The finest athletes and the most successful teams possess a short-term memory and a willingness to look toward the future. For the Giants, the future could be bright.
If the Giants and their front office want to return to contention in 2014, there are changes that must be made and chess pieces that need to be moved. This coming offseason, look for Giants' general manager Brian Sabean to act more aggressively in order to improve his team's playoff odds going into 2014.
Sabean's first step should and probably will be to re-sign pitcher Tim Lincecum and right fielder Hunter Pence.
Both Pence and Lincecum are important fixtures in the Giants' clubhouse, and both contribute on the field. Pence has started every game this season and has expressed a want to sign a multi-year contract with San Francisco as opposed to enter the free-agent market:
Although Lincecum has posted a mediocre 4.40 ERA (along with a dismal 9-13 record) on the season, he has impressed in recent starts and pitched a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres.
Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com writes:
The qualifying offer might be an even bigger factor. The Giants already have signaled their intention to make one to Lincecum, which should be in the area of $13.5 million on a one-year contract. He has preferred to stay on short-term contracts, but even if he didn’t accept it, the offer would make his free agency a little less free. If another team signs him, they would forfeit a first-round draft pick.
Additionally, Lincecum and Pence each occupy areas of need for the Giants, and their potential absences would only exacerbate these problems. Rather than expand existing holes, Sabean and the Giants would do well to lock up these two key free-agents-to-be.
Another pitcher approaching free agency for the Giants faces a different fate going into the 2014 season. Prediction: The Giants will not offer left-hander Barry Zito a contract. Already placed on waivers over the trade deadline period, the Giants are ready to rid their payroll of Zito's hefty existing contract.
In terms of adding soon-to-be free agents to the roster next season, hopefully Sabean will actually address the blaring issues in the outfield. While center fielder Angel Pagan's returned presence will alleviate the problem somewhat, the lack of production in left field remains an issue moving forward into 2014.
A number of high-priced outfielders are set to hit the free-agent market, but the Giants' priority will be to keep Pence in his right field post at AT&T Park. Premier left fielders set to hit the free-agent market this coming offseason include Mike Morse, Nate McLouth, Grady Sizemore and Jason Kubel.
Kubel, currently on the Cleveland Indians, has a $7.5 million club option with a $1 million buyout for next season. Kubel started the season on the Arizona Diamondbacks and struggled, batting a paltry .220 coupled with only five home runs. Still, a mere season ago, Kubel blasted 30 home runs while playing in the NL West.
But are the Giants looking to sign a middle-of-the-road type of free agent to solve the gaping hole in left field? Last offseason, Sabean put forth a conservative solution to the problem by signing Andres Torres in order to platoon the position between Torres and Gregor Blanco.
Clearly, this thrifty move ultimately did not pay dividends.
There are a number of relatively low-priced outfielders soon to be available in the offseason. The Orioles' Nate McLouth currently makes $2 million, with his one-year contract with Baltimore set to expire in 2013. Grady Sizemore, who has not played a major league game since 2011, plans to sign with a team this offseason:
Either way, Brian Sabean and the Giants will not repeat the same mistake. Giants fans should not be surprised to see an unfamiliar face in left field next season.
Look for the Giants' upcoming offseason to be vastly more active than in years past. Fundamental pieces of the puzzle will remain with the team, but the Giants have learned band-aid solutions on major problems will simply not suffice.