The Hot Stove was active this offseason with big free-agent signings and a handful of blockbuster trades. The purpose of such action, of course, is to improve a team's chances of competing for a world championship.
One team that didn't make waves this winter was San Francisco. Instead, the Giants focused on keeping their roster intact, and so they will be heading into 2013 with just about the same group that won it all in 2012.
This is just one of several reasons why the Giants may very well win their third World Series in four years.
Name San Francisco’s biggest offseason loss.
Can’t do it, can you?
Melky Cabrera was effectively gone with two months left in the 2012 season. Xavier Nady, perhaps?
Now name the biggest addition.
Yeah, that’s right, it’s Andres Torres. And he’s not exactly a stranger to AT&T Park.
To baseball geeks who get giddy about the Hot Stove and projecting which top prospects are future saviors, the Giants are pretty much dead to them. General manager Brian Sabean did next to nothing to tweak the roster this offseason, and no rookies are likely to make an impact in 2013—at least early on.
But why should Sabean have done anything? San Francisco’s best players are all youngsters such as Buster Posey, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Plus, the team wasn’t even at full strength last year.
Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence all have something to prove in 2013.
Speaking of Sandoval and Pence, if the Giants get a healthy Sandoval and rejuvenated Pence this season, they will have one of baseball’s better middle of the order. Combined with Buster Posey, of course.
Then factor in Angel Pagan leading off and Marco Scutaro batting second and the Giants could be as good as anyone through the first five spots in the order.
The pitching staff has managed to carry the team without much offensive support the past few years. With solid run production to back up arguably the best rotation in baseball, the Giants could be looking at 100 wins.
I mean, who wouldn’t be motivated to play for a bunch of yahoos wearing fake beards and panda hats while chopsticking sushi in the lower reserves?
The beards will fade away with Brian Wilson’s departure, but Giants fans will continue to find ways to celebrate their favorite players (perhaps a resurgence of the baby giraffe?), which is a testament to the loyalty and the generally upbeat attitude of the fans by the bay.
Most telling of the fan support, however, are the two full seasons of sold-out games at AT&T Park.
While they look menacing on paper, a team with so many stars generally has to jell before the high-profile lineup translates to success in the wins column.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks just traded away their best player, Justin Upton, and top prospect, Trevor Bauer, purportedly because manager Kirk Gibson didn’t like their style. Iffy reasoning by a team that finished third in the division last year and now has no stars in the lineup or on the mound.
So the division is very winnable for the Giants, which represents the first major step toward a Giants repeat.
As for the other steps…
The rest of the National League isn’t exactly a cakewalk.
Despite losing Chipper Jones to retirement, the Braves might also be better this year, with the additions of the Upton brothers and continued progress of young stars such as Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman.
And for one reason or another, the Cardinals never seem to go away.
So the playoffs, which could closely resemble last year’s field since only the Dodgers appear poised for significant improvement in the National League, will be a challenging gauntlet for the Giants.
But if Tim Lincecum returns to pre-2012 form and the rest of his rotation mates maintain their level of performance from the last couple years, San Francisco’s pitching will overpower any foe in the playoffs—as it has the last two times the Giants reached the playoffs.
As for the American League foe, it’s not likely to be a team any better than who the Giants will face in NLDS or NLCS.
San Francisco’s biggest challenge could actually come from a smaller market team, such as Oakland or Tampa Bay. If that proves to be the case, the Giants will have experience and offensive depth on their side.