Coming off of their incredible World Series run in 2012, 2013 didn’t go exactly how the San Francisco Giants imagined. Two World Championships in three years covers a lot of wrongs, but fans will expect more from the team and front office come 2014. But what moves should they make to assure that they reclaim their National League West crown?
There are a lot of returning players, and the Giants have locked up a strong core. Hunter Pence will be returning to right field for the next five years, and Angel Pagan should be back and healthy in center.
2012 NL MVP Buster Posey is going to be calling pitches for the next eight years. Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford, Marco Scutaro, and Brandon Belt round out the infield.
Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are heading up the starting rotation, while Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, and Santiago Casilla are anchoring the bullpen. Those are 12 roster spots that are already set. Who will take up those remaining 13 spots?
We know that the Giants will not choose to exercise Barry Zito’s option, and it’s highly unlikely that Andres Torres will be back.
Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez, and Jose Mijares are the big free agent question marks for the Giants right now. General Manager Brian Sabean has expressed interest in bringing back both Lopez and Lincecum, it’ll just be a question of whether or not they can afford it. Lopez is almost a no-brainer to re-sign. He’s been rock solid for San Francisco since they acquired him in a trade with Pittsburgh in 2010, never having an ERA over 3.00 and allowing only two home runs in that span. Seriously, only two. Lopez was very vocal about wanting to remain in San Francisco during the season, so returning in the offseason is very probable.
Lincecum’s asking price will be high, as he’ll be in high demand in the free agent market. It’s difficult to picture him in anything other than black and orange, but he could end up returning home to pitch in Seattle. With the Giants giving so much money to Pence, they may not have enough to offer Big Time Timmy Jim, but they’ve openly said that they hope he’ll be back on the mound at AT&T Park in April.
If they can’t bring back Lopez, Mijares could be a left-handed option in the bullpen, despite struggling this year. He was 0-3 with a 4.22 ERA in 60 games in 2013, and Bruce Bochy used him only five times in the month of September. If Lopez is staying in San Francisco, it could be the end for Mijares.
San Francisco could decide to exercise their option on Ryan Vogelsong. He wants to stay with the organization and could re-sign for a pretty reasonable price. If Lincecum decides to go with another team, Vogelsong also gives them much-needed depth in the starting rotation.
There are several Giants who are arbitration eligible this offseason: George Kontos, Yusmeiro Petit, Jean Machi, Sandy Rosario, Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu, Gregor Blanco, Hector Sanchez, and Guillermo Moscoso. None of these players should cost the Giants too much, so heading into Spring Training there’s a good chance that they’ll all be around. Whether or not some of them – Moscoso, Blanco, Abreu, Rosario – will make the Opening Day roster will depend on their performances in Arizona. Petit is the favorite right now to join the starting rotation.
There are also several young players that’ll most likely begin the 2014 season at Triple-A. Eric Surkamp, Johnny Monell, Ehire Adrianza, Juan Perez, Francisco Peguero, and Roger Kieschnick. Heath Hembree, Jake Dunning, and Nick Noonan all have a good chance to make the Opening Day roster, showing a lot of promise in 2013.
It’s possible that Kieschnick, Perez, or Monell could be trade bait, but I think that the player most likely to be on the block is first baseman Brett Pill. With Belt excelling in the second half of the season, Posey frequently taking days at first to rest his legs, and even Sandoval being able to play there, there’s not really a need for another back-up. Pill is a solid player, owning a .285 average with 113 home runs and 615 RBIs in eight minor league seasons. He only has 240 at bats in the majors and a .233 average, but he’s got a .404 slugging percentage. If he got the opportunity to play every day, Pill would develop into a good first baseman. But he won’t get the chance to do that if he stays in San Francisco.
There’s also been a rumor that Sabean and the Giants are interested in signing Jose Abreu , the 26-year-old slugger first baseman from Cuba. If Abreu comes to San Francisco, Belt would move to left field permanently and Pill would definitely be out.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding the orange-and-black this offseason. They need to bolster their bench and left field. They could need two more starters and a handful of guys in the bullpen. Sabean will have his hands full, and it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out. We’ll be watching at every step of the way.