Are the San Francisco Giants the Makings of MLB's Next Great Dynasty?
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In the current sports media landscape, words like "great," "elite" and "dynasty" probably get thrown out there a little too easily, a little too frequently.
The impulse—as fans, analysts and reporters—to try and separate the truly exceptional from the very good seems to get stronger every day. By establishing where the bar is set, it can be determined (or argued) where everyone else lines up after that.
But there's air time and website space to fill and you can always strike up a discussion or argument over whose team is better, which players are better. Obviously, we do a lot of that here.
In the case of the San Francisco Giants, however, the word "dynasty" has to be used when talking about what this team has accomplished in recent years. With a 2-0 lead over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, the Giants are on the verge of winning their second championship in three seasons. That may not be a dynasty just yet, but it's definitely close.
Detroit fans will point out—and rightly so—that the Giants haven't won that second World Series title just yet. But San Francisco is certainly in control of the series at this point with five opportunities to win two more games. Attempting to win four of the next five—even if three of those games will be in Detroit—is a daunting task for the Tigers.
So it's not unrealistic to at least discuss the possibility of the Giants winning two titles in three years. But is it feasible to imagine San Francisco winning a third championship within the next two or three seasons? That's when the dynasty talk would start.
We don't have to look very far back into baseball history to find the last dynasty team. The New York Yankees team that won four championships from 1996 to 2003 also accumulated eight consecutive postseason appearances, seven division titles and seven AL pennants. That clearly fits the dynasty criteria.
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But even if the Giants don't quite match those accomplishments over an eight-year span, their achievements to this point give them a strong head start toward becoming MLB's next dynasty. There's certainly no reason to think that San Francisco won't be in a position to compete for NL West titles, league pennants and World Series championships in the next few years to come.
This isn't a group that's going to break apart after this season. The roster wasn't put together for a one-year, go-for-it run, like the 1997 Florida Marlins. Ownership is not going to decide to sell off a core of talented young players once they become too expensive.
The foundation of a championship contender is in place for now and the future.
Likely NL MVP Buster Posey hasn't even become eligible for arbitration yet, meaning he's under team control for at least three more seasons. The Giants presumably will want to sign him to a long-term extension soon to keep his costs manageable.
San Francisco locked down its two best starting pitchers earlier this year, signing Matt Cain to a six-year, $127.5 million extension and Madison Bumgarner to a five-year, $35 million deal.
Others who will be around for the next two seasons or more include Pablo Sandoval, who's signed through 2014. Ryan Vogelsong is under contract for two more years, including a team option. Sergio Romo has two more arbitration-eligible seasons, if the Giants don't sign him to a longer-term deal. Hector Sanchez is under team control for several more years.
Two immediate concerns for general manager Brian Sabean will be bringing back Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, who both made significant contributions to this World Series run. But deciding how much of an investment to make in older, popular players while keeping a championship team together is one of the most difficult territories for a GM to navigate.
This could also apply to Hunter Pence, the Giants' big trade deadline acquisition who really hasn't made a notable impact on the field this season. (Perhaps his contribution has been greater off the field, as evidenced by his fiery pregame speeches.)
Sabean will likely want to keep Pence around past next season, if for no other reason than to justify what was given up in the trade to get him. He's likely viewed as a core player to go with Posey and Sandoval.
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But how much money is Pence worth? Is he a $15-18 million a year player? How long of a contract do the Giants want to give him? Does he warrant a five- to eight-year contract?
One more player who Sabean will likely want to re-sign is lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt. He's been an extremely valuable part of the Giants bullpen, not just as a left-handed specialist but as a backup closer. Could he be signed to another two-year deal, perhaps with an option for a third season?
Otherwise, San Francisco will have some contracts coming off the books over the next year or two that can help bring in new talent or sign current players to new deals.
Barry Zito is signed through next season, presuming that the team buys out his $18 million option for 2014. Tim Lincecum's contract also expires after 2013. Aubrey Huff and his ridiculous deal (two years, $22 million) can be bought out after this year. Brian Wilson may not be tendered a contract or he'll be brought back at a lower price.
Some of those resources could be used toward making a big splash in free agency if the Giants chose to go in that direction. How would Josh Hamilton, for instance, look in left field next season with San Francisco? What if another bullpen arm like Mike Adams was brought in?
Those kinds of upgrades are always possible for a team in championship contention. Players want to be a part of a winner and might even take less money to join the effort. The Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers are recent examples of that. We've also seen that in other sports with the New England Patriots, Miami Heat and Detroit Red Wings.
Taking all of this into consideration, the Giants are in excellent position to establish a dynasty for the 2010s in MLB. A World Series win this season could be just the beginning.
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