San Francisco Giants: Power Ranking Brian Sabean's 5 Best Moves of 2012

Keely Flanagan@keelyflanaganContributor IIINovember 29, 2012

San Francisco Giants: Power Ranking Brian Sabean's 5 Best Moves of 2012

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    Brian Sabean has enjoyed incredible success wheeling and dealing as the San Francisco Giants general manager.  

    With two World Series championships in the past three years, Sabean is making all the right moves for his team.

    He has done so without record-breaking contracts (in general, the exception being Barry Zito) or breaking the bank for high-priced free agents or making headlines by adding blockbuster names midseason (Los Angeles Dodgers, I'm looking at you).

    2012 was a banner year for the veteran GM.  While the majority of his deals flew under the radar, the additions and subtractions made by Sabean were key in securing a second championship in three years for the city by the bay. 

    Here are the top five moves Sabean made in 2012. Hopefully, these past strokes of brilliance can silence a fan base wondering why the Giants have stayed out of the majority of this offseason's free agent market.  

Solidifying the Bullpen with George Kontos and Jose Mijares

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    The 2012 Giants were a much different team than the 2010 Giants. This was a team that could actually score runs.  

    Unfortunately, the beleaguered bullpen began to struggle midseason.  

    Santiago Casilla just couldn't hold on to the closer spot after too many inconsistent performances. The bullpen was already two arms short, with Guillermo Mota serving a 100 game suspension for PED use and stud closer Brian Wilson out for the year due to Tommy John surgery.  

    Pitching rules in the playoffs, and the Giants needed some fresh arms to compliment an already strong, albeit shorthanded, bullpen core.

    Picking up right-handed reliever George Kontos from the Yankees and left-hander Jose Mijares from Kansas City provided much needed arm strength.  Both were able to eat up middle innings, and manager Bruce Bochy was able to tinker and toy with his righty-lefty match-ups to his heart's desire. 

    Stats with SF:

    Kontos: 2.47 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 44 appearances 

    Mijares: 2.55 ERA, 27 appearances

    Both relievers earned spots on the playoff roster.  

Trading Away Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera

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    Yes, Melky Cabrera ended up being a cheater.  And yes, it was a good move on the Giants organization's part to pass on resigning the controversial left fielder.

    But let's take a look at Jonathan Sanchez's numbers this year with the Royals...and later, the Rockies:1-9 record, 8.07 ERA, 53 walks in only 64.2 innings pitched, 2.088 WHIP

    Giants fans have always known Jonathan Sanchez to be inconsistent.  He has the potential to either blaze the ball past hitters, or to crash and burn.  

    This season, Sanchez was actually incredibly consistent. Just not in a good way.  

    And with former staff ace Tim Lincecum's troubles in 2012, the last thing the Giants needed was another struggling starter.  Instead, Ryan Vogelsong stepped up and Barry Zito had the best year of his rocky tenure in San Francisco.  

    Vogelsong was the polar opposite to Sanchez.  Save for a strange spell toward the end of the season, Vogelsong provided consistent start after consistent start for the black and orange.  In the playoffs, Vogelsong thrived under pressure, coming up huge in game six of the NLCS and game three of the World Series.  

    Melky Cabrera's first half performance and impact on the Giants cannot be ignored. However, his most valuable contribution was forcing a need for another outfielder.  An outfielder named Hunter Pence. 

Replacing Melky Cabrera with Hunter Pence

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    That leads us to the addition of right fielder Hunter Pence. Although his numbers with the Giants appear underwhelming, his influence and potential in years to come is what makes his signing one of Brian Sabean's best moves in 2012. 

    Pence is coming off of a down year, batting only .219 in a San Francisco uniform and .253 on the season. Still, Pence managed a sizable 104 RBI's in 2012, with 45 driven in as a Giant.  

    His career numbers are of a much higher caliber. In six season with the Astros and Phillies, Pence compiled a .285 batting average, 138 HR's, and 2 All-Star Game appearances.   

    And who can forget "Rev Pence" and his inspirational, motivational speech before Game 3 three of the NLDS?  A speech that led to three straight wins against Cincinnati and another three straight wins over St. Louis in the NLCS.  

    The San Francisco Giants are an example of how chemistry off the field can lead to success on the field.  Pence fits right in as both a team leader and just plain good teammate.  Plus, he'll be around next season.  

    So, in a way, a big "thank you" is in order to Melky Cabrera.  His departure saved the team money, and his "replacement," Hunter Pence, is much more of a Giant than Cabrera ever could have hoped to become. 

Offering Matt Cain a Six-Year, $127 Million Contract Extension

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    An impressive contract to say the least.  The homegrown Matt Cain became one of the highest paid pitchers in MLB after agreeing to a six-year, $127 million contract.  

    That's a lot of money.  But money well spent.

    Matt Cain is one of the most important pieces to the San Francisco Giants puzzle.  He has proven himself year after year, and shows no signs of slowing down.  In fact, Cain has gotten better season to season.

    His career (so far) as a Giant:

    3.27 ERA, 1,278 K's, 1.17 WHIP, 2-0 in the World Series, 2.10 postseason ERA

    And to anyone who doubted Matt Cain going into the 2012 season...he ONLY threw a perfect game.  And started the All-Star Game.  And won a career-high 16 games.  

    Now the Giants have their ace locked up for the next six years.  Cain is only 28; the next six years should mark the prime of his career.  

    Now, Giants fans don't have to worry about the Red Sox or the Yankees or any other big market team coming in and stealing away their premier pitcher.  At least not in the foreseeable future.

    And with pitcher Madison Bumgarner under contract through the 2017 season, Sabean is off to a great start in securing a strong rotation for many years to come.   

Snagging Marco Scutaro Before the Trade Deadline

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    There are not enough words to describe second baseman Marco Scutaro's impact on the 2012 Giants.  

    .362 batting average, 88 hits in only 61 games, NLCS MVP. That's a start. 

    The Scutaro pickup is classic Brian Sabean mastery.  Find an underrated veteran player right at the trade deadline to help make a push to the postseason. Cody Ross was that guy in 2010. Scutaro was the man in 2012.

    In addition, before Scutaro's arrival, the Giants were desperate to find consistency in the middle of the infield.  Ryan Theriot provided decent service and was great coming off the bench as a pinch hitter, but Scutaro earned his spot the day he put on a San Francisco uniform. 

    Everyone thought the Los Angeles Dodgers had pulled off the blockbuster deal of 2012, taking highly paid Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett off the Red Sox payroll. However, these top-billed superstars failed to push the Dodgers into the playoffs.  

    The under-the-radar Marco Scutaro?  His exceptional performance helped lift the San Francisco Giants over their division rival, win the NL West by a whopping eight games and make a postseason run that ended with a World Series championship.

    Here's hoping Brian Sabean does the right thing and resigns this guy.  Not doing so would potentially be Sabean's biggest blunder of 2013.