The Giants have had a pretty solid offseason so far and it's not even December yet. They have checked the boxes that needed checking and still have a couple boxes left unchecked. If I had my druthers, I don't think I would have done anything differently than Sabean and the gang has done thus far.
First came the Pence signing. That HAD to happen. And it did. We haven't seen the other big ticket outfielders sign yet but when Jhonny Peralta is getting 4yrs/53M and a platoon outfielder (Chris Young) receives over 7M then Pence's contract starts looking like at least market value.
The next priority after Pence was deciding on what to do with Lincecum. The Giants decided he was worth an expensive 2 year gamble and re-signed Timmy before he had a chance to test free agency. Again, this is a win. Lincecum is not what he was in his Cy Young days but he still has great secondary pitches. He can still be a consistent winner and a plus in the rotation, he just needs to fully adjust to not being a power pitcher. The Giants seem to think he's on that path now. With only 2 starting pitchers under contract, re-signing Lincecum made a lot of sense in a number of ways. Now, the signing looks even better because the Giants were able to do what they set out to do, improve the rotation. They did so when they signed Tim Hudson. I know there are jokes to be made about Sabean signing older players but Hudson is a guy that is worth the risk. I've been a Tim Hudson fan from afar for a long time. The guy is just a solid pro in every sense of the word. He's a competitor, he goes about his business in the right way, and most importantly, he's a winner and he's good. He's also hungry. Hungry to get past the 1st round of the playoffs. And every team needs those guys. In 2010, we had a few of those hungry vets. Most obvious was Aubrey Huff but let's not forget Edgar Renteria gave that team an impassioned speech about just getting him to the playoffs again. In 2012, it was Vogelsong and Scutaro who were so hungry for a World Series that they helped will the team to that championship. Hudson can be that guy in 2014. He also potentially could have a great influence on the rest of the rotation. Cain and Lincecum are veterans these days. But in reality, both are still under 30. Bumgarner of course is still only 24. Having a 38 year old in the rotation will be a boon to these guys. It helps that Hudson has a reputation as a guy who likes to take younger guys under his wing as well. I love Ryan Vogelsong, but let's be honest, both Timmy and Cain had better numbers on the backs of their baseball cards than Vogey did when he came back to the team. While he definitely could give veteran perspective on struggles, Hudson brings more credibility about speaking about pitching as he comes into 2014 as the game's highest winning active pitcher. Cain has always loved a mentor (whether it was Matt Morris or Randy Johnson) and having Hudson around should help Cain get back on track and help Lincecum further his transition to a pitcher that plays to contact. Hudson's contract is short and reasonable and honestly he was my preferred target available on the market. I thought he was the perfect fit for the Giants and now he IS a Giant. We'll see what influence he'll have but right now he has to be slotted as the #3 starter.
Sabean crossed another major checkbox off when he was able to retain Javier Lopez. It cannot be understated how important Lopez has been to the Giants. He has been Mr. Consistent. And thankfully for the Giants and Giants fans, consistent for Lopez means ridiculously effective from the left side. He's the type of guy you have in your pen if you expect to play for and win championships. If the Giants allowed him to leave, it would have raised serious questions about how much they actually intended on competing financially. To the Giants credit, they have stepped up. They have secured their RF, they have secured 2 rotation spots with two Tim's, and they brought back their clutch lefty reliever.
So now what? If we were a mid-market team we'd be thrilled and happy. But this is San Francisco. We should be a "big market" team. We've won 2 championships in the past 4 seasons. We sell out our park every night. So, of course, there is more to be done. Especially after finishing in 3rd place. The Giants probably could get by with an in-house 5th starter at this point (Petit/Surkamp) but by all accounts, they want another arm. That's all well and good but the Giants DO have a budget and they do have holes aside from the 5th spot in the rotation. They need bench help and they need a left fielder. If getting that other starter means less money for a legitimate left fielder than no, just no. Unless they splurge on Tanaka (which they won't) or become secret suitors for Cano (they won't) then they should use the majority of whatever money they have left to sign or trade for an outfield bat. Fans do not want to see Blanco and Juan Perez or Blanco and some other middling platoon option manning left in 2014. It simply cannot happen. I wrote earlier that this offseason would be a failure if a left fielder was not secured and although I've been thrilled with what ownership and the front office has done thus far, it'd be all for naught if they can't upgrade the offense. Just counting on Sandoval to be better and Pagan to be healthy is not enough. The Giants need a left fielder. I'd much rather have Petit in the 5th spot in the rotation and, I don't know, Mike Morse in left field than have Bronson Arroyo or Ricky Nolasco for 3 years and Blanco and whomever in left field. Let it be noted, I am a fan of Blanco's. I like what he brings to the table. Just not as a guy who gets 400 AB's. As a guy who can fill in all over the outfield as the 4th outfielder? Hell yes! As my SF Giants starting left fielder? No. Unfortunately, the market for outfielders is awful. There isn't anyone really good out there except Choo and Ellsbury and those guys won't be Giants. So it appears the Giants would have to go the trade route. The winter meetings are happening soon and we don't pick up our left fielder there then I fear we may be settling in for another year of a lot of White Shark.
My final point, which I briefly just touched upon, is that IF the Giants do intend to continue upgrading their rotation, I would like them to stay as far away as possible from Bronson Arroyo. I don't know how Arroyo has been as good as he has been with the Reds but I am nearly certain that if we signed him, he would immediately become Barry Zito Part 2. Yes, I know the Reds ballpark is hitter friendly. Yes, I know AT&T Park is pitcher friendly. I still don't want any part of Bronson Arroyo, no matter how much he begs to be signed by our team. Arroyo is the type of signing where you WOULD make fun of Sabean for signing someone old. Baseball's newest trend is velocity. This was highlighted by the flame throwing Cardinals of 2013. But it's an actual event going on in baseball. Velocity is trendy again. More importantly, it's effective. Especially in the playoffs. The Giants need more heat. Getting Arroyo would be contrarian of this. If you view the Giants rotation of 2013 vs the projected rotation of 2014, you have to think of replacing Zito with Hudson (an upgrade and a velocity improvement) and, sadly, replacing Vogey (I don't think he'll be back). Would Arroyo be better than Vogelsong? I'm not so sure. So if the Giants ARE going to replace Vogelsong, they have to UPGRADE. That means guys like Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and yes, even Nolasco. Not guys like Arroyo or Scott Feldman. Guys who could essentially be named Ryan Vogelsong. If the Giants are NOT going to significantly replace Vogey, they might as well just re-sign him and see if he can bounce back. I believe Sabean has the expectation that pitching prospect Edwin Escobar will eventually be in the 2014 rotation at some point so spending money on a starter after getting Hudson doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me unless Escobar falters. Arroyo is looking for 3 years and a decent annual average value so I say let him get it elsewhere and for goodness sake's Sabean get us a left fielder.