The San Francisco Giants enter the final day of the 2013 season with a record of 75-86. The Giants defense of their 2012 championship fell short in large part because of a starting rotation that enters play on Sunday with the game's seventh-worst ERA.
For the first time since 2008, the Giants will go into the winter with a losing record. From 2009-12, the club reeled off four-straight winning seasons and two championships. The Giants had the game's best ERA during that stretch.
The Giants are close to being set on offense going into 2014. They re-signed right fielder Hunter Pence to a massive, five-year, $90 million deal on Saturday (h/t Andrew Baggarly, CSN Bay Area).
That means the Giants are now locked in at seven of the eight positions for next season. In addition to Pence, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval and Angel Pagan are all under contract beyond this season.
The one position San Francisco needs to upgrade is left field. The Giants have received only four home runs and a .647 OPS from their left fielders this season, which ranks them last in baseball in both categories.
Upgrading in left field while also getting a healthy season from Pagan in center should be enough to improve an offense that currently ranks 22nd in runs and 19th in OPS.
Thus, the focus this winter needs to be on bolstering the rotation. With Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain returning to front the top of the rotation, the Giants are already part of the way to having one of the game's top staffs again.
After a rough first half, Cain posted a 2.36 ERA over 11 second-half starts to get back on track. Bumgarner had the best year of his career with a 2.77 ERA.
Retaining former Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum is a key priority this winter. Slotting him back into the rotation behind Bumgarner and Cain would bolster the staff. However, that won't be enough to get the Giants back into the postseason.
To do that, they'll need to do more than re-sign Pence and Lincecum and call it a winter. If the Giants are going to overtake the Dodgers in the NL West in 2014, they need to be as aggressive in remaking their club as the Dodgers have been in recent years.