Hopefully, some big changes are in the offering this coming offseason for the San Francisco Giants.
General manager Brian Sabean and the Giants' front office rested on their laurels after the 2012 season, although, to be fair, they were coming off their second World Series win in three years.
However, there were noticeable holes in the lineup. The left field situation remained a huge question mark after the loss of Melky Cabrera, the starting pitching was beginning to weaken and the overall depth on the bench was dismally thin.
While Sabean and crew did successfully re-sign center fielder Angel Pagan and second baseman Marco Scutaro to multi-year deals, as well as lock up pitchers Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner along with catcher Buster Posey through the foreseeable future, they failed to bolster or add to a flawed lineup.
Sabean does not want to repeat a Barry Zito-esque fiasco. Zito signed a $126 million, seven-year deal with the Giants in 2006, taking up a huge chunk of payroll in the expectation that Zito would become a franchise player for San Francisco.
That didn't happen.
Since that deal, the Giants have been skittish in attempting to sign high-priced free agents. While Sabean has been more liberal around the trade deadline in acquiring Carlos Beltran in 2011 and Hunter Pence in 2012, he is consistently conservative every offseason.
There is an argument that Sabean's methodology is working and that to change a formula that has garnered two World Series titles is jumping the gun after a disappointing season. However, if you look at both seasons following the Giants' World Series victories, they failed to make the playoffs on both occasions.
After 2010, Sabean elected to maintain his band of misfits, but lightning did not strike twice for him, as veteran Aubrey Huff struggled throughout the year, second baseman Freddy Sanchez was lost to injury and although the Giants remained competitive, they ultimately failed to win the NL West or even qualify for an NL Wild Card.
In 2012, the Giants opted for a much younger lineup, focusing on developing talent on the field as opposed to sticking with the old guard. They also shipped off left-handed pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to Kansas City in exchange for left fielder Melky Cabrera, bolstering their offense in a relatively big move.
Sabean is already taking steps toward improving next season. According to ESPN.com, Sabean is actively scouting Cuban sensation Jose Abreu. Meanwhile, Giants' vice president Bobby Evans told Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area that the organization is weighing its options:
The risk and cost assessment has to be part of the equation. As for the rewards, you do look at what some of these recent high-risk signings have done. It does give you a sense of `This is the potential.’ It does give you that desire to say, `Hey, can we get the next one?’
Sabean and the Giants are sure to face stiff competition in possibly acquiring Abreu, but that shouldn't cause them to fold. Abreu is a power-hitting first baseman, and current Giants' first baseman Brandon Belt has experience playing left field.
Right fielder Hunter Pence will be a free agent this offseason, but is talking with San Francisco brass about re-signing with the team, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle:
The Giants and agents for Hunter Pence have begun discussions on a long-term contract for the right fielder, a sign that the team is serious about locking him up before he becomes eligible for free agency after the season, and that he is open to the idea.
Re-signing key free agents is one gold star on Sabean's track record. Nobody can fault him for re-signing second baseman Marco Scutaro and center fielder Angel Pagan to multi-year contracts. But Sabean needs to look elsewhere in order to fill gaping holes in left field, the starting rotation and the bullpen.
There are free agents aplenty and the market this offseason will be rich with starting pitchers (including the Giants' own Tim Lincecum) and big-name position players. While the Giants will understandably stay out of the Robinson Cano lottery, they should take a hard look at soon-to-be free agent pitchers such as Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Ricky Nolasco. They should also not discount big-name outfielders like Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson.
The Giants do not play in a small-market city. They are attractive to free agents who have seen the Giants win two World Series titles in three years. Players who come to San Francisco want to stay there, as illustrated by Sabean's success in re-signing players to long-term contracts.
This Giants team needs a facelift, not just simple Botox. Sabean should not be afraid to make some big moves this offseason.