San Francisco Giants: Grading Brian Sabean's Performance in 2013
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As the sun sets on San Francisco Bay and the Giants' 2013 season, now is a great time to look back on the decisions made by general manager Brian Sabean and evaluate his performance over the past year.
Sabean is the longest-tenured GM in the majors. Under his direction, the Giants won world championships in 2010 and 2012, ending a drought that had dated back to 1954 in New York when the Giants last won a World Series title.
When the Giants won it all in 2012, they began the season with a team payroll of slightly over $131 million. The Giants entered this season with a payroll just under $137 million. On the surface, it appeared as though the Giants had a $6 million dollar increase, however, but that was not actually true.
Prior to the trade deadline last season, Sabean made deals to acquire Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro, so their final payroll for 2012 was actually in the $138 million range.
That is important to remember as we evaluate Sabean's performance this year. Let's take a look at some of the moves he made and those he has passed on since the 2012 World Series victory.
The bottom line is that 2013 has been a disappointing season, as injuries and subpar performances have hamstrung the team.
All salary information courtesy of Baseball Prospectus
No. 5: Lack of Pitching Depth
Chad Gaudin was one of the only pitchers that Sabean acquired this past winter.
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When the San Francisco Giants were winning, they are a team built around pitching, defense and timely hitting. This formula worked perfectly in 2012, when all five pitchers in the rotation started over 30 games.
The strong performance of the starting pitching also helped the bullpen. The starters ate up innings and did not put a heavy burden on the bullpen. That made the bullpen more effective when called upon.
The Giants' luck with their pitchers ran out in 2013. Matt Cain was inconsistent and spent time on the disabled list. Tim Lincecum had his ups and downs, as he has tried to remake himself into more of a pitcher who relies on location and movement, as opposed to blowing hitters away.
After two solid seasons, Ryan Vogelsong struggled early on. Although Vogelsong is back in the rotation, he is still not as effective as he was over his past two seasons. Barry Zito has lost it and is now just playing out the string. He has even been dropped from the rotation.
Only Madison Bumgarner shined and is now the ace of the staff. He leads all Giant starters with an ERA of 2.84 and a WHIP of 1.034.
The pitching problems were not confined to the starting rotation, however, as several San Francisco mainstays in the bullpen either spent time on the disabled list or were ineffective. They included Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Chad Gaudin and George Kontos.
When four of your seven core relievers are unable to perform, it becomes a major problem. The Giants were unable to overcome these pitching woes. Of the Giants' core relievers, only Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo had good seasons.
Sabean took a gamble that his crop of pitchers could stay healthy and be effective, but like his team, he lost.
The only new face who the Giants brought in was journeyman Chad Gaudin, who had the role of long reliever when the season started. Due to injuries, however, Gaudin was thrust into the rotation and did remarkably well.
Gaudin's move into the rotation also weakened a struggling bullpen. The Giants tried several pitchers to varying degrees of success. None of their young pitchers can be considered a lock for the Opening Day roster next season.
Yusmeiro Petit, who was an afterthought at the beginning of the year. has come in and pitched well, giving himself a chance to earn a spot on the team in 2104.
As a group, Giants' pitchers underperformed this year. Sabean's failure to add quality pitching depth cost his team dearly.
No. 4: Lack of Production off the Bench
Joaquin Arias has been the best player off the bench for the Giants.
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The bench was a source of frustration for the Giants in 2013. Only Joaquin Arias opened the season in San Francisco and remained throughout the year.
Sabean was forced to go cheap for his bench players and that cost the Giants, who began the year with players who were not big league caliber.
Over the course of the season, several players got an opportunity, but few made any impact. They included Guillermo Quiroz, Nick Noonan, Francisco Peguero, Brett Pill, Jeff Francouer, Roger Kieschnick, Kensuke Tanaka, Tony Abreu and Juan Perez.
Not one of them is ready to be a full-time contributor to any major league roster.
In the National League, depth is a major advantage. Giants manager Bruce Bochy is very adept at maneuvering his roster to produce the best results. Unfortunately, he did not have enough quality off the bench to work his magic in 2013.
Backup catcher Hector Sanchez lost his job in the spring when he reported to camp overweight and proceeded to get injured.
Sanchez finally rounded into form around July and has been good off the bench. As he got into better condition, his health issues also subsided. If Sanchez can emerge from this offseason in shape and ready to play in the spring, he stands to win a job.
Looking ahead, Sabean and the Giants must improve their bench, as their reserves will have to play key roles in 2014.
