Fresh off their third World Series title in five years, the San Francisco Giants sat out the offseason, doing little of note despite some obvious needs.
With little more than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report, we're checking in on how each team has fared in conducting its offseason business while acknowledging that there's still time for its prognosis to change. Teams will be presented in reverse order of finish from 2014. You can find all previously published Winter Report Cards here.
San Francisco Giants
2014 Results: 88-74 (.543), second place in NL West, won World Series (Hot Stove Preview)
The Giants were busier this offseason than the above comings and goings suggest. They also re-signed starters Jake Peavy (two years, $24 million) and Ryan Vogelsong (one year, $4 million) and reliever Sergio Romo (two years, $15 million), continuing their policy of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," which dates back to the offseason after 2010 World Series win. The Giants have now re-signed a trio of notable free agents in four of the last five offseasons; here's who they've brought back since 2010, including their performance under new contracts (players in italics are still on San Francisco's roster):
|Aubrey Huff||2010-11||2 years, $22M||202||-0.1|
|Pat Burrell||2010-11||1 year, $1M||92||1.0|
|Guillermo Mota||2010-11||1 year, $1M||78||0.0|
|Angel Pagan||2012-13||4 years, $40M||167||1.9|
|Marco Scutaro||2012-13||3 years, $20M||132||2.0|
|Jeremy Affeldt||2012-13||3 years, $18M||101||1.4|
|Hunter Pence||2013-14||5 years, $90M||162||4.2|
|Tim Lincecum||2013-14||2 years, $35M||33||-0.9|
|Javier Lopez||2013-14||3 years, $13M||65||0.4|
And it's difficult to argue with the overall results in light of the Giants' subsequent championships — their hit rate on those re-signed players is improving, and the stakes are quite low with this most recent trio ($33 million total for five player seasons, less than the team spent to re-sign Lincecum for two years last offseason). But the overall lack of creativity and forward thinking remains frustrating even for non-Giants fans.
As for this year's moves: Vogelsong will vie with Lincecum and Yusmeiro Petit for the fifth spot in the rotation and also provide rotation depth that could well be needed. Matt Cain is coming back from surgeries on his pitching elbow and right ankle, while Tim Hudson is due to turn 40 in July and struggled in the second half of last season. Peavy, who made 32 starts last year for the Red Sox and Giants and turns 34 in May, hasn't started