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Ushering in a new era, is a farewell tour coming for Giants aging stars?

Where has the time gone? The year is 2021, Spring Training is underway, and the San Francisco Giants prepare for what could be the final season with three of the cornerstone players who helped bring multiple World Series titles back to the Bay Area.

As the Giants prepare to welcome the next exciting core of players to the major league squad, the veteran core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt prepare for their final season under contract with the team.

Before top prospects such as Marco Luciano, Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop, and others are on display at Oracle Park, the Giants have tough decisions to make regarding Posey, Crawford and Belt. The trio hit free agency after the 2021 season, and it’s possible this could be the final year in a Giants uniform for all three.

Belt, who signed a 5-year, $72.8 million contract extension in 2016, and Crawford, who signed a 6-year, $75 million contract extension in 2015, will be unrestricted free agents after the 2021 season. Posey, who signed a massive 8-year, $159 million contract extension in 2013, has a $22 million club option for 2022, which is not likely to be picked up.

In recent years, the Giants have been very generous in terms of handing out lucrative contracts. They’re a loyal franchise, sometimes to a fault. Under the new leadership of President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi and General Manager Scott Harris, that will change.

All three of Posey, Belt and Crawford’s contracts likely coming off the books this upcoming offseason will give the Giants a ton of financial flexibility heading into 2022.

Zaidi was brought in to shift the organization away from bad contracts that had inflated the team’s payroll in recent years. If the Giants decide not to pick up Posey’s 2022 option, the team will be left with roughly a $50 million commitment — pennies compared to the $200+ million payrolls they’ve flirted with over the years.

If the team decided they wanted to move on from all three, they should feel confident given the current state of their farm system. Catching prospects Bart and Patrick Bailey are expected to take over catching in some capacity soon. Luciano looks like a potential star in the making, with infield prospect Will Wilson likely to slot in beside him at either shortstop or third base. Logan Wyatt offers the Giants an intriguing power-hitting prospect at first base.

The organization has already established the next core of players who will be tasked with doing what Posey, Belt, and Crawford did in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Some of that core won’t be ready this season, and probably even next season as well, which begs the question: “Should the Giants re-sign any of their aging veterans?”

Prior to Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, Belt discussed the possibility of 2021 being his last season with the Giants, and it sounds as if it’s business as usual for the first baseman. Belt said:

“Right now I’m just focusing on working out … As far as this season goes, I’m focusing on doing what I’ve been doing the whole time, and that’s it. Whatever happens after this season, I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I’m not going to worry about it. As big-league ballplayers, we should treasure every season and every game, because it could be our last at any time.”

Tough decisions will be made, and it doesn’t make it easier that these are three of the most beloved players in recent Giants history.

After opting out of the 2020 season, Posey has already gotten a taste of life after baseball. Will he retire after this season? Will the Giants find a cheaper way to bring him back, or will he play for another team? Will Crawford, the hometown kid, play anywhere other than the team he grew up rooting for? Will Belt find a new home and have that breakout season that has always alluded him? There are many questions surrounding the future of these three players, but for now, they’ll enjoy potentially one last ride together.

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