San Francisco Giants Free Agency: Speculating the Top Offseason Targets

Dan MoriCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2012

San Francisco Giants Free Agency: Speculating the Top Offseason Targets

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    The San Francisco Giants are headed to the playoffs, as the NL West champions. For Bruce Bochy, his coaching staff and players, winning it all, similar to 2010, is their main goal.

    General manager Brian Sabean and his right-hand man, Bobby Evans, have a dual focus at this time of year. First and foremost, they want to win in the postseason. Their second focus is looking ahead to next season.

    With the 2012 season winding down, GMs will now begin to turn their attention to free agents and how to strengthen their team for the upcoming year. Sabean is already putting plans together for 2013 and this is an important step to keeping the Giants competitive from year to year.

    The Giants have a number of their own free agents, some who they would like to keep and others that will be let go. In addition, Sabean will be scouring the rosters of other teams to see which available players they would like to bring to San Francisco.

    The Giants' main area of concern this offseason will be in the outfield. With Melky Cabrera likely gone and Angel Pagan a free agent, the Giants will need to make sure they sign two quality outfielders. Youngster Gary Brown is still probably a year away, so fortifying the outfield will be Sabean's top priority.

    Let's take a closer look at the Giants' most important free-agent targets this offseason.

12) Cody Ross

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    Cody Ross signed a one-year contract for $3 million this past offseason with the Boston Red Sox. Ross has had a very solid season and is currently hitting .267 with 22 home runs and 79 RBI. Ross has an OBP of .328 and an OPS of .812.

    Ross is also a fan favorite in San Francisco. He joined the Giants during the latter half of 2010 and became a hero in the postseason.

    Ross was the MVP of the NLCS when his bat propelled the Giants into the World Series. He provided the a huge lift to the Giants offense when, against the Phillies, he hit .350, with three home runs and five RBI. Ross finished that series with an OPS of 1.385.

    For the entire 2010 postseason, Ross had five home runs and 10 RBI. His OPS of 1.076 led the team.

    Ross is most likely to re-sign with Boston. The Red Sox have been pleased with his play and his dead-pull approach works very well at Fenway Park.

11) Ryan Theriot

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    Ryan Theriot was a starter on the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals until they acquired Rafael Furcal prior to the trade deadline. Theriot became a utility player, but did win a World Series ring as the Cardinals defeated Texas to win the title.

    The Giants acquired Theriot this past offseason and after healing from a spring injury, he became their starting second baseman by mid-May. Emmanuel Burriss was not getting the job done and Theriot's emergence provided a big lift for the Giants.

    Theriot was extremely influential in helping rookie shortstop Brandon Crawford settle in defensively. I saw several instances where Theriot helped to keep Crawford relaxed and focused.

    Theriot has little power, but is hitting .271 and has an OBP of .317. His playing time decreased substantially when the Giants acquired Marco Scutaro at the trade deadline.

    Theriot is a solid professional and a valuable asset to any team. He is a great clubhouse presence and is well-liked by his teammates.

    The real question with Theriot is whether he will stay with the Giants, where he may not get an opportunity to play every day. Theriot made $1.25 million this year, so his salary range is not a problem for the Giants. 

10) Nick Swisher

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    Nick Swisher could be a good fit for the Giants. He has a strong bat and eight consecutive seasons with 21 or more home runs.

    Swisher, who will be 32 years old this offseason, would give the Giants another powerful bat in the heart of their lineup. He should be able to play either corner outfield position and is an adequate defensive player.

    In 2012, Swisher is hitting .268 with 24 home runs and 92 RBI. His OBP is a very good .358, with a solid OPS of .828.

    Swisher is making $10.25 million this year and would likely get a raise to closer to $13-15 million. At that price, the Giants could make an offer for two or, at most, three years and see how Swisher reacts. 

9) Jeremy Affeldt

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    Jeremy Affeldt can be very streaky with his command. At times he is virtually untouchable, but at other times, he has trouble controlling his pitches. However, overall, Affeldt has been a solid pitcher in his four years with the Giants.

    This year, in 66 appearances, Affeldt has thrown 63.1 innings, allowing 56 hits. He has also struck out 57 batters, while allowing 23 walks. His ERA of 2.70 and WHIP of 1.247 are also quality numbers.

