The Giants have stuck to a similar path for most of Farhan Zaidi's tenure when it comes to negotiating with free agents. Zaidi has handed out just one multi-year deal -- two years for Wilmer Flores -- with all the one-year agreements generally including a modest base salary and a chance for the player to make millions more by hitting performance bonuses.
For pitchers, that has always meant reaching a certain number of starts or innings. Kevin Gausman's deal last offseason, for instance, included $1 million in bonuses for hitting four different benchmarks in games started. Anthony DeSlafani has a base salary of $6 million but can make an additional $62,500 when he hits 140, 160, 180 and 200 innings.
Alex Wood's contract had a similar theme, but there was an interesting twist.
Wood, signed last week to fill out the rotation, has a base salary of $3 million but can make an additional $3 million in performance bonuses. What was new is the way those bonuses were structured. When Wood reaches his 12th game of recording 10 outs or more, he makes $125,000. The same happens when he hits 14 10-out games, and it's bumped up to $250,000 when he hits 16, 18, 22 and 24 10-out games. If Wood gets to 26, 28 or 30 such appearances, he gets an additional $500,000 each time.
Ten outs, or 3 1/3 innings, seems like an odd benchmark to hit every five days, but Zaidi said the bonuses protect pitchers who might be used behind an opener occasionally. Wood can reach 10 outs as a starter or reliever.
"If there's ever a case where we think it makes sense to use an opener, that's not something that should be held against the pitcher from a financial standpoint," Zaidi said.
To be clear, the Giants signed Wood to start every five days. They have used an opener just three times in Zaidi's two seasons -- once under Bruce Bochy and twice under Gabe Kapler -- but contracts cover every conceivable scenario, and as the game has changed, the same has been true for contract asks. Zaidi said the Giants had similar conversations with other starting pitchers last offseason and again this offseason. Most of the pitchers he has signed came with at least the possibility of being used as a reliever, but that's not the plan for 2021, at least not now.
"We view Alex as a guy who is going to start games for us and hope we can give him the ball every fifth day," Zaidi said. "When you have reliable starters that's always going to be preferable to trying to patch together 27 outs at the front and at the back of a game."
Wood actually had a similar deal last offseason, when he chose the Dodgers over the Giants. He reportedly had a $4 million base salary with $2.5 million in innings incentives and another $3.5 million available via a points system that combined starts or relief appearances of 10 outs or more. Wood's first appearance was a start, but he spent a month on the IL with a shoulder injury and returned as a reliever, although none of those appearances reached 3 1/3 innings. If he stays healthy, he'll have a much easier time hitting the bonuses in 2021 no matter what Kapler's rotation plans look like.
"Pitchers are looking for that kind of protection, which I think is a reasonable ask because you don't want to feel like you're potentially giving up something financially if the team feels like using an opener makes sense," Zaidi said. "I don't really see it as being something that happens commonly, but again, it's a reasonable ask."