2012 San Francisco Giants: How Set Is the Roster?
With the acquisition of outfielder Angel Pagan from the New York Mets, the Giants took one step closer to finalizing their 25 man roster for 2012 season. While Major League rosters are always fluid, the groundwork has been laid for the Giants to set out and regain the NL West and World Series titles they lost last year.
This slideshow is a look at what positions are set for 2012, and what positions are still up for grabs.
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We start with starting pitching because it is the surest thing the Giants have set in stone at the moment. And that is a funny statement because technically, only one of the five starters are under contract for next season.
1. Tim Lincecum
Look for Lincecum to do what he did two years ago. He will sign a two-year deal to buy out the remaining years of arbitration that he has available. Something in the range of $18-20 million for year one and $20-22 million in year two. Lincecum will once again headline a rotation that is the heart and soul of the team and as good as any pitching staff in all of baseball.
2. Madison Bumgarner
He is the third best starter on the team but breaking up the right-handers Lincecum and Cain is a good idea. He will sign a contract for slightly above $500,000. The main goal for Bumgarner needs to be to get off to a strong start. His first four starts last year had everybody worried about his increased inning total from the year before. And two years ago he was throwing 85 mph in spring training. A strong start could catapult him into the discussion with the elite pitchers in baseball.
3. Matt Cain
The ideal No. 2 pitcher, Matt Cain has all the abilities of a No. 1 but none of the desire to stand in the spotlight. It would be a good thing if the Giants can lock him up to a long-term deal before CJ Wilson raises the bar. A five-year deal around $85 million would be fair to both sides.
4. Ryan Vogelsong
Nobody is expecting Vogelsong to be the pitcher he was last year. As major league hitters got accustomed to him, his ERA rose every month before coming back down again in September. An ERA around 3.33 would be more than acceptable from a fourth starter. Look for the Giants to try and lock him up on a cheap deal for about three to four years.
5. Barry Zito
Please just don't suck so bad
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Relief pitching is one of the most valuable and undervalued aspects of the game. The San Francisco Giants have both realized and capitalized on this. The bullpen is the most flexible part of the team as there is always good help available on the trade market and sometimes even available in the minor leagues.
Closer, Brian Wilson
The beard will once again be the closer this year for the Giants. He is an offseason workout warrior so I expect him to address the injuries that forced him the disabled list on multiple occasions last year. However, the Giants' brand of baseball will force Wilson into a lot of save opportunities and a smart front office should have contingency plans available.
Middle relief, Sergio Romo
The eighth inning should be all Romo's this year. He has always been nearly unhittable against right-handed hitters but has shown an ability to be nearly as dominant against left-handers as well. It should be his turn to close if Wilson is unable to do so and it is possible he could be the closer of the future if Wilson becomes too expensive.
Middle relief, Jeremy Affeldt
Its not often that a team has two top flight left-handed relief pitchers but the Giants have precisely that. Javier Lopez allows the Giants to use Jeremy Affeldt in a more traditional role. The presence of Lopez also makes Affeldt expendable and he has been the subject of trade talks. Possibly for a middle infielder.
Middle relief, Santiago Casilla
Santiago Casilla filled in admirably for Brian Wilson last year gaining six saves. He should be typically used in the sixth or seventh innings this year.
Lefty specialist, Javier Lopez
Never has Javier Lopez been more valuable than in the 2010 NLCS as he shut down Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. His continued dominance of left-handers make him an indispensable asset against the likes of Utley, Howard, Fielder and an assortment of other dangerous left-handed hitters.
Long relief, Guillermo Mota
I could never figure out how Mota's ERA was nearing four last year. Every time I watched him he was lights out and shined in a long relief role. Being 39 years of age should be a bit of a red flag but he has shown no signs of slowing down.
That shows six relief spots taken out of eight barring any trades. Ramon Ramirez would have been the clear choice to fill a spot if not for his recent trade. Other options include Dan Runzler, Heath Hembree, Steve Edelfsen, or another free agent.
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The Giants will undoubtedly carry two catchers next year with Pablo Sandoval being the emergency catcher. The starter will be a clear and easy choice, but a backup should be high priority with Posey coming off his injury and playing more first base this year.
