Reassessing San Francisco Giants' Offseason Plan and What's Next
The San Francisco Giants entered 2013 with high hopes after winning their second World Series title in three years in 2012, but they stumbled to a 76-86 finish and a third-place tie in the National League West.
Despite having essentially the same roster as previous years, the Giants could never recapture the form that made them baseball's best team. As the offseason has progressed, San Francisco has been successful in retaining its veteran core with a series of re-signings.
Some of the new contracts have been met with heavy skepticism, as Giants general manager Brian Sabean paid the big bucks to re-sign players like Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence.
But after a recent signing of outfielder Michael Morse to a free-agent deal, Sabean told reporters that the Giants are likely done agreeing to any more new Major League contracts heading into 2014, per John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle.
So, the heavy lifting for the Giants is finished, but that's not to say there are still moves to be made. Let's take a look at what San Francisco has accomplished so far this offseason, followed by some analysis of what needs to be done by the start of spring training.
Evaluating Offseason Moves so Far
The Giants raised some eyebrows near the end of the regular season when they inked mercurial right-hander Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million contract before he could even hit the open market.
Lincecum is only 29 and has a pair of National League Cy Young Awards to his name, but he has been largely inconsistent the past two seasons. In that span, he's posted a 20-29 record, 4.76 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and 9.0 K/9 ratio, hardly numbers that warrant such a pricey commitment from the Giants.
Even in an offseason when the low-budget Oakland Athletics signed Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million contract, Lincecum's pact stands as arguably the biggest overpay in free agency this offseason.
The team also filled out the rest of the rotation by signing 38-year-old Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million pact, even though he's coming off of ankle surgery, while bringing back Ryan Vogelsong on a low-cost, one-year deal.
That leaves a solid rotation of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Hudson, Lincecum and Vogelsong for the Giants, who will look to improve last year's starters' ERA mark of 4.37, which ranked 24th in baseball. Granted, there are still some question marks surrounding the pitching staff, mostly due to age and injury concerns.
Offensively, the team was enamored with center fielder Hunter Pence, re-signing him to a five-year, $90 million contract before he could become a free agent. The Giants also recently announced a one-year pact with Michael Morse, giving them a much-needed right-handed power bat that also fills the biggest hole in the lineup at left field.
Another key re-signing for the team was elite southpaw setup man Javier Lopez, who the Giants wisely locked up with a three-year contract.
In all, the team is looking virtually the same as it did last year, with upgrades like Hudson over Barry Zito and Morse over Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres. It's clear that general manager Brian Sabean is confident in his veteran core, and it looks like he will ride this wave of talent as long he can.
Clear Spot on 40-Man Roster
Once the deals are processed by the league, there will be 41 players vying for spots on the 40-man roster, meaning at least one player is on his way out the door. According to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, first baseman Brett Pill is the most likely candidate to be shipped away.
Baggarly also mentioned infielder Nick Noonan and Ehire Adrianza as two players who have generated interest, but he noted that Pill is "redundant" to Morse, essentially filling the same roles as a first baseman/left fielder.
Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Milwaukee Brewers have called the Giants about Pill's availability in the past. With Corey Hart gone to Seattle, Milwaukee has an opening at first base, and Pill could fit the bill.
An upcoming roster move to free-up a spot could be the last major move that the Giants make all offseason.
Improve Bullpen Depth
Once the Giants addressed their biggest need of the offseason by signing left fielder Michael Morse to a contract, assistant general manager Bobby Evans told 95.7 The Game that the team's next priority would be to bolster the bullpen.
Sergio Romo is entrenched as the team's closer, and Javier Lopez is the team's go-to southpaw, but don't be surprised if the Giants get some right-handed relief help. Leading up to Romo, the team's top-two righties in the bullpen are Jean Machi and Santiago Casilla.
Casilla (2.16 ERA in 57 contests) and Machi (2.38 ERA in 51 games) were solid options for San Francisco last year, but there are still other names out there like Andrew Bailey, Jesse Crain and Chris Perez who can serve as a solid eighth-inning setup man.
The relief corps was a strength of last year's team and ranked eighth in bullpen ERA (3.30), but you can never have enough quality arms on the pitching staff.
Explore Starting Pitcher Market
The Giants might have a quintet of starters locked up for 2014, but it's a veteran group surrounded with injury and performance question marks.
If healthy, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong would give San Francisco a well-rounded rotation.
But beyond Cain and Bumgarner, you don't know what you're going to get with the Giants' starters. Hudson is 38 and recovering from major ankle surgery, Lincecum has been all over the place the past couple years and Vogelsong's 2013 was an ugly one.
As such, the team is reportedly kicking the tires on some other starting pitchers. According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Giants general manager Brian Sabean confirmed the team has expressed interest in comeback candidate Mark Mulder. The 36-year-old southpaw hasn't thrown an MLB pitch since 2008 but is seeking a big-league deal, something the Giants wouldn't commit to.
As for the prize of the free-agent starter's market, Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, Shea reported that Sabean left the door open, although it's hard to see the team shelling out any more big contracts this offseason.
It doesn't appear that the team is sold on Vogelsong as the fifth starter, so don't be surprised if the Giants make a low-profile deal for insurance or explore bringing back Chad Gaudin.