The decision-making machine never stops chugging along in the front office of a big-league ballclub. In-season, offseason — it never slows down. If you’re not deciding which player deserves a contract extension, you’re determining which free agents to pursue, weighing the pros and cons of a deadline deal, or figuring out where to place or promote a particular prospect.
This bears mentioning because the Giants have some especially difficult decisions to make in the immediate and not-so-distant future, and many of them are going to determine the long-term fate of the franchise.
Let’s take a look at some of the major calls these guys are going to have to make in fairly short order:
Melky Cabrera: They reportedly offered him a three-year extension worth $27 million. He said no. He also suggested he’s no longer open to talking about a new deal during the season. That means the Giants have to get something done during their five-day window of exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents. It starts when the World Series ends. If Cabrera hits the open market, it’ll take a lot more than the love of a few “Melk-men” to keep him in The City.
Hunter Pence: He’s eligible for arbitration this offseason, and he’s already making $10.5 million. Some folks are suggesting he’ll get up to $15 million via arbitration. That’s way too much for a streaky nonslugger, but can the Giants afford to nontender Pence and risk losing him? That would mean they gave up Nate Schierholtz, top catching prospect Tommy Joseph and a minor-league arm for two months of a No. 5 or No. 6 hitter. Yikes.
Brian Wilson: The iconic, but injured, closer will be eligible for arbitration this winter as well, and he’s making $8.6 million this season. Nontender him and you look pretty bad; this is a guy who helped you win a World Series, then suffered his injury by pitching through the pain in an effort to win another. Go to arbitration and, at best, you end up paying roughly $7 million — players can’t see their previous salaries slashed more than 20 percent in the arbitration process — for a guy coming off a second career Tommy John surgery. Double yikes.
Tim Lincecum: He’s going to pull a salary of $20 million next season, which is the last year of his latest two-year contract, and he’ll be a free agent thereafter. If between now and the end of the year he regains the Freak form that made him a living legend in these parts, by all means, sit tight, be thankful you have him in the fold for another year and let the chips fall where they will. But what if he stinks it up from here on out? Dare you trade him — when his value is at its lowest — in an effort to save cash for future deals? It’s a PR nightmare waiting to happen.
Buster Posey: Here’s the guy for whom you might want to stockpile some extra cash. He’s eligible for arbitration for the first time this season, and you could certainly stand pat for a season and take the $2-3 million hit. But if he has another season like this one, the price — via arbitration and in a potential long-term deal — will skyrocket accordingly. You’d like to find some middle ground and buy out his arbitration years right now. But can you afford to? This might be the biggest decision of all.
In other words, general manager Brian Sabean and his trusted aides are about to be under more pressure — and subject to more scrutiny — than ever before.
Mychael Urban, a frequent co-host of The Wheelhouse (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) on 95.7 FM The Game, can be followed on Twitter @BigUrbSports. His website is UrbsUnchained.com.