.4 WAR over the length of a four-year, $40 million deal. The Giants intend to get younger and more explosive in left field. Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker are waiting. 

Gregor Blanco: A shoulder injury limited him to one at-bat in September, but he ended up starting two NLDS games thanks to the Pagan injury. That has been the story of Blanco’s tenure, and he has been one of the better backup outfielders in the National League since winning a bench spot in 2012. 

Blanco had a rough year, posting a .224/.309/.311 slash line, but he still provides speed off the bench and solid defense at all three outfield positions. He wants to come back. His problem? Gorkys Hernandez does all the same things, and he’s three years younger with a chance at some upside. At first glance, it seems Blanco’s run here is done, but a match might be made late in the offseason. 

Jake Peavy: Bochy walked out of his office an hour after the season ended and asked a reporter if Peavy was still around. The veteran right-hander came up with Bochy’s Padres and helped turn the tide after a trade from the Red Sox in 2014. This was supposed to be his final year, but it didn’t work out as hoped on or off the field. 

Peavy fought through injuries while posting a 5.54 ERA in 31 appearances, 10 coming out of the bullpen. Nobody tried harder in the second half to try and change the vibe in the clubhouse, and the 35-year-old still holds tremendous value in that respect. He will forever be welcome at AT&T Park and in Bochy’s clubhouse, but the Giants have four starters locked into the rotation, with Matt Cain signed for one more year and Blach and Tyler Beede itching for a full-time look. There simply isn’t a job in San Francisco for Peavy. He is expected to try and win a rotation spot elsewhere next spring, likely as a non-roster invitee. 

There’s a very real possibility that the Giants go 0-for-6 on their key free agents. That would have been unthinkable three or four winters ago, but Evans has proven willing to move on. Remember, Ryan Vogelsong spent this season in Pittsburgh. Tim Lincecum pitched in Anaheim. Yusmeiro Petit is a National. 

There is one free agent I haven’t mentioned, though, and I actually think he’s the most likely to return. Gordon Beckham spent just a week with the Giants, heading home after Game 162, but he was such an energetic and funny breath of fresh air that one key member of the clubhouse said he would personally approach Evans to suggest a reunion. 

The Giants were a serious bunch this season, and bringing back a Ryan Theriot/Jeremy Affeldt type for one of the last bench spots wouldn’t be a bad idea. In the coming months, we’ll find out if Beckham or any others make the cut.

“You hope they’re all back,” Posey said. “You get close to guys after seven years of playing together, but the main thing is to remember all the good stuff that we accomplished together. Whether people go in different directions, that’s the stuff that you hold on to.”

Gabe Kapler's relationship with Giants' clubhouse must be focal point

Gabe Kapler's relationship with Giants' clubhouse must be focal point

Gabe Kapler’s tenure in Philadelphia wasn’t met with much in the way of brotherly love.

Kapler was fired after just two seasons in Philadelphia, both of which saw the Phillies fail to reach the postseason.

Now officially minted as the newest manager of the Giants, NBC Sports Philadelphia Phillies Insider Jim Salisbury spoke about Kapler’s tenure and how it ended for the 44-year-old.

“I’m sure Gabe learned a lot, because a lot of things went wrong,” Phillies Insider Jim Salisbury said on SportsNet Central on Tuesday night. “Failure can be a great teacher.”

An overall record just below .500 (161-163) doesn’t necessarily evoke abject failure, but Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi made sure to cover all his bases (I’m sorry, it’s late) in learning about Kapler’s time in eastern Pennsylvania. 

One thing the front office liked, in particular, was the reviews from players who had operated under Kapler.

“Players like Gabe a lot,” Salisbury said. “ And I think the reason they do is he lets them do whatever they want.” 

Although Kapler’s leadership style resonated with his roster in Philadelphia, he had a much stronger connection to Phillies’ management than he did with his own dugout. 

“I always thought in Philadelphia, he bonded a lot better with the front office than he did with the clubhouse,” Salisbury said. “I didn’t think they always played for him, but I think he always responded to what the front office wanted.”

[RELATED: Zaidi addresses Kapler controversy after Giants hire him]

Joining an old co-worker in Zaidi likely will make that transition a lot smoother for Kapler, but it remains to be seen how players in the Giants’ clubhouse respond to a very different style of manager from three-time World Series champion Bruce Bochy.

