The San Francisco Giants' plan for free agency this winter appears to be similar to the plan they employed after winning the World Series two years ago: bring back as much of the band from the championship team as possible.
After winning it all in 2010, the Giants re-signed free agents Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell, then signed Miguel Tejada to replace Juan Uribe when they were outbid by the Los Angeles Dodgers for his services.
General manager Brian Sabean told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN last week that the Giants will tender a contract to Hunter Pence, and they are actively working to bring back free agents Jeremy Affeldt, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported on Friday that the Giants were in talks with Affeldt on a three-year deal in the $15-20 million range. Affeldt, 33, made $5 million in the final season of his contract last year. He's delivered a combined 2.73 ERA in four seasons as a set-up man with the Giants.
The status of the Giants other free agent, outfielder Melky Cabrera, remains unclear at this point. The Giants elected not to bring him back after the NLDS when his 50-game suspension for PEDs use was completed. However, the team reinstated him to the 40-man roster at that point rather than releasing him, which may have been to maintain the exclusive negotiating window to sign him following the postseason.
When the Giants reinstated Cabrera, Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area reported that the Giants had become more open to the possibility of bringing him back for 2013. There have been no new developments reported with Cabrera and the Giants since he was reinstated, however.
If the Giants are unable to bring back Scutaro at second base, they could turn their attention to Japanese free agent Hiroyuki Nakajima according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The 30-year old has hit .310/.381/.474 in his six-year professional career in Japan.
Heyman has also reported that the Giants have some interest in free agent outfielder Nick Swisher.
The 32-year old switch-hitter batted .272/.364/.473 with 24 home runs for the Yankees last season. Swisher is a surprising name to hear associated with the Giants because they don't normally pursue Moneyball-type players—patient hitters with high walk, strikeout and home run totals.
The versatile Swisher provides average defense in right field, left field and at first base. However, if the Giants did sign him, they would lose their first round draft pick because the Yankees extended him a qualifying offer.
The Giants could go after Swisher to play left field if they get outbid on Pagan, with Gregor Blanco moving to center field.
They could also sign Swisher to play first base in the event that they deal first baseman Brandon Belt, who has been drawing significant trade interest. However, the Giants don't appear to be inclined to move Belt, who provides a high on-base percentage and good defense at first base for minimal cost.
In the end, the Giants free agent wish list this winter appears to consist of Affeldt, Scutaro and Pagan. If they lose out on Scutaro and Pagan, they could turn their attention to Nakajima and Swisher as replacements at second base and in the outfield. Other teams would love to trade for Belt, but the Giants don't appear to want to create a new hole on their roster.
All is currently quiet on the Cabrera front, but perhaps the Giants will revisit his situation after they've dealt with their three other free agents.
The winter plan is all about maintaining stability. When you've won two championships in three seasons, maintaining stability is a solid solution.
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