Vogelsong, Lopez in limbo as free agency nears
Giants have until late Monday before both players hit open market
SAN FRANCISCO -- If the Giants feel any urgency to retain Ryan Vogelsong and Javier Lopez, their top two performers whose futures are in limbo, they're hiding it well.
Vice president and assistant general manager Bobby Evans said succinctly, "No update," when asked Friday about the status of contract talks involving the pair of pitchers.
Something will happen by 2 p.m. PT on Monday.
Once that hour passes, Vogelsong will become a free agent if the club declines to pick up his $6.5 million option for 2014 and instead pays him a $300,000 buyout. Lopez is currently a free agent, and like Vogelsong, would hit the open market if he and the Giants haven't agreed to terms by 9 PT Monday, which would be the end of the Giants' exclusive negotiating window with both players. Both would remain available to re-sign with the Giants should they enter the open market.
The inaction with both 36-year-olds contrasts sharply with the club's approach to right fielder Hunter Pence and right-hander Tim Lincecum. The Giants agreed with Pence on a five-year, $90 million deal one day before the season ended. Lincecum was fully expected to gauge his value in free agency when he suddenly forged a two-year, $35 million agreement with San Francisco last week.
Vogelsong's agent, Dave Meier, has patiently awaited a call from the 415 area code.
"I haven't heard anything from the Giants, one way or the other," Meier said. "The ball's in their court. They control the destiny here."
Before the season began, Giants executives probably would have snatched up Vogelsong's option as if it were a coupon for free pizza. The right-hander posted a 27-16 record with a 3.05 ERA in 2011-2012, was the team's leading winner in the 2012 postseason (3-0) and captivated fans with his ascent from obscurity to glory. He endured a subpar 2013 season (4-6, 5.73), though he sustained a broken right hand when he was hit by a pitch on May 20 by Washington's Craig Stammen. Vogelsong also endured the physical erosion that struck almost every Giant who participated in the World Baseball Classic.
The Giants are expected to pursue a free-agent starting pitcher. But even if they sign one, they'd still need Vogelsong to complete a five-man contingent, unless they plan on obtaining two free-agent starters. Given the perennial Major League-wide hunger for starting pitching, the Giants likely would encounter challenging competition for Vogelsong's services if he became a free agent.
"Obviously, Ryan's first choice is to remain a San Francisco Giant," Meier said. "He loves the city, he loves the fans, he loves the coaches and he loves the ballclub."
Lopez expressed similar allegiance on numerous occasions this year. He demonstrated his loyalty to the Giants by quickly signing contract extensions when he was eligible for salary arbitration following the 2010 season and for free agency after 2011.
But Lopez, who earned $4.25 million this year, conceivably could command a more lucrative salary on the open market. No other left-handed reliever among potential free agents with more than 25 appearances matched Lopez's 1.83 ERA this season, though J.P. Howell (2.03) and Scott Downs (2.49) came close.