Starting catcher, Buster Posey
He is the biggest question mark heading into the season. If he can regain the form that made him the 2010 Rookie of the Year, he will help the Giants back into the postseason. If he cannot, it could be a long season. He will play a lot of first base this year so the backup will see a lot of action.
Eli Whiteside, Chris Stewart and Hector Sanchez are viable options here. Whiteside and Stewart have proven to have similar offensive value while Stewart has shown much more of an ability to play everyday and to do well defensively. I think Whiteside is out of the mix.
Sanchez, on the other hand, is a much better hitting prospect and could be the Giants' catcher of the future if Posey makes the move to first. Sanchez also could be a valuable piece in any trade. I think he needs to play everyday right now as a contingency plan for Posey.
Another option here is signing a free agent. With the Giants having a lot of money tied up while still having positions to fill, I think they stay in house on this one and start the season with Chris Stewart.
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There are plenty of questions at each position with the exception of 3B.
Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt, Brett Pill and Buster Posey all figure to have some role at first base this season. Pablo Sandoval could even have a couple of starts there. Two of these bats are right-handed and two are left-handed. I believe Huff will go to the outfield leaving Belt to be the most regular first basemen on the team.
He is a prospect with big expectations but he is still unproven so expect the Giants to have right-handed insurance available. Normally I would say it would be Pill but given Posey's situation I believe he will be right-handed hitter available. In the event that Belt and Posey cannot go, Huff will be able to move in from the outfield. Don't forget about Sandoval's ability to play there as well. Pill will go the minors.
Freddy Sanchez is your unquestioned starter heading into the season but he will assuredly end up on the disabled list at some point. So a backup is necessary. This backup will be discussed in the utility role.
Pablo Sandoval is as sure of a thing as the Giants have at any position right now. Put him at third and leave him alone.
The Giants have many options right now at shortstop but only one in house. His name is Brandon Crawford. They will rely on his slick fielding to compensate for his poor offensive production, but will also bring in a right-handed bat to give him a break from time to time. Expect that right-handed bat to be able to play more than just shortstop.
Besides a primarily backup SS the Giants will have one more infielder that will be a late game replacement and spot starter. This player should be able to play 2B, 3B and maybe a little SS. Options are Jeff Keppinger, Emmanuel Burris, Mike Fontenot and Connor Gillespie.
Keppinger is said to be too expensive and Bochy has said that Gillespie made the most improvement of any Giant in the minor league system last year. Burris could start the year in the minors and I don't see much upside to Fontenot. My guess is either Burris or Gillespie start the season with the Giants.
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The Giants did a lot to shore up the outfield with the acquisition of Angel Pagan, but specific positions are far from filled.
The acquisition of Angel Pagan brings many possibilities to left and center fields. With the current roster either Aubrey Huff or Melky Cabrera starts in left field. Cabrera is assured a starting spot to start the season so the question becomes Aubrey Huff in left or Pagan in center with Melky playing the other position. I think the Giants give Aubrey Huff a chance regain his 2010 form or at the very least come close to it.
Melky Cabrera was brought in to play center field and leadoff but Angel Pagan does both of those as well. My thought is that Cabrera starts in center and Pagan is his late-inning replacement and Cabrera moves to left for the defensively challenged Huff.
Nate Schierholtz had a very nice year last year before ending the year on the disabled list. He hit for a nice average, had some late inning clutch hits and played excellent defense in what is one of the toughest right fields in all of baseball. Right field should be his.
There will be two reserve outfield spots. One goes to the recently obtained Angel Pagan while the other is up in the air. The popular choice would be Carlos Beltran but I don't see the Giants spending the money to do that. I think anyone they bring in will be strictly in a reserve role, so don't expect Josh Willingham or Carlos Quentin either.
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CF Melky Cabrera
2B Freddy Sanchez
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
LF Aubrey Huff
1B Brandon Belt
RF Nate Schierholtz
SS Brandon Crawford
P Tim Lincecum
The lineup looks a little left-handed heavy and a little light on bats. Comebacks from Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff will do a lot for a team that only needs to score four runs per game.
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Giants Christmas Wishlist
2 relievers (in house or trade/FA)
1 C (in house)
1 IF (in house or trade/FA)
1 OF (trade or FA)
Does this team have enough to win the 2012 NL West or even the World Series. Where can they do better? What holes do they need to fill?