The San Francisco Giants have some tough choices ahead this offseason.
They already made one by choosing to re-sign outfielder Hunter Pence sooner rather than later. And another potential decision was made for them when Cuban sensation Jose Abreu opted to sign with the Chicago White Sox.
But several questions remain, and general manager Brian Sabean's actions this offseason will either pay dividends or keep the Giants out of contention.
The primary decision Sabean must make is whether or not to re-sign franchise pitcher Tim Lincecum. However, it may not be his decision after all, as the right-hander could very well decide to take his arm elsewhere.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports Lincecum is looking for a short-term deal. He writes:
"While it's possible Lincecum, a two-time Cy Young winner and two-time World Champion with the Giants, could end up elsewhere and maybe even with a longer deal, people familiar with the team's negotiations suggest the pitcher seemed more interested in a short deal in his dealings with the Giants, for either one or two years."
But does Lincecum want to stay in San Francisco? Other teams, such as the Seattle Mariners, are interested in the veteran starter. Andrew Baggarly reported the Giants offered Lincecum a two-year deal, but the hurler declined.
It appears "The Freak" wants to at least test the waters of free agency. And, if so, the Giants might be forced to extend a one- or two-year deal an extra year.
And if Lincecum signs elsewhere? The what-if scenarios become endless. Sabean will need to not only sign another starter to bolster his existing rotation, but possibly and probably another to compensate for Lincecum's absence.
Moving past the pitching rotation, Sabean has other holes to fill. With Abreu off the market, Sabean can either make moves to sign a free-agent first baseman, or a corner outfielder depending on the market and market interest.
A possible option in the first base pool includes Kendrys Morales of the Seattle Mariners; however, Morales served as the Mariners' designated hitter and is not a premier fielder. Morales would be a huge step down defensively from Brandon Belt, who would move to left field.
In the outfielder market, there are a range of players who span a range of price tags. the Red Sox might be tempted to lock up Jacoby Ellsbury if he helps bring Boston a World Series title, and, conversely, the St. Louis Cardinals could have similar sentiment toward Carlos Beltran.
Another free agent of note is left-handed reliever Javier Lopez. The Giants placed Lopez on the waiver wire in 2013, but are in need of bullpen reinforcements. Last season, Lopez pitched well, posting a 1.83 ERA in 69 appearances. And, according to Chris Haft of MLB.com, Sabean is interested in keeping the lefty a Giant.
One choice is clear: Sabean and the Giants cannot rest on their laurels this offseason. Moves will have to be made and difficult decisions ultimately decided if the Giants hope to contend in 2014.