More on Kapler from NBC Sports Philadelphia

Leadership issues led to Kapler's firing
Kapler's reactions on final day of Phillies season
Bryce Harper's thoughts on Kapler's future
Kapler and Velasquez have miscommunication

Why Farhan Zaidi tied his, Giants' fortunes to new manager Gabe Kapler

Why Farhan Zaidi tied his, Giants' fortunes to new manager Gabe Kapler

SAN FRANCISCO -- The best way to get through life on social media is to never check the mentions, but a lot of Giants employees couldn't help themselves over the past month.

The franchise's search for a new manager was mostly quiet outside of the building, but occasionally a scrap of information would leak out, and Giants fans were not shy about making their opinions known about one particular candidate. Team employees found themselves gravitating toward Twitter, reading some of the reaction.

Gabe Kapler was the favorite when the Giants started this process more than a month ago, and in the end, he was Farhan Zaidi's choice.

Zaidi and Andrew Friedman nearly hired Kapler as the manager in Los Angeles before settling on Dave Roberts, but given a second chance, the Giants' president of baseball operations is tying a large part of his own future to Kapler, whom the Phillies fired last month after two seasons.

This perhaps is the biggest decision Zaidi will make over the course of his initial five-year contract with the Giants, and it's one he did not at all take lightly.

The Giants knew Kapler would be a controversial choice, and sources say there was division at the upper levels of the organization about which way they should go. As the finish line neared, Kapler came back to San Francisco.

"He has met with everybody we have," one Giants person said Monday.

There are team employees who preferred Astros bench coach Joe Espada and a path with less baggage, but in the end, this was Zaidi's choice, and it needed to be.

When the Giants brought Zaidi up from LA a year ago, they handed him the keys to the baseball operations department. You can't do that, and then keep him from making his own decision with his most important hire.

Zaidi was deliberate, interviewing two internal candidates and a handful of rising coaches from other organizations. As of Monday afternoon, some of his coworkers believed Zaidi truly had not made up his mind, but the search kept coming back to Kapler.

The reasons for optimism are clear. Kapler is known as a good communicator, and he was a rising star while with the Dodgers. The Giants believe they need changes across all levels, and Kapler helped modernize the Dodgers while serving as director of player development. While he went 161-163 as the manager in Philadelphia, Kapler does have two years of experience and hopefully has learned from his mistakes. Zaidi has publicly talked of the boost a manager can get the second time around.

Kapler certainly has the résumé that can help overhaul a Giants clubhouse that had become stale. He played a dozen years in the big leagues, and that carries significant weight. His time working in the minors should serve him well, as he takes over a team that used 64 players in 2019 and expects to bring in plenty of prospects over the next two years.

But there also are reasons why you'd be ratioed with the mere mention of Kapler as a front-runner. There are questions about the way he handled assault allegations against Dodgers prospects while in LA, and Kapler and his bosses will have to answer those as he's introduced Wednesday. Zaidi gave his initial thoughts Tuesday night, but he'll likely have to address it again. Kapler will, too.

[RELATED: Krukow explains why he likes Kapler's hiring]

Ultimately, this decision will be judged on wins and losses, and Kapler is coming off a rough finish in Philadelphia. The Phillies had plenty of injuries, but they went 81-81 and finished fourth in the NL East after adding Bryce Harper.

The Giants have been worse than that in recent years, of course. That's why they brought in Zaidi and tasked him with overhauling the organization. They gave him the keys and trusted him to make the right decisions.

The first year was mostly positive, with the big league roster showing strides and the farm system hinting that it might get this team back to contention sooner than expected. This is the start of Zaidi's second year with the Giants, so he took a big swing, giving Kapler a three-year contract. Starting Wednesday, when they'll stand side by side at Oracle Park, they'll try to prove it was the right decision.

The easiest way to do that is one that worked for the previous regime. Win, and win big.

More on Kapler from NBC Sports Philadelphia

Leadership issues led to Kapler's firing by Phillies 
Kapler's reactions on final day of Phillies season
Bryce Harper's thoughts on Kapler's future
Kapler, Velasquez have miscommunication