SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco Giants declined their 2016 contract options on outfielders Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd.
Both players became free agents Wednesday night, but the Giants left open the possibility of bringing them back later in the offseason.
General manager Bobby Evans made the announcement on a conference call, saying, “It’s just tough timing for us to make decisions right now relative to (Aoki’s) situation given a pretty good list of things we need to do this winter.”
“To predetermine left field today is just premature,” Evans said.
San Francisco, which missed the playoffs after winning its third World Series title in five years in 2014, turned down a $5.5 million option on Aoki and will owe him a $700,000 buyout.
Byrd had an $8 million option, with no buyout. He was acquired in a trade with the Reds on Aug. 20 and was the regular right fielder down the stretch in place of injured Hunter Pence.
Byrd batted .272 with four home runs and 31 RBIs in 39 games for the Giants.
“Both contributed significantly,” Evans said.
San Francisco has spots to fill in the rotation, though. Right-hander Tim Hudson is retiring, while Mike Leake, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents. Lincecum is trying to work his way back from hip surgery.
“There’s trade options and there’s free-agent options and even international scenarios,” Evans said. “Keeping our options open in a number of areas, that’s the reason.”
Aoki was limited to 93 games, batting .287 with five home runs and 26 RBIs before a broken right leg and concussion derailed his second half. But Aoki, who returned home to Japan a few weeks ago, is healthy and the injuries didn’t affect the decision, Evans said.
Both players have interest in returning, Evans said, but it would be down the line after the Giants figure out what else they need to do this offseason, such as looking into adding a top-tier left fielder on the free-agent market like Justin Upton.
“We’re going to need to look at our outfield. We can’t have an offseason without looking at ways to improve ourselves,” Evans said. “Keep an open dialogue with (Aoki) and an open door with Byrd and see what happens over the course of the winter. ... Definitely not closing any doors. It’s a timing issue.”
First baseman Brandon Belt hasn’t been cleared to play following his concussion but is expected to be examined by a specialist in the coming days and should be fully healthy come spring training. Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco was cleared after his concussion.