Offseason Outlook: San Francisco Giants

The Giants want to determine the long-term futures of their top starting pitchers, and support them in 2012 with improved offense at shortstop or in the outfield. 

Guaranteed Contracts

Contractual Options

Arbitration Eligible Players (estimated salaries)

Free Agents

The Giants won a World Series in 2010 based on great pitching, despite a middling offense.  The following offseason GM Brian Sabean was not aggressive in pursuing upgrades, and the Giants' offense had little margin for error heading into the 2011 season.  Huff and Torres declined markedly this year, while Sandoval and Buster Posey suffered critical injuries.  The result was the worst offense in the National League, despite solid midseason additions of Beltran and Keppinger.

It's natural to think Sabean adds a couple of offensive-minded position players this winter, but payroll constraints could get in the way.  The team's payroll is expected to remain around $125MM, and the Giants have an expensive and large arbitration class.  Lincecum, Sanchez, and Sandoval could total nearly $30MM.  Non-tendering or trading other arbitration eligibles like Torres and Fontenot won't make a big difference.  Sabean spoke in September about Jonathan Sanchez as a viable candidate for the fifth starter job, but trading him could create much-needed payroll flexibility.  Keppinger is another movable piece, if the Giants feel Freddy Sanchez will be healthy for 2012.  Declining Affeldt's option or exercising it and trading the lefty could clear some payroll space, but Sabean expects the reliever back next year.  Lopez may depart for greener pastures, but he's worthy of an arbitration offer, enabling the Giants to acquire a supplemental draft pick.

Sabean's initial offseason focus is clear, as he told reporters, "Our pitching’s going to get expensive, that’s the punch line and we have to take care of that first."  Cain is locked in at $15MM next year, but it's clear Sabean views extending him as a pressing concern.  Any years added beyond 2012 will surely be north of $15MM, so Cain's situation affects the Giants' ability to sign big multiyear free agent deals. 

Lincecum's salary is an unknown, but with a historic arbitration case on the horizon, the Giants can expect $18-20MM for 2012.  Lincecum's 2013 salary projects as even more, and knocking a few million off per year with a multiyear deal would create cost certainty.  If Lincecum drives a hard bargain, his two arbitration years might cost the team $40MM as part of a multiyear deal.  Adding another six free agent years at $22MM per season would result in a contract worth more than $170MM, the largest ever for a pitcher.  I'm not sure the Giants should take that plunge. 

The Giants are interested in re-signing Beltran, and you have to wonder if there is an element of saving face since they surrendered top prospect Zack Wheeler for a couple months of Beltran in the July trade.  Sabean's comments imply a greater focus on a leadoff hitter/center fielder.  Coco Crisp would probably require a two-year deal, and he posted just a .314 on-base percentage this year.  Grady Sizemore and David DeJesus are one-year deal options, though their ability to play center field every day is in question.  The best free agent fit might be Jimmy Rollins, an Oakland native who could fill the team's shortstop and leadoff void while also improving the defense.  The idea of signing Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols seems silly, having discussed the Giants' payroll and priorities.

The Giants project to have at least one more year of elite pitching, so it's up to the game's longest-tenured GM to assemble a passable offense.  Sabean appears to be up against budget limitations, though he has mentioned the possibility of asking ownership for additional money toward adding a specific player.  That request makes sense, with the window on Cain and Lincecum potentially closing.



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