The San Francisco Giants were clear on one point going into 2012: Their biggest offseason acquisitions were already on their roster. A healthy Buster Posey is a world of difference from the sub-par tandem of Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside. The return of Freddy Sanchez offers some much-needed depth in a scrappy infield.
But is it enough?
Even Brian Sabean didn't seem so sure, trading pitcher Jonathan Sanchez for outfielder Melky Cabrera. He subsequently added to the outfield by swapping reliever Ramon Ramirez and journeyman Andres Torres for Angel Pagan. While Pagan and Cabrera are both solid players, with Cabrera coming off a career year, one has to wonder why Sabean didn't flip Sanchez in the 2010-2011 offseason for a bigger return.
Sanchez did nothing to improve his value last season, going from 13 wins in 2010 to four in 2011. His ERA also jumped from 3.07 to 4.26. If Melky Cabrera represents what the 2011 Jonathan Sanchez is worth, the 2010 version was undoubtedly worth quite a haul.
The other problem with Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera? They're not Carlos Beltran.
If Beltran had netted himself a five-year, $70 million deal, it would be hard to criticize Sabean for seeking alternative talent. However, Beltran agreed with the St. Louis Cardinals on a two-year, $26 million contract.
Beltran made a substantial impact for the San Francisco Giants when he joined them last August. Batting in the three-spot ahead of Pablo Sandoval, Beltran seemed in many ways to be the offensive solution long lacking from the Giants lineup. If not for a hand injury that sidelined him for most of August, it is entirely possible Beltran would've helped the Giants secure a playoff berth.
To not even flirt with the idea of bringing Beltran back at the kind of money the Cardinals signed him for is difficult to digest.
So, what do the San Francisco Giants have?
As the ink dries on a two-year, $40 million deal with Tim Lincecum, the Giants will take the field in 2012 with one of the deepest pitching corps in the league. Their starting rotation also features cornerstone Matt Cain, comeback ace Ryan Vogelsong and rising star Madison Bumgarner.
Complimenting the front men is a bullpen packed with talent, notably set-up man Sergio Romo, lefty specialist Javier Lopez and closer/sideshow Brian Wilson. If Sabean refuses to infuse his team with marquee offense, he's done a great job of creating a team that won't require much.
Still, he does have one secret weapon at his disposal—a player who wasn't hurt or playing somewhere else during the 2011 season.
The first baseman spent his first season in the major leagues making spot starts at first base, warming the bench and periodically visiting his former teammates in Triple-A. While Belt is hardly a finished product, the flashes of brilliance he did show in his few stretches of regular playing time were promising.
Aubrey Huff, entering the second year of a contract tendered by a front office giddy from a World Series championship, was truly awful last year. Now is the time to take a chance on Belt. His potential speed, production and durability over the aging Huff are impossible to ignore.
The Giants must also count on Buster Posey. If their offseason thriftiness is to pay off, Posey must return as the player who won Rookie of the Year in 2010—not the catcher who suffered a hideous, season-ending ankle injury. Freddy Sanchez will need to be at full health too.
If both players come to Scottsdale at 100 percent, and with Huff on the bench and Belt starting at first, the Giants may just have enough to withstand the resurgent Arizona Diamondbacks and return to the hallowed grass of October baseball.