San Francisco Giants Keep Title Team Together by Re-Signing Marco Scutaro
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With Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reporting that the Giants are in agreement with Scutaro on athree-year, $20 million contract on Tuesday night, the Giants' winter shopping is now complete well in advance of Christmas.
Keeping the championship team intact wasn't cheap. Affeldt received a three-year, $18 million contract that covers his age 34-36 seasons, Pagan received a four-year, $40 million contract that covers his age 32-35 seasons and Scutaro's $20 million deal covers his age 37-39 seasons.
In all three cases the Giants reacted to market conditions and upped their offers to keep the guys they wanted.
Brandon League apparently set the market for relief pitchers when he signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants reacted to that by giving Affeldt a similarly lucrative three-year deal.
B.J. Upton's five-year, $75 million deal with the Atlanta Braves set a high standard on the center field market. When the Philadelphia Phillies reportedly offered Pagan a four-year contract, the Giants had to go that far in order to retain their star center fielder.
Scutaro was ultimately the only decent option at second base, and the Giants reportedly had to fight off the St. Louis Cardinals in order to keep him.
The Giants' goal is to defend their title in 2013, and the cost of attempting to do so was to pay market prices to keep their key free agents.
The alternatives were to sign other free agents to replace Affeldt, Pagan and Scutaro, or to mortgage what remains of the farm system in order to acquire replacements via the trade market.
Either alternative required painful choices and wouldn't have offered the opportunity for this group to defend the title that they fought so hard for last season—winning six elimination games to advance to the World Series where they swept the Tigers.
The goal was to keep the team together, and that goal was accomplished by an ownership group willing to increase payroll for the fifth year in a row and a front office that values continuity.
After the Giants won the World Series in 2010, they rewarded one of the stars of that team, Aubrey Huff, with a two-year, $22 million deal covering his age 34-35 seasons.
Huff hit .290/.385/.506 with 26 home runs in 2010, but just .239/.309/.359 with 13 home runs in the two seasons following his standout performance. Huff is a cautionary tale on the risk of rewarding an aging player for his championship level performance.
Unlike Huff, Juan Uribe bolted south to the Dodgers via free agency after the World Series. He had an outstanding two-year run with the Giants, but has hit just .199/.262/.289 in the first two seasons of his three-year, $21 million deal with the Dodgers that covers his age 31-33 seasons.
The reality that Huff and Uribe represent is that baseball players often decline suddenly and without warning as they get older, becoming sunk costs in the process.
The Giants paid Huff, Aaron Rowand and Freddy Sanchez a combined $28 million last season for 95 total plate appearances, all from Huff, and won the title anyway. For comparison, in 2015, they'll pay Affeldt, Pagan and Scutaro only $21 million total.
Even if all three are on a beach relaxing somewhere instead of contributing for the Giants, the team could still find a way to be competitive as they did last season.
In free agency, teams reward past performance by mortgaging future payrolls in the hope that they can maximize value on the front end of contracts. If Affeldt, Pagan and Scutaro help the Giants get back to the playoffs in 2013, it won't matter if any of them are still productive in 2015.
The goal is to win at all costs now and deal with the future when it comes—hopefully with another championship flag flying at AT&T Park.
Affeldt is coming off of an outstanding year for the Giants in which he put up a 2.70 ERA in the regular season before throwing 10.1 scoreless innings in the postseason.
Pagan was a tremendous asset in center field for the Giants last year, hitting .288 with 61 extra base hits and 29 steals.
Scutaro hit .362 down the stretch for the Giants after a midseason trade from the Rockies. He hit .328 in the postseason and .500 in the NLCS—earning MVP honors. He also drove in the winning run in the clinching game of the World Series.
The Giants likely wouldn't have won the World Series without the contributions of those three players. The purpose in re-signing them wasn't to get bargain deals that will pay dividends in the distant future.
Instead, the goal was to reward them for their performance at whatever the market determined their worth to be, in the hope of getting similar production next season.
The group that brought San Francisco another championship in 2012 will have a chance to defend their title next season. That was the plan for the Giants this offseason, and the mission has been accomplished.
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