SF Giants: Very Early Look at Potential 2014 Free Agent Targets

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SF Giants: Very Early Look at Potential  2014 Free Agent Targets
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

It's never too early to speculate.  

The Giants have already wisely locked down several of their current players and faces of the franchise. Catcher Buster Posey is inked to the tune of $167 million for eight years while pitchers Matt Cain (through 2017, per ESPN) and Madison Bumgarner are both locked in (through 2017, per ESPN) as well

Add to that multi-year deals for second baseman Marco Scutaro and center fielder Angel Pagan, and it becomes pretty clear the Giants are looking to maintain their 2012 World Series champion roster as opposed to rocking the boat with new free-agent signings. 

However, if the 2013 season has taught us anything, it's that the previous masterpiece of general manager Brian Sabean has cracks in the foundation.  San Francisco's starting pitching remains shockingly problematic and injuries to key players such as third baseman Pablo Sandoval and Pagan serve to illustrate the need to deepen the depth of talent. 

Several Giants are also facing free agency in 2014, including Tim Lincecum. Barry Zito will be entering the final season of his gargantuan contract with the Giants holding a club option on his $18 million for 2014.

The team needs to bolster its starting pitching, but the solution is not to merely stick with the same formula.  

The 2014 free-agent market for starting pitchers is pretty limited.  In the mix is Cubs starter Matt Garza, who could be a possible target for Sabean to pursue, as CBSSports.com's Dan Perry writes:

For his career, Garza has pitched to a 3.84 ERA (108 ERA+), 1.29 WHIP and 2.47 K/BB ratio across parts of eight major-league seasons, which is a good third-starter's profile. For all those durability concerns, Garza did average almost 200 innings per season from 2008 through 2011. If he stays healthy for the rest of 2013, he'll have suitors.

Jason Szenes/Getty Images

 

Another option is Scott Feldman, another current starter for the Cubs.  Feldman's numbers sparkle a little less that Garza's, as he has a 4.64 career ERA over nine seasons with the Texas Rangers and now the Cubs.  Feldman appears to be having a breakout season this year for Chicago at 6-5 with a 3.05 ERA, which is the cause of his rising stock price in the market. 

Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi says that a deal for Garza or Feldman all depends on whether or not Sabean does not attempt to make a trade for a pitcher by the deadline in 2013:

Sabean would be wise to trade for a pitcher who’s under club control beyond the end of this year. Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee could be the most popular starter on the market, albeit at a heavy cost in dollars and talent. (And Lee’s no-trade clause would allow him to block a deal to San Francisco, sources say.) Houston’s Bud Norris — another Bay Area native — is probably more realistic.

 

Other notable starting pitchers who will enter the free-agent pool include Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo, who puzzled the Giants in the 2012 division playoffs; A.J. Burnett of the Pirates and Phil Hughes of the Yankees.  

Again, slim pickings, but the Giants would be wise to flip the switch on their current starting rotation.  

In terms of position players, the primary focus should be on re-signing right fielder Hunter Pence.

Pence is playing for a contract this year—and boy, is he making a case for himself.  The outfielder has returned to All-Star form, batting a healthy .288 and ripping 11 home runs.  He remains an RBI machine and is an ideal player to protect cleanup hitter Buster Posey.  

The Giants' outfield has another hole in left field. The last thing they need is to create another hole on the other side of the outfield. This past offseason, many expected the Giants to pursue a big-hitting left fielder, like Josh Hamilton who was signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Instead, Sabean opted for a platoon situation, signing the right-handed batting Andres Torres to complement the lefty Gregor Blanco

The pool of available outfielders outweighs the available starting pitchers, come 2014.  The Yankees' Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox both could potentially enter the market after this season.  

The question is whether or not Sabean will be willing to fork over the money and commit to the four-to-five-plus years to sign one of these top-tier players.  

There are some more under-the-radar types who will become available in 2014.  Corey Hart of the Brewers, for example, enters free agency, but with his recent injury woes, Sabean could be gun shy.  

Also entering the free-agent market are Michael Morse of the Seattle Mariners and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers.  

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Giants fans all remember Cruz striking out to end the 2010 World Series.  The 32-year-old is having little trouble hitting for power, as he has already blasted 18 home runs this season.  What is troubling, however, is Cruz's ties to the recent PED scandal.  After the Melky Cabrera saga in 2012, the Giants do not want history to repeat. 

Michael Morse is an interesting option.  He is a career .290 hitter and possesses versatility in the field.  Morse can not only shift from left to right field, but also log innings at first base.  If current Giants' first baseman Brandon Belt fails to develop or hits a rough patch, Morse is a better option than current bench player Brett Pill. 

Don't look for Sabean to throw his hat into the ring for some of the higher-priced superstars.  Top-of-the-marquee guys such as Robinson Cano,  Ellsbury, and Granderson will probably not don orange and black next season.  

Still, after an offseason focused exclusively on maintenance, some new faces next year may make their way onto the roster, especially if the defending champs are dethroned. 

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