5 Things the SF Giants Still Need to Do Before the Start of Spring Training
The San Francisco Giants finished the 2013 season with a record of 76-86, tied for third place in the NL West. For a team that ended the year 10 games under .500, the Giants roster is fairly set as we look forward to spring training.
The Giants were able to re-sign their own players they wanted to keep, including Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong. In addition, they brought in Tim Hudson and Michael Morse via the free-agent market.
With their starting infield and outfield all set, plus their top backups also in place, there really is only room for a couple of reserve spots among the position players.
The starting five is also in place, as are the Giants' core relievers. Realistically, only one or two relief jobs are up for competition in the entire pitching staff.
When this winter is complete, general manager Brian Sabean will have increased the Giants' payroll by roughly $20 million over the 2013 level. Look for the Giants to open the season with a payroll in the $155 million range.
There is still work to be done as the Giants prepare for spring training. Some of the work involves tweaking the roster, and there is also the need to make sure the current players are healthy and ready to go in the spring.
Let's take a look at five things that the Giants need to focus on before the onset of spring training.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
5. Acquire a Backup Infielder to Compete for a Utility Job
Joaquin Arias has experience playing at both the middle- and corner-infield spots. He is the Giants' top reserve infielder.
In 2013, Arias had 225 at-bats, hitting .271, with one home run and 19 RBI. He is also a solid defensive player and, although he brings very little power, is a valuable reserve.
The other backup infield spot is currently open. Tony Abreu appears to be the odds-on-favorite, as he has the most major league experience and is a solid hitter.
A bad knee limited Abreu's playing time last year, as he appeared in only 53 games. In 138 at-bats, Abreu hit .268 with two home runs and 14 RBI. His range was limited last season due to the balky knee.
Nick Noonan and Ehire Adrianza are two young players who are both better defensively than Abreu, but there's a big question if either can hit big league pitching.
It would be wise for the Giants to bring in a solid veteran player to compete with Abreu, Noonan and Adrianza for this job.
Jeff Baker or Justin Turner is the type of player who would be inexpensive and provide a veteran presence off the bench.
4. Closely Monitor the Progress of Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson was having a decent year when he went down with a severe ankle injury.
Hudson was covering first base on a ground ball hit to the right side by Eric Young Jr. Unfortunately, Young landed on Hudson's right ankle and broke it, requiring surgery.
The injury occurred in late July, and Hudson has not yet started throwing off a mound. Although he hopes to be ready by Opening Day, the Giants must closely monitor his health, and if there's any doubt, they need to have a contingency plan.
Yusmeiro Petit could fill in as the fifth starter if Hudson isn't ready to go, but the Giants should also look to bring in another starting pitcher to compete for the job.
GM Brian Sabean recently inked Dontrelle Willis to a minor league deal, but he is a long shot at best. Willis has not pitched in the majors since 2011 and is trying to resurrect his career.
As the old saying goes, "You can never have enough pitching." If there's any uncertainty surrounding Hudson's health, Sabean needs to bring in another starter as an insurance policy.
3. Bring in a Veteran Outfielder to Compete for the 5th Job
With the acquisition of Michael Morse, the Giants have their starting outfield. With Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan and Morse, along with Gregor Blanco as the fourth outfielder, the team has one open roster spot in the outfield.
Juan Perez has the inside track and is likely to win that job. However, the Giants' brain trust may want Perez to play every day, and he wouldn't do that as a fifth outfielder.
Perez has good speed and is a very good defender. The key is whether he can hit enough to warrant being in the majors. Perez is valuable, but Sabean and Bruce Bochy could decide to give him more seasoning and an opportunity to play every day in the minors.
In order to make this a viable option, the Giants need to bring in a veteran outfielder who can contribute off the bench. This would provide competition for both Blanco and Perez, forcing them to earn their roster spots.
Chris Coghlan is a young veteran who could be a fit for the Giants in this role. He can play all three outfield spots and has a career batting average of .270, an OBP of .337 and an OPS of .727.
Defensively, the Giants will likely remove Morse from most games when they're ahead. Coghlan will give them another competent player both defensively and at the plate.
2. Monitor the Conditioning of Pablo Sandoval
One of the most important players for the Giants' 2014 success is Pablo Sandoval. It is also a very important year for him.
Sandoval is at the end of his contract, and this is his opportunity to cash in for big money if he has a good season and keeps his weight under control.
When Sandoval balloons up, his defense is the first thing to suffer. Then his bat speed slows. Finally, injuries seem to dog him when he is excessively overweight.
Sandoval should also be very motivated to report to camp in the best shape of his career. If he is to secure a long-term contract for big money, he needs to convince the Giants and other teams that he can be in shape, stay injury free and produce.
In 2013, Sandoval hit .278 with 14 home runs and 79 RBI. His OBP was .341, to go along with an OPS of .758. Sandoval is an outstanding athlete and still has tremendous potential. His 2012 World Series MVP honor is a testament to his abilities.
Sandoval is an integral part of the Giants offense. The team needs him to reach, or at least come close, to his true potential.
It would be wise for the Giants to be engaged with Sandoval frequently between now and spring training. It's important for both that Sandoval has a big year.
1. Acquire 1 Extra Pitcher
In 2013, injuries and poor performances by the pitching staff doomed the Giants.
Ryan Vogelsong, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla all missed significant time due to injury. In addition, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum all had years that were below their expectations.
The Giants have gone back to the game plan that helped to win them the 2010 and 2012 World Series titles. Focusing on pitching, the Giants are intent on their staff leading the way.
It would be beneficial for the Giants to acquire one additional pitcher. He can compete with Yusmeiro Petit for the role of spot starter/long reliever. In addition, if the Giants have injuries to any of their starters, this pitcher can fill in.
Paul Maholm, Jeff Karstens or Jason Marquis could fill this role. Last year's surprise arm was Chad Gaudin, and he is also still available.
The Giants rely on their arms to lead the way, so having one more quality arm on the roster would be a real positive.