San Francisco Giants: 7 Moves They Simply Must Make This Offseason
Probably the only team in the major leagues that doesn't want the offseason to come; the San Francisco Giants, despite its second World Series championship in three years, have plenty of questions to answer.
After their 2010 World Series, they were faced with decisions on journeymen veterans like Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria.
This year, they will be faced with a similar set of issues from players up and down their roster.
The front office never rests, and apparently didn't celebrate too hard Sunday night when they decided that Aubrey Huff will not have his option picked up, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.
However, some moves that GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy will make won't specifically just be about player extensions but more about the handling of certain players that will be integral to next year's success.
Many decisions, much tougher, will be made in the coming months.
Let's take a look at seven important ones.
Angel Pagan or Melky Cabrera?
This isn't a strict decision between the two players but the contract negotiations may cause the Giants to indirectly choose between the two.
Angel Pagan, the energizer and igniter of every rally this year will be seeking a long-term deal that could push the Giants out of the running.
The Giants also have to be wary of his past injury concerns, contract year and the fact he is most likely going to be signed into his mid-30s if they go in that direction.
Melky Cabrera, on the other hand, played like an MVP before he was infamously suspended and shunned from the postseason roster.
However, the Giants may want to take a chance at an extremely discounted price, say a two-year, $18 million or so deal.
The option of signing both is possible as well, if Pagan is willing to settle for a lesser rate, but the market demand may be high this offseason because of the dry options at every position.
So, is it Pagan's salute or the Melkmen next year?
Morality says keep Pagan, but logic leans towards Melky.
The man of the hour. And the postseason, for that matter.
The 36-year-old second baseman joined the San Francisco Giants midseason because of an injury to Pablo Sandoval and proceeded to hit 2,000 clutch singles and nary a swinging strike. Maybe a bit unrealistic on the last two but you get the point.
A genius stroke of a trade by Brian Sabean.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers were busy trading for Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett, the best trade in all of the major leagues happened with the acquisition of Marco "Blockbuster" Scutaro.
The only downside for the Giants is that Scutaro will be a free agent this offseason.
Since they have traded Charlie Culberson (for Scutaro himself), there aren't many options in-house.
Nick Noonan is probably their best second base prospect but he is still a little too raw and not good enough yet.
Ryan Theriot certainly isn't the answer and there aren't any other free agents better than Marco.
Look for the Giants to sign him to a reasonable three-year deal.
Unlike Orlando Cabrera, Miguel Tejada and Edgar Renteria, Scutaro is not at all washed up and his strong veteran leadership will continue to permeate the clubhouse in 2013.
Starting Pitching Depth
Despite the excellent postseason run through the playoffs, the Giants starting rotation was pitching on fumes.
Props to them for fighting through the issues and coming out on top of the baseball world.
But reality is reality, and it was no more evident in their numbers than in the last two months of the regular season.
Madison Bumgarner struggled so mightily that he was pulled from the postseason rotation before fixing a mechanical issue and tossing seven shutout innings in the World Series. However, the velocity was still a bit down. It remains to be seen whether a 23-year-old can handle all the innings from the past three years.
Ryan Vogelsong may not have tired so much as regressed back to the mean. His disastrous seven-start slump ended with two good ones and an amazing postseason. However, he is 35 and another superb season may be asking too much.
Matt Cain, as he has been over his career, was very overlooked. However, this time it was the fact that he struggled throughout the playoffs. He couldn't command his slider or any of his other off-speed pitches and struggled through his starts against Cincinnati, St. Louis and even a bit against Detroit.
The Giants would do well bringing in another innings-eater that would help mitigate some of the pitches thrown by the starters, especially the two young studs in Cain and Bumgarner.
Get Panda Motivated
Pablo Sandoval, after a very disappointing season in 2010, lost a bunch of weight due to a strict program by the Giants training staff in 2011, and had a very nice bounce-back season.
Then, this season, he broke a hamate bone and proceeded to gain it all back. Despite these issues, Sandoval was still able to blast six homers and three in Game 1 of the World Series.
Correlation may not be causation, but weight is still a factor when considering the position that Sandoval plays.
Already possessing average range at third, he can't afford to falter there.
Before Scutaro was traded to the Giants, Sandoval was actually playing first base because Bochy felt he'd be better served there.
However, it would appear that the Giants have finally settled on Brandon Belt—and about time—at that position and it would be tough to see a change.
A core of position players in Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford is a very nice beginning. Gary Brown is also a player to keep an eye on.
But Pablo Sandoval is the key to making that homegrown group of position players truly legendary.
Tim Lincecum will be a starter in 2013.
There is no reason to put him in the bullpen because of the fact he will be paid over $20 million in the last year of his contract.
The interesting part is what will happen during the season if he struggles again. Will they look to trade him this offseason?
It may happen if the Giants feel they can get as much as they can during the offseason—although that may be a moot point given his recent World Series dominance.
A glimmer of hope for management may provide all the incentive they need to not trade him.
Given the homegrown core of stud pitchers in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, the Giants would be hard-pressed to lose their faith in the two-time Cy Young award winner.
Pitching depth may also be a factor because Lincecum was the only pitcher that didn't seem like he was tired at any point throughout the season, despite his diminutive stature.
The two top pitching prospects, Clayton Blackburn and Kyle Crick, are at least a couple years away, so the farm system plays a factor in whether Lincecum will get traded, re-signed or just standing pat throughout the season.
If Lincecum can recover to his old form, it will function as somewhat of a trade for a star pitcher for no charge in San Francisco.
The bullpen was all nails in the postseason.
The bottomless bullpen was one of the main reasons the Giants were able to withstand shaking pitching through the first two series and save their season.
They also persevered throughout the regular season despite the loss of fiery closer Brian Wilson.
Maybe his beard provided a positive aura during the postseason?
Whatever it may have been, Jeremy Affeldt, George Kontos, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Jose Mijares and most of all, Sergio Romo were untouchable throughout the three series.
The key decision will come on Jeremy Affeldt and whether he will be re-signed. Keep in mind, he signed a rather large contract two years ago, for a reliever.
Bullpen weapons are key but the acquisition of Jose Mijares may make Affeldt expendable if management feels they need the money elsewhere.
Up the Payroll
Another year, another World Series and hopefully for Giants fans: another payroll bump.
After the first World Series, the payroll went up approximately $22 million, according to BaseballProspectus.com.
The more the Giants win, the more Panda hats they sell, the more money they have to spend on free agents.
Or so it would appear.
That beautiful ballpark isn't for nothing, right? Those $10 beers are sure to come around in the form of triples and strikeouts for the fans.
But with the presumed extra money, the Giants probably won't go crazy and try to coax Zack Grienke or Josh Hamilton.
They will probably pay Hunter Pence—those crazy eye speeches don't come cheap—his arbitration money and look to pad several aspects of the team like a starter, outfielder and bench help.
It remains to be seen whether the Giants will pay up to keep their World Series team intact but remember, they just won the whole thing.
Relax and enjoy.