Giants offseason shopping list begins with starting pitchers

‘That’s going to be the No. 1 priority for us’

Despite winning 107 regular-season games, the Giants find themselves approaching the offseason with the same chief concern that preoccupies lesser teams: Starting pitching.

It doesn’t matter that the Giants just finished posting the best record in franchise history. They’ll be shopping alongside commonplace .500 clubs to get the pitching they want.

“That’s going to be the No. 1 priority for us,” Giants President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said Monday at the team’s annual end-of-season summary, which was conducted a few weeks earlier than the club intended. The Dodgers’ victory in the best-of-five National League Division Series evaporated San Francisco’s hopes for a long October.

Giants starters recorded a tidy 3.44 ERA this year, third-best in the Major Leagues. But Logan Webb is the only member of that contingent who’s guaranteed to return. Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani aknd Alex Wood are eligible for free agency. And the Giants are virtually certain to jettison right-hander Johnny Cueto by paying him a $5 million club option instead of a $21 million annual salary.

The Giants can weather this crisis by re-signing their own free agents. If the team truly is dominated by all-for-one/one-for-all personalities, then management might not mind paying the estimated $45 million needed annually to keep Gausman, DeSclafani and Wood at Oracle Park.

“We have a number of free agents in the rotation and we have interest in retaining all of those guys,” Zaidi said. “But this is probably the segment of the market that’s hardest to pin down because it’s a need that every team has.”

Filling the gaps with free agents formerly with other teams is also a possibility. Many of these hurlers are former staff aces who are aging, infirm or both: Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and Noah Syndergaard, for example. There’s also Max Scherzer, currently being rented by the Dodgers, who might end up being the highest-priced free agent on the market. More sensible purchases could include the likes of Jon Gray, Robbie Ray or Marcus Stroman. The Giants’ aforementioned team-first ethos should make them a destination ballclub. “That’s definitely a recruiting advantage that we have,” Zaidi said.

Trading, the old-fashioned way of reshaping a roster, rarely works anymore. “It’s really hard to trade for starting pitching because of the demand,” Zaidi said.

Infielder-outfielder Kris Bryant impressed the Giants with his multiplicity of skills after they acquired him at the Trade Deadline. But those abilities will make him one of the most highly sought free agents available. “He’ll have a long line of suitors,” acknowledged Zaidi, who also praised the “superstar talent” that Bryant displayed in the Division Series against the Dodgers. Bryant batted .471 (8-for-17) with a 1.147 OPS in those five games. “He was an impact player. That’s what we got him for,” Zaidi said.

Catcher Buster Posey appears likely to remain a Giant. The club has until five days after the last game of the World Series to give Posey a $3 million buyout. More likely, they’ll reach some sort of accord beforehand. Zaidi declared that Posey was baseball’s best catcher during the 2021 season, which demonstrated the Giants’ feelings about retaining him. “That may be the answer that you’re looking for,” Zaidi said. “Having him on this team is a high priority.”

Speculation has arisen surrounding signing first baseman Brandon Belt to an $18.4 million qualifying offer. “That’s a decision we have to think more about,” Zaidi said.

Chris Haft is a longtime baseball scribe who covers the Giants for The Examiner.

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