    Giants manager Bruce Bochy likes the one-two combination of lefties Affeldt and Javier Lopez out of his bullpen. Affeldt earned $5 million this year and if he would be willing to stay for around that salary, the Giants should try to sign him to a one-year deal.

8) Melky Cabrera

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    The San Francisco Giants will need outfielders for the 2013 season, as the only starter currently under their control is Hunter Pence, who is arbitration-eligible. The question becomes, will the Giants have any interest in Melky Cabrera?

    As we all know, Cabrera was busted for PEDs in mid-August. At the time, he was hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 60 RBI and 84 runs scored. He was also the MVP of the All-Star Game.

    Cabrera had an excellent year with the Kansas City Royals in 2011, after a very pedestrian five prior seasons in the majors. One has to wonder if he may have been on the juice all the way back to 2011.

    Although Cabrera was a fan favorite, he also left the Giants without addressing his teammates. The Giants have played well in his absence, so they may not want all the baggage that would come with signing him.

    If Cabrera had accepted his 50-game suspension and apologized, this would have blown over quickly. Unfortunately, he got very poor advice and tried to pawn off his steroid use on bad information on a product he purchased from a website.

    The website turned out to be bogus and there was no product. Cabrera was found to have fabricated the website and the entire story. Cabrera was caught in a huge pack of lies and I wonder if the Giants want him back at any price.

    Cabrera's salary was $6 million for 2012, but he will undoubtedly be forced to take a huge cut. Teams will believe that his outstanding stats were due to the steroid use and be reluctant to offer him much money.

    Would the Giants be willing to offer him a one-year deal for $2.5 or $3 million? 

    If they do, Cabrera might be back.

    My thinking, however, is that they do not want him back at any price. The PED usage was one thing, but the fraudulent product and website made Cabrera look like a complete idiot. It's questionable if the Giants will forgive him enough to even make him an offer.

7) Shane Victorino

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    Shane Victorino, "The Flyin' Hawaiian," was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline. In LA, over the course of 51 games and 200 at-bats, Victorino has hit only .245 with two home runs and 15 RBI. He has stolen 15 bases, however.

    For the season, Victorino is batting .256 with 11 home runs and 55 RBI. He has 39 steals and has been caught only six times.

    Victorino will be 32 years of age when the 2013 campaign begins. He made $9.5 million this season and will likely command a salary of at least $10 million per year and will want a multi-year deal.

    The Dodgers have a very crowded and expensive outfield with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford expected to start in 2013. Combined, the three will make a total of nearly $55 million next year. Unless they believe Crawford will not be ready to play, expect the Dodgers to let Victorino walk away.

    Victorino would be a good fit for the Giants, as he can play any outfield position. With their current center fielder Angel Pagan a free agent at the end of the season, Victorino would fill that void. He can also play left field if the Giants are able to retain Pagan.

    The one thing I would be concerned about is whether Victorino may be starting to show his age, especially with his bat speed. If he wants more than a two-year deal, I would pass, but if the Giants can get him on a one- or two-year deal, they should make the effort. 

6) BJ Upton

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    BJ Upton is 28 years old and coming into his own. Although he has never hit for average, his power numbers are up. Upton is hitting only .247, but has a career-high 28 home runs. Upton also has 78 RBI and 31 steals.

    Upton has the tools to be a true superstar and will be in high demand on the free-agent market. Upton made $7 million this year and is due for a big raise. He may be too expensive for the Giants and command too many years.

    However, if the Giants can get Upton for four years and $55 million, the Giants should do it.

5) Brandon League

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    Brandon League has electric stuff and a mid- to upper-90s fastball. After coming to the Dodgers from the Mariners in a trade-deadline deal, League has assumed the closer role.

    As a Dodger, League has thrown 26.1 innings and allowed 16 hits. He has also struck out 26, while walking 14. League has an ERA of 2.39 and WHIP of 1.139.

    League would fit into the Giants bullpen very well and would also give them insurance if Brian Wilson is unable to make a successful return from his second Tommy John surgery.

    The Dodgers already have Kenley Jansen, who had a health scare earlier this season. If he's healthy, he will likely be their closer in 2013. With League expected to command substantially more than his current $5 million salary, it will be interesting to see if the Dodgers pay to keep him.

    My gut feeling on this is that LA, with its new ownership group, will be willing to spend the extra money to keep League.