No. 3: The Signing of Marco Scutaro
Marco Scutaro was the MVP of the 2012 NLCS.
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The Giants acquired Marco Scutaro prior to the 2012 trade deadline from the Colorado Rockies. It seemed like a low-profile, under-the-radar acquisition at the time.
However, Scutaro turned out to be a catalyst for the Giants' world championship run. In 61 games with the Giants during the regular season last year, Scutaro hit .362, with an OBP of .385 and OPS of .859.
Scutaro also contributed 44 RBI and gave the Giants a professional at-bat every time he came to the plate.
In the postseason, Scutaro continued to soar and earned MVP honors in the NLCS. Against the Cardinals, he hit .500, with an OBP of .533 and OPS of 1.140. He also showed great toughness when he continued to play after being steamrolled by Matt Holliday on a play at second base.
Scutaro's courageous play epitomized the Giants' attitude of never quitting as they pulled together to win their second world championship in three years.
Scutaro was a free agent following the season who the Giants desperately wanted him to return. GM Brian Sabean gave Scutaro a three-year, $20 million deal.
The length of the contract was a surprise, however, as Scutaro will turn 38 at the end of October. Although we may never really know for sure, Scutaro might have instead agreed to a two-year deal, which would have made a lot more sense from Sabean's perspective.
Scutaro has battled a finger injury and back trouble this season. His back woes appear to be chronic and could affect him over the final two years of his contract.
Scutaro is hitting .297, but has only 31 RBI in 488 at-bats. Defensively, Scutaro has also slipped, which could also be due to his bad back.
It's great to reward top performances, but in this case, Sabean went one year too long on Scutaro's contract.
No. 2: Holding on to Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez
Hunter Pence leads the Giants with 25 home runs, 93 RBI and 21 steals.
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As the 2013 trade deadline was approaching, it became painfully obvious that this was not the Giants' year.
GM Brian Sabean considered trading Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez, with all looming as free agents after the season.
However, Sabean opted not to pull the trigger on any of the three players although any of them could have helped a team in contention.
In a relatively thin trade market, the offers for Pence, Lincecum and Lopez were well below what Sabean wanted for them. Sabean chose to hold on to the trio in hopes that he can re-sign them for 2014 and beyond.
In light of the poor offers, Sabean's decision to keep the three was a good idea, assuming that the Giants are able to re-sign them.
in addition, the Giants will most likely tender a contract to both Pence and Lincecum. If they are unable to sign either, the Giants will receive a first-round draft selection, or at worst, a compensatory pick after the first round of the 2014 amateur draft.
With a relatively thin free-agent market, the price tag for all three of these players won't be cheap.
No. 1: The Signing of Angel Pagan
The Giants struggled when Angel Pagan was injured.
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General manager Brian Sabean acquired Angel Pagan in a trade with the New York Mets, prior to the 2012 season. Pagan went on to have an excellent year for the Giants and was a catalyst for their offense.
In 2012, Pagan hit .288, with eight home runs, 56 RBI and 95 runs scored. He also stole 29 bases and set a Giants' record with 15 triples last year.
Pagan was one of the emotional leaders for the Giants and his play was instrumental to helping them achieve World Series success.
This winter, Sabean signed Pagan to a four-year, $40 million contract. The deal did not pay off in 2013, as Pagan injured his hamstring and missed several weeks. While Pagan was out, the Giants struggled
However, with Pagan's return, it's easy to see the value he brings to the Giants. He ignites the offense and his enthusiastic approach helps to keep his teammates focused.
This deal for Pagan made sense for the Giants at the time and it still does today. Considering that Michael Bourne received a four-year, $48 million contract from Cleveland and Shane Victorino got three years and $39 million from the Red Sox, the Pagan deal was actually a good one for the Giants.
The Final Grade for Brian Sabean's 2013 Performance
Brian Sabean was the architect of two world championship teams in San Francisco.
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It is very tough to grade Brian Sabean's performance since the Giants' 2012 World Series win.
His hands were largely tied, as the Giants' management group did not give him an increased budget. Instead, they kept salaries at the same level as at the end of 2012.
This upcoming offseason will be an important one for Sabean. He has holes to fill in the outfield, off the bench and in the pitching staff. It is imperative for the Giants' management group to increase the salary budget so that Sabean can retain Pence, Lincecum and Lopez while also adding additional talent where needed.
If the Giants' ownership group is willing to allow Sabean to go to $150 million—about a $12 million increase from where they are right now, he should have the money needed to make the team a contender once again.
Brian Sabean's Final 2013 Grade: C