The San Francisco Giants entered the offseason with the stated goal of keeping their championship team intact by re-signing free agents Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro.
General manager Brian Sabean came into the winter meetings this week with one of those three goals accomplished, having already agreed to terms with Affeldt. Though Sabean was too sick to attend the meetings in Nashville, the Giants finished off contracts for Pagan and Scutaro this week to end their most significant winter shopping several weeks before winter even officially begins.
In that sense, Sabean and his staff, especially chief negotiator Bobby Evans, deserve high marks for their work at the winter meetings. The ownership group also deserves praise for being willing to increase the budget from $130 million last season to somewhere above $140 million next season in order to retain the core of the championship team. Of course, having a rabid fan base that continues to sell out AT&T Park every night and tune in on the radio and television allows ownership to continue to increase payroll as revenue increases.
Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy were also rewarded for their championship-caliber performances in recent seasons when their contract options for 2014 were exercised at the meetings, keeping them in the fold for at least another two seasons.
As Mercury News points out, CEO Larry Baer viewed the decision to pick up the options on Sabean and Bochy a "no-brainer" given that the general manager and his field general have delivered four straight winning seasons including two World Series titles in the past three years.
The Giants still have some work to do this winter, but mostly around the periphery of the roster. They still need a right-handed platoon partner for Gregor Blanco in left field, another utility infielder for the bench to pair with Joaquin Arias and one more right-handed reliever.
Cody Ross would be an ideal fit to return to San Francisco in a platoon with Blanco, but he's reportedly seeking a multi-year deal and a starting gig. Free agents Scott Hairston, Ben Francisco and Andruw Jones, or internal options like prospects Gary Brown and Francisco Peguero would seem to be more likely options for that role than Ross.
Big-ticket items for left field such as Nick Swisher, Josh Hamilton or Michael Bourn can be ruled out at this point with the Giants payroll stretched close to the limit.
A contract extension for National League MVP Buster Posey would be a fitting cap to the offseason, and the Giants are reportedly open to the idea. Such a move might be more likely to come to fruition when the team exchanges salary figures later this offseason with Posey, who is eligible for arbitration for first time this winter.
In the end, it was a good week at the winter meetings for the Giants—one with a heavy emphasis on stability.
Pagan, Scutaro, Sabean and Bochy all received contract extensions for their contributions to the championship squad from a year ago, and the opening day roster next April will be virtually identical to the one that closed out the World Series with a four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers.
Alas, the strategy of maintaining the status quo is not without risk. After the Giants won the World Series in 2010, they brought back veterans Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff, and also attempted to bring back Juan Uribe before he bolted south to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants replaced him with Miguel Tejada at shortstop.
Huff, Burrell and Tejada all declined significantly for the Giants in 2011, as did holdovers Andres Torres, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito. Season-ending injuries to Freddy Sanchez, Brian Wilson and Posey combined to help drop the Giants from 92 wins in 2010 down to 86 and a second-place finish in 2011.
Yet if Posey had stayed healthy, they might have overcome all of the other injuries and performance issues to repeat as World Champions. In 2013, they'll likely have a healthy Posey once again. In the two seasons that has been the case, the Giants have won it all.
With Posey in the fold along with a core of players under 30 years old in Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Blanco, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, the Giants should be poised to make another deep October run next season.