Fresh off World Series, Giants are well set up for future title runs
The 2014 World Series is in the books, and while the champagne and tears are still drying, it's worth a quick look at what comes next for the two teams, whose virtues and foibles we've become so familiar with over the past month. What follows here is a quick look at the Giants, who are used to facing the tough decisions that come in the afterglow of a championship, having done so two other times in the past five years; I'll tackle the Royals in a separate post.
For starters, series MVP Madison Bumgarner isn't going anywhere. While the 25-year-old lefty spent the past month making it clear that he belongs on the short list of the game's elite pitchers, he's not headed for a Clayton Kershaw-like payday anytime soon. Bumgarner just completed the second year of a five-year, $35 million extension signed in April 2012; he made $3.75 million this year, and will make $6.75 million next year, or $23.25 million less than the Dodgers' ace lefty. His contract is guaranteed through 2017, after which the Giants hold $12 million options on his 2018 and '19 seasons. Those options can vest based on innings thresholds, and increase to as much as $16 million if he wins a Cy Young award — still a bargain by the standards of the game's top-tier starters. Bumgarner is one of four Giants under contract through at least 2017, with Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and the injured Matt Cain being the others.
On the other side of the coin, the team does have several players headed for free agency, and they won't keep all of them, even with around $62 million worth of room between their 2015 commitments ($127.3 million, according to Cot's Contracts) and the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Closest to their core is Pablo Sandoval, who probably earned himself a few extra million dollars thanks to a .366/.423/.465 showing in 78 postseason plate appearances, with an OPS above 1.000 in both the NLCS and the World Series, not to mention some dazzling defense.
As great as that run — his second outstanding October, after 2012 — was, the reality is that while Sandoval is just 28 years old, his rotund physique and declining performance at the plate may scare some teams away. Sandoval hit .279/.324/.415 this year en route to a 111 OPS+, a respectable performance but also the third straight season in which the latter mark declined. That said, his 157 games were a career high and the first time since 2010 that he played more than 141, so his 3.3 Wins Above Replacement was his highest total since 2011.
Earlier this season, Sandoval reportedly rejected a three-year, $40 million offer from the Giants, and is said to be seeking something in the range of Pence's five year, $90 million deal. Unless the two sides have softened their stances considerably, it sounds likely that they'll part ways, with Sandoval receiving a qualifying offer.
In terms of in-house options, the Giants have Marco Scutaro under contract for next year, though he was limited to five games this year due to lower back woes and just turned 39 years old. The team could also look at Adam Duvall, a 25-year-old corner infielder who hit .298/.360/.599 with 27 homers at hitter-friendly Triple A Fresno, and Matt Duffy, a 23-year-old who spent most of the season playing shortstop at Double A Richmond, where he hit .332/.398/.444 and stole 20 bases. Duvall made 77 plate appearances for the Giants in and around Brandon Belt's absences but was left off the postseason roster; Duffy made a combined 71 PA in the regular season and the playoffs, and additionally established his "Duffman" persona along the way.
Also hitting free agency are starters Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong, setup man/occasional closer Sergio Romo, and outfielder Michael Morse. All were useful components of a winning team, but none is irreplaceable, and the Giants probably won't keep all of them. The most likely to depart is Morse, whose one-year, $6 million deal did what it was supposed to do: open the door to a bigger payday after a better season than his poor 2013. The 32-year-old, who hit .279/.336/.475 with 16 homers, is better suited to an AL team given his defensive shortcomings. The 31-year-old Romo, who has been with the Giants for his entire professional career, is the kind of player general manager Brian Sabean likes to keep, though with 75 saves notched over the past three seasons, he could seek a closer's payday.
Given the Giants' rotation questions — after Bumgarner and Tim Hudson, what can they expect from Cain and Tim Lincecum? — it seems likely that one of the two starters could stay. The 33-year-old Peavy — whose ties to Bochy go back to the start of his major league career in San Diego — showed how much he benefits from pitching in a bigger ballpark and is the better fit. But his track record for health — three seasons of fewer than 150 innings out of his last five — makes him a gamble, and he's not likely to improve upon his expiring two-year, $29 million deal if he wants to stick around. The 37-year-old Vogelsong will likely seek a multi-year deal after settling for a one-year, $5 million contract this year.
As far as arbitration goes, Brandon Crawford and injured backup catcher Hector Sanchez are eligible for the first time; the former is due a substantial raise and could receive a multi-year extension. Belt, Travis Ishikawa and Yusmeiro Petit will enter their second year of arbitration eligibility, Gregor Blanco his third. Of that group, Belt could be another target for an extension, and Petit offers the team an inexpensive rotation option.
As for Bochy, the 59-year-old skipper is almost certainly Hall of Fame-bound now, but don't expect him to head into the sunset just yet. Back in the spring of 2013, both he and Sabean signed two-year extensions covering 2015-16, and with another championship under their collective belt, they've got more goodwill in the bank. So expect the world champions to keep going with business as usual. Maybe in 2015 they'll finally break that confounding odd-year curse.