Offseason Outlook: San Francisco Giants

After winning the 2012 World Series, the Giants pretty much decided to hold pat and retain the same team.  This year, it could be a different story after San Francisco finished fourth in the NL West with a sub-.500 record.

Guaranteed Contracts

Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses)

Contract Options

Free Agents

The Giants have a few important players set to hit the open market, including the perplexing Tim Lincecum.  After breaking out in 2008 and asserting himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball across four consecutive years, The Freak struggled mightily in 2012 and rebounded somewhat in 2013.  Lincecum's fall from grace is troubling, but this year's numbers are promising. This season, the 29-year-old posted a 4.37 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 versus a 5.18 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 2012.  Meanwhile, his FIP (3.73), xFIP (3.56), and SIERA (3.75) are all better than his 2013 ERA as well as his 2012 marks.  Giants assistant General Manager Bobby Evans has made no secret of his desire to work out an extension with Lincecum and talks got underway shortly after the season ended.  The Giants could net a draft pick by extending him a qualifying offer of about $14.1MM, but it's not likely that they can keep him with that deal. 

The rotation figures to have at least one more vacancy.  Barry Zito is unlikely to return after finishing out his colossal contract and Ryan Vogelsong's $6.5MM club option is far from a slam dunk.  It's possible that Vogelsong, who posted a 5.73 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 2013, could be retained for less if the Giants decline the option and bring him back to the table.  Internal candidates Yusmeiro Petit and Eric Surkamp will get to audition for rotation spots during the spring, but they're not guaranteed to take off in 2013.  Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are a strong 1-2 combination, but they'll need their 3-5 starters to produce if they hope to get back to the playoffs. 

The Giants will have to go out and find a left fielder or a first baseman, depending on where they slot Brandon Belt.  Brett Pill is the understudy at first base and while he wouldn't be a terrible choice, San Francisco would probably look out-of-house for an alternative or competitor.  Gregor Blanco's solid glove helped him to a 2.8 WAR, but if he's slotted as the every day left fielder, he won't offer much in the way of offensive firepower.  If the Giants are going to spend, left field could be the place to do it.  Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jacoby Ellsbury will all be out on the open market and could play the position.  Guys like Nelson Cruz, Curtis Granderson, Marlon Byrd, Corey Hart, and Mike Napoli could also be in play if they don't feel like backing up a Brink's truck.

Regardless of where Belt is slotted, he appears to have a very bright future for himself in San Francisco.  He'll go through arbitration for the first time this season and thanks to his Super Two status, he'll have four arb eligible winters in total.  The Giants may consider buying out those years and more with an extension and Tim Dierkes recently suggested Allen Craig's deal as a possible comp.  Craig got a backloaded five-year deal out of the Cards that guarantees him $31MM with a club option in year six worth $13MM.   

The Giants seem to have the backend of their bullpen locked in with closer Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla to set the table.  Beyond that, it's a bit of a quagmire.  Javier Lopez is a free agent after earning $4.25MM and he could be plucked away by another club looking for a solid lefty specialist.  If the 36-year-old is plucked by someone else, they could go after less expensive left-handers like Mike Gonzalez, who posted rates of 10.8 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 2013 but saw his ERA jump to 4.68 after a rough finish to the year.  The Giants obviously would love to keep Lopez after he pitched to a 1.83 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9, but they might not have the spare coin to make that happen.  Fellow southpaw Jose Mijares hasn't been nearly as sharp and is a non-tender candidate.  Jake Dunning and Heath Hembree figure to have important roles for the Giants next season and Guillermo Moscoso could continue as their long reliever.  Notable relievers on the open market that won't break the bank include Chad Qualls and Joba Chamberlain.

Beyond those areas of need, the Giants could use some bench reinforcements.  Injuries slowed the Giants' momentum in 2013 and underscored their need for a better reserve unit.  Now that 38-year-old second baseman Marco Scutaro had a pin inserted in his bothersome left pinkie, this seems like a good time to find some infield support.  Utility man Jeff Baker will be out there on the open market after slashing .279/.360/.545 in a small sample size of 175 plate appearances.  The 32-year-old, who offers experience at first base, second base, third base, and the outfield corners, killed lefties in 2013 with an OPS of 1.073.  Pairing incumbent utility man Joaquin Arias with someone like Baker would help the Giants stay afloat if the injury bug bites them again next season.

How about something outside of the box?  Earlier this year, Evans indicated that the Giants will do their due diligence on top international talents Jose Dariel Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka.  Tanaka in particular would be useful to the Giants since they have so many rotation spots up in question and there will be marketing opportunities abound in SF for the Japanese sensation.  The Giants were one of the most well-represented teams at Abreu's showcase in early October, though they weren't mentioned as one of the frontrunners in Buster Olney's update yesterday.  Abreu, meanwhile, would give the Giants some needed pop and could be the club's first baseman if Belt goes to left field.  Ultimately, the Giants aren't the favorites to land either player, but watching Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes thrive in their own backyard has them thinking about spending more on the international market.

After capturing World Series crowns in 2010 and 2012, GM Brian Sabean isn't willing to take a backseat to the Dodgers in the NL West.  He'll have his work cut out for him this offseason, however, as the Giants look to get back to the top in 2014.

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