One of the oddities of the pandemic-shortened MLB season was the San Francisco Giants actually being kind of good. These Giants aren’t the early 2010s whose surprising seasons led to World Series wins. Rather these Giants, led mostly by a bunch of nameless value-adds, almost made the playoffs after Madison Bumgarner left in free agency and Buster Posey opted out.
This wasn’t the product of a long rebuild like we’re seeing with the White Sox and Padres. It should have been more of a cellar-dwelling season for the Giants. But they got stellar production from Mike Yastrzemski, Donovan Solano, plus a good enough campaign from Kevin Gausman that they extended him a qualifying offer and he accepted.
That said, the Giants are still a team at a crossroads. They’re not one of those bad teams that improved and is now one player away from making a postseason push. They’re a mixture of holdovers from their World Series days and smart acquisitions by Farhan Zaidi, who took over as president of baseball operations two years ago.
Figuring out what the Giants should do isn’t as simple as some other teams, where the answer is “sign the best players on the market.” While the Giants could certainly be aided by Trevor Bauer, Marcell Ozuna or George Springer, it’s not exactly realistic.
After 2021, the core of the early ’00s Giants might well be suiting up elsewhere. Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford are all free agents or coming into hefty team options. Johnny Cueto is gone after this season too. In all, the Giants’ payroll could be $83 million lighter after 2021.
So what do they do now? Buy on some mid-level free agents? Sell off usable parts? This is where the fun happens in our “You’re The GM” feature. The Giants are a team that can go a lot of ways. What would you do?
The savvy route: Mid-level upgrades in free agency
The savvy route here is to find slight upgrades without committing too much money. Truth is, the Giants don’t really need any of the high-level free agents except Bauer, who will most likely be the subject of a bidding war. Their outfield is mostly set, though could be upgraded. They need some catching help, but not at JT Realmuto’s price.
The Giants are better off trying to find the right fits on the market. They need a starting pitcher, and someone in the realm of Jake Odorizzi or a buy-low Corey Kluber is more their speed than Bauer. Japanese star Tomoyuki Sugano, if he’s posted as reports suggested, could be a fit too. They could even add a veteran like Jon Lester or Cole Hamels on a one-year deal with the ability to flip them at the trade deadline.
Then they need bullpen help and a left-handed bat for the infield. Didi Gregorius could help, if they put him at second, but more realistically they’re looking at a Kolten Wong/Jurickson Profar type.
The wheelin’ and dealin’ route: Get all the value you can
Will teams be wanting to trade more this offseason? If so, the Giants might be able to move the likes of Cueto and Belt if they agree to eat a large portion of the contracts. Posey? Probably not. And Crawford, maybe. They could also consider trading Solano after two strong seasons. He doesn’t carry a huge contract, so they could potentially get a good return.
In this plan, the Giants still have the flexibility to add free agents in the Profar/Hamels tier, help the bullpen and potentially boost the farm system. Zaidi has proven himself good at identifying value in players like Yastrzemski, so sleuthing out some of that value would make this plan the best of both worlds.
The bold route: Go big on Bauer or Ozuna
Yeah, we said the Giants probably aren’t going to do this — and they’re not — but you’re the GM here, remember. So what do you think?
The Giants haven’t had a left-field power bat since Barry Bonds left, so Ozuna would add some real impact to their lineup. It’s not a savvy move, but it could be a fun one. He hits homers and has flair — but could be a risk on a long-term deal since his defense is already slowing down.
As for Bauer, they definitely need pitching. We just don’t know what he wants. Does he want a short-term, high-dollar contract? Or does he want a long-term deal. The latter probably doesn’t work for the Giants, but a short-term deal might be the type of bold move that could boost the Giants right back into the playoffs.
More from Yahoo Sports: