The San Francisco Giants fell off in 2011, after a strong 2010 season that resulted in a World Series victory. They didn't pitch as well, they didn't hit as well and the loss of their young anchor Buster Posey early in the season was a tough blow to recover from.
They finished the 2011 campaign with a very young team and talented team, but not a lot of veteran leadership or game changing ability. Luckily they play in the NL West and they are only a few key offseason moves away from being back at the top of their division, if not all of baseball.
The team strengthened their bullpen last week when they resigned Javier Lopez in addition to exercising Jeremy Affeldt's option for 2012. Those moves sure up their middle relief situation, but they still have a few other holes to plug.
The next five phone calls Brian Sabean makes should be to Jose Reyes and these other four critical free agents.
The Giants won't have much depth in their outfield going into the 2012 season and after the injury plagued 2011 they had, they should try to jump on the opportunity to grab a veteran outfielder who can be easily counted on.
Jason Kubel, other than his 2011 season, played in at least 130 games for four consecutive seasons and he is a career .271 hitter who has consistently shown 20 home run and 75 RBI power.
Kubel has had the advantage of coming up in one of the league's most solid farm systems with the Minnesota twins and has played under a tremendous manager, in Ron Gardenhire, for his whole career.
Throwing him into the mix if you're the Giants would be a solid move, whether he is an everyday guy in your lineup, or he bounces in and out of the lineup when you need him too.
I can't imagine the Giants signing both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, but if they somehow added both guys, the two former Twins would be very happy campers.
Cuddyer in many ways is just like Kubel. A career .272 hitter, Cuddyer has a bit more power—he hit 32 home runs in 2009—and has the consistent RBI output as well.
Cuddyer has been in the league since 2001 and in the last few seasons has showed some serious signs of veteran maturation. His walks have increased each of the last three seasons and his strikeouts have decreased, something the Giants' management should love hearing.
Aramis Ramirez has been a staple of the Chicago Cubs since 2003, when he joined the ball club. Ramirez, a 13-year veteran has shown durability, consistency, and a love for the game throughout his whole career.
He had a strong 2011 hitting .306, in addition to smashing 26 home runs while driving in 93 runs as well. Ramirez offensive ability has never been doubted, he had a 38 homer 119 RBI season in 2006, and is a lifetime .284 hitter.
The Giants do have Pablo "Panda" Sandoval at third base and I don't see him moving anytime soon because of his strong offensive numbers (minus 2011) and the dedicated love the fanbase has shown him.
We've seen guys switch position from first base to third base (most recently Kevin Youkilis) and I don't think it's crazy to think that Ramirez could go from third to first. If you're the Giants, Ramirez is a must have, at any position.
The resume speaks for itself. Prince Fielder is the best left handed power hitter in baseball right now. He's only 27 years old and there's a possibility that he hasn't even reached his prime yet.
If you sign Prince Fielder, you get a face of your franchise kind of guy. A gregarious player on the field, but a soft spoken and kind hearted person off the field. He also puts up out of this world numbers.
For the first time in his career Fielder walked more times than he struck out this season, showing signs of maturity, discipline and the fear he instills in opposing pitchers. You're also guaranteed at least 35 home runs and 100 RBI year in and year out.
Fielder jumps off the screen and captivates everyone watching him. Something the Giants organization hasn't had on their team since Barry Bonds.
If Prince Fielder's resume speaks for itself, then Jose Reyes' resume should have someone walk around and speak for it. He's the best shortstop in baseball and more importantly, he's a winner. We just haven't seen it yet.
I don't buy into his health being an issue because he's still young—turns 29 next June—and given a change of scenery, he will work even harder than he clearly already does and thrive under new leadership.
Reyes had one of the best 2011 seasons of anyone. He almost stole more bases (39) than he struck out (41). We all know that he won the batting title hitting .337, but he also knocked off over 20 doubles and 15 triples.
He's freakishly athletic, deathly fast and a game changer. Everyone wants him, San Francisco needs him.