The San Francisco Giants have officially avoided arbitration with three players: speedy outfielder Gregor Blanco, infielder Tony Abreu and right-handed pitcher Yusmeiro Petit. All three moves are minor considering that none of the aforementioned players are critically vital to the Giants’ success, although each player figures to hold a distinctive role in 2014. The most glaring issue arising from the Giants’ updated arbitration situation is a severe lack of depth on the bench.
Blanco is the most crucial player on the Giants’ short list of players who have avoided arbitration. He filled in nicely for center fielder Angel Pagan in the wake of a serious hamstring injury last season, posting a .341 on-base percentage with 50 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. Blanco will resume his role as the Giants’ fourth outfielder in 2014. He’s easily San Francisco’s most important bench player, given his ability to play Gold Glove-caliber outfield defense and supply his team with speed on the base paths in the late innings.
But Blanco isn’t a concrete difference-maker that can change the complexion of a game off the bench. The Giants struggled on a massive level to manufacture runs in the late innings last season, specifically because their bench was entirely decrepit of talent. San Francisco’s best home run threat was Brett Pill, who now plays in the Korean Baseball Organization.
According to Chris Haft of MLB.com, Blanco will earn $2.525 million in 2014, the biggest contract of his career. Abreu will join Blanco on the bench, ideally supplying the Giants with pop as a pinch hitter. Abreu registered a .442 slugging percentage in 138 official at-bats with the Giants last season. He can play three positions on the diamond, presenting manager Bruce Bochy with versatility. Abreu isn’t a legitimate power threat, though, but will likely be slapped with the responsibility of driving in runners in clutch situations. Abreu owns a career .241 batting average in late and close situations, signifying a void in the Giants’ bench. Abreu will earn $745,000 in 2014, an estimated increase of $247,000 from last season.
The final member of the Giants’ short list who avoided arbitration is Petit, a journeyman right-handed pitcher who enjoyed the best season of his up-and-down big league career in 2013. Petit came within one out of pitching a perfect game in September, capturing San Francisco by storm. He posted a 4-1 record with a respectable 3.56 ERA in 48 innings of work. Petit projects as the Giants’ long-man next season, barring an inexplicably poor performance in spring training. At 29 years old, Petit has earned the biggest salary of his professional career at $845,000.
The Giants still need to negotiate contracts with slugging first baseman Brandon Belt and utility man Joaquin Arias. The parties involved have exchanged proposals on one-year contracts, although a long-term extension could be in the works for Belt, who is widely considered a franchise cornerstone. Belt has consistently flashed significant signs of improvement. He recorded an .841 OPS in his second full season as a pro in 2013, a figure that ranked among the best in baseball at his position.
According to Haft, Belt filed a $3.6 million proposal while the Giants countered with $2.05 million, marking a substantial disconnect. The 25-year-old earned $531,500 last season.
The Giants are approximately $400,000 separated from Arias’ one-year proposal. The mostly reliable utility man asked for $1.5 million whereas the Giants countered with a $1.1 million deal. If a compromise isn’t reached with both players before Feb. 1, the cases would be heard by an arbitration panel in court, who will dictate what the Giants will be forced to pay for each player’s services in 2014.