4) Michael Bourn

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    Michael Bourn should definitely be a target for the San Francisco Giants this offseason. He had an excellent year with the Braves, hitting .276 with nine home runs, 57 RBI and 95 runs scored. Bourn is also a solid leadoff hitter, with an OBP of .349 and 40 stolen bases.

    The Giants could play Bourn in center or left field, depending on the outcome of the Angel Pagan situation. Bourn is a very good defensive player and covers tremendous range in the outfield.

    Bourn will be 30 years old at the start of the 2013 season. Being that his greatest asset is his speed, the Giants must be careful not to over-extend on his contract.

    Bourn made $6.875 million this year and is likely to get a raise to the $9-10 million range. The Giants should pursue Bourn and if they can get him to ink a two-year deal for less than $7 million per season, he would be a great addition to their club.

3) Angel Pagan

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    Angel Pagan has played very well this season. The Giants definitely want him to return, as long as he's in their price range.

    Pagan made $4.85 million this year and his performance will merit a hefty pay increase. Pagan blossomed as a leadoff hitter for the Giants. He is currently batting .289 with eight home runs, 56 RBI and 95 runs scored. He also has 29 steals to his credit.

    Defensively, Pagan made a few mistakes early in the year, but improved as the season progressed.

    If the Giants can sign Pagan for two years and $15 million, that would be ideal. I would be very reluctant to offer him more than two years, but he may get that from other teams. 

    Pagan is a favorite among Giants fans. He also loves playing with the Giants, which could help GM Brian Sabean offer him a contract.

2) Marco Scutaro

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    When the San Francisco Giants traded minor league infielder Charlie Culberson to the Rockies for Marco Scutaro, I felt that was an good deal. In my view, Scutaro was a solid veteran utility man.

    As it turned out, the Scutaro acquisition was the biggest midseason move in the National League. The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate and Brandon League, but none was more important than Scutaro.

    Scutaro is well-liked and respected by his Giants teammates. They watch his at-bats closely as he is such a fundamentally sound player. In addition, Scutaro has become a leader of the Giants' Latin players.

    Since his arrival to San Francisco, Scutaro is hitting .360 with three home runs and 42 RBI. His veteran leadership has been outstanding, both on and off the field.

    Scutaro will be 37 years of age at the end of October. He currently makes $6 million and if the Giants can sign him to a one-year deal for $7-8 million, that would be a bargain. I would be open to doing a two-year deal for around $15 million, but would not go three years.

    The other thing to consider is with Ryan Theriot a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. With the Giants not having any young players ready to step in, they need a solid second baseman. Joe Panik looks good, but he's at least two years away.

    Finding a way to keep Marco Scutaro should be the Giants' top priority, among their current players.

1) Josh Hamilton

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    Josh Hamilton will head into the offseason as the top free agent on the market. He made $15.25 million this year and will command a lot more on the open market.

    Hamilton, who will be 32 years old in May of next year, will be shooting for one more big contract. He is likely to command between $20-22 million per year, but the real question is how many years will he be willing to accept?

    I look for Hamilton to ink a four-year deal for roughly $85 million. Although I would prefer giving him a three-year contract, I would be willing to go for four years, but nothing more.

    Hamilton is having another big year for the Texas Rangers. He is hitting .286, with 43 home runs and 127 RBI. He is an MVP candidate and should be able to play either corner outfield spot for the Giants.

    Adding Hamilton to the Giants lineup would be tremendous, but ultimately, I look for him to either stay in Texas or sign with the Yankees, Red Sox or Angels.

The Giants Will Have Money Available

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    The San Francisco Giants have some money coming off the books, following the 2012 season. This will give them some flexibility to bolster their roster.

    The Giants will be done with the contract of Aubrey Huff, which saves them $8 million for 2013. Also, Freddy Sanchez' $6 million will be off the books and so will the $6 million the Giants paid to Melky Cabrera. The Giants also were on the hook for $13.6 million to Aaron Rowand.

    Just eliminating these four contracts will save the Giants some $33.6 million, heading into 2013. This gives Giants' GM Brian Sabean some money to work with, as the team looks to formulate their roster.

    All of these things will unfold this offseason. For now, we are focused on the playoffs and hopefully, the Giants can deliver another magical post season run.