Why Giants have some difficult decisions based off arbitration projections

Alex Pavlovic
NBC Sports BayArea

SAN FRANCISCO - When he was asked about his arbitration-eligible players earlier this month, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean pointed out that the Giants are not trying to come to terms with a huge name like Bumgarner or Posey. The list is one full of players who saw plenty of time in 2018, though. 

The Giants have six players eligible for arbitration, including their starting second baseman and three key members of the bullpen. They generally have not had tough arbitration decisions in recent years, but there's a strong chance they non-tender at least one or two of these players and spend that money elsewhere.

Sabean, who is still in charge until a new executive is hired, would not give hints one way or the other. 

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"Whether they'll still be on the team, that's for somebody else to decide," he said. "We are not worried about arbitration."

The Giants should have someone new in place by the time these decisions have to be made in about six weeks, but thanks to MLB Trade Rumors we can take an early look at what the six players might be looking at. The website projects arbitration salaries each year and has proven to have a very accurate model. Here are this year's projections: 

Sam Dyson – $5.4MM
Joe Panik – $4.2MM
Will Smith – $4.1MM
Hunter Strickland – $2.5MM
Gorkys Hernandez – $1.6MM
Chase d'Arnaud – $800K

Smith, the closer, is a no-brainer. He'll be back at some price in that neighborhood, and the Giants might want to look into discussing a multi-year deal given how well he threw in 2018.

Dyson also pitched well, posting a 2.69 ERA in 74 appearances. He's a workhorse for Bruce Bochy, and while he's starting to get pricey for a non-closer, he still holds plenty of value and could be a trade chip if the Giants once again fall out of contention.

Early in the season, Strickland looked headed for a much higher salary, but he punched a door, lost his ninth-inning job, and didn't look anything like his old self once he returned. Strickland still is cheap for a proven reliever, but his second half was concerning, and a new regime may decide that Melancon, Watson, Dyson and Smith should be surrounded by relievers making the league minimum. 

Hernandez surprised with 15 homers, but his OPS dipped to .506 after the All-Star break. The Giants don't have much outfield depth, though, and their starting center fielder - Steven Duggar - is coming off shoulder surgery. Bringing Hernandez back for one more year would be the wise move, and it seems the likely one.

On the infield, there is depth, and d'Arnaud's spot on the 40-man roster will likely be needed for a free agent addition or player being protected from the Rule 5 Draft. 

Finally, there's the biggest name. The Panik decision may be the most interesting one the Giants make this offseason. He's a former All-Star and Gold Glove winner, but he had a down year and a new baseball ops leader won't have any sort of history with Panik.

It's very possible the Giants decide to look elsewhere at second base, and the difference between this $4.2 million projection and the annual salaries of some free agent options won't be much. Panik spoke about the looming decision at the end of the regular season. 

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