Will Smith

MLB rumors: Will Smith, Giants agree to one-year contract, avoid arbitration

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MLB rumors: Will Smith, Giants agree to one-year contract, avoid arbitration

SAN FRANCISCO — The arbitration season won’t come with any drama for the Giants. 

The team agreed to a one-year, $4.225 million deal with closer Will Smith, according to USA Today, avoiding an arbitration hearing. The Giants previously had signed Joe Panik and Sam Dyson to one-year deals and non-tendered Hunter Strickland and Gorkys Hernandez.

They have no remaining arbitration-eligible players. 

Smith, 29, would enter the spring as the favorite to be the Opening Day closer, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be at Scottsdale Stadium. The Giants have fielded calls on Smith all offseason and have felt there’s a good chance they can get a strong return for Smith in a trade. They were waiting for the free agent market to clear up a bit, and that mostly has happened in recent weeks. 

Smith is coming off a strong season during which he returned from Tommy John surgery and posted a 2.55 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, with his velocity returning to pre-surgery levels. He took over the closer job soon after Strickland punched a door and held it throughout the second half, totaling 14 saves. 

This is the final year that Smith — acquired at the deadline in 2016 — is under contract, which is why the Giants have been eager to try to move him for prospects. 

The organization has not gone to a hearing since 2004, when A.J. Pierzynski was the target.

MLB Rumors: Giants 'in contact' with Angels on Will Smith, Tony Watson

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MLB Rumors: Giants 'in contact' with Angels on Will Smith, Tony Watson

The Giants bullpen is one of the few elements that can be left alone this offseason.

But that doesn't mean it will be.

Simply put, it's a strong group of pitchers, but that means they more than likely have a trade target on their backs -- which is the case for relievers Will Smith and Tony Watson. 

Back in December, Duane Kuiper spoke to KNBR to talk about pitching -- specifically Madison Bumgarner -- who has been a constant in Giants trade talks during the winter months.

But during that segment, he mentioned that Smith and Watson could be the pitchers that will be traded. And the Athletic's Andrew Baggarly reported that the Angels have been "in constant contact" with the Giants regarding the two relievers.

Kuiper was on to something.

Last season with the Giants, Watson boasted a 2.59 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 66 innings. He matched his career-high strikeout/walk ratio and had a career-best 27.6% strikeout percentage. 

That's one way to take advantage of a pitcher's park.

Smith had himself a terrific season also. The 29-year-old lefty had a 2.55 ERA with 71 K's in 53 innings. He also had received some interest from the Cardinals.

The Angels bullpen could use the lefty help from both Watson and Smith, but really, what team couldn't? 

[RELATED: Trevor Cahill signs with the Angels]

It appears not all of the attention is on MadBum. At least not at the moment.

Giants players' no-trade clauses complicate any rumored Hot Stove move

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Giants players' no-trade clauses complicate any rumored Hot Stove move

This is your annual offseason reminder that the Giants have several players with full or limited no-trade clauses.

We mention this because a recent rumor circulating in Chicago has the Giants linked to Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward in a possible trade involving relievers Will Smith and Mark Melancon.

One issue: Melancon has a full no-trade clause as part of his contract that pays him $14 million in each of the next two seasons.

No-trade clauses are tricky because they make any transaction dependent on a player’s decision. And while common sense might suggest Melancon would gladly waive his NTC to leave a rebuild in San Francisco for a contender in Chicago, there’s no guarantee. Players stay with teams for many reasons — comfort with the city and teammates, family concerns, etc. — and you never know what will drive their decision. Sometimes, it’s just a whim.

Heyward also comes with his own issues. First, he’s owed $106 million in salary over the next five seasons — that’s a lot of money for a Giants team already saddled with heavy financial commitments in the coming years. Second, Heyward is entering his age-30 season with diminishing skills. He’s hit just 26 total homers in three seasons with the Cubs, and while the Giants certainly need outfielders, they also need bats with pop, especially for $100 million-plus.

Oh, and Heyward has a partial no-trade clause, meaning he can identify a number of teams where he can’t be traded. Are the Giants on that list? Considering their sliding prospects of being contenders, they could be. Few veterans would be willing to leave a team with which they won a World Series, no matter how nice the weather at the destination.

We won’t even go into the possibility that the Giants would be sacrificing their most valuable trade piece in Smith, who’s scheduled to receive $4 million or so in arbitration, to absorb a bad contract. It certainly wouldn’t be how Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ new president of baseball operations, would want his first major move in charge of the team to go.

[RELATED: How Miller to Cardinals might be good news for Giants fans]

Before you swap another player in Melancon’s place in this Heyward deal, let’s review the full list of other Giants players with some form of a no-trade clause. Catcher Buster Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford have full protection, and pitcher Jeff Samardzija and first baseman Brandon Belt have partial clauses. That doesn’t leave many moveable Giants assets, particularly in a complicated deal like acquiring Heyward. Cash to cover the outfielder’s hefty contract certainly would have to be involved.

In the end, players negotiate no-trade clauses for one simple reason: They don’t want to be traded against their will. That makes the Giants’ rebuilding project a little more difficult and shouldn’t be forgotten as the inevitable Hot Stove rumors hit over the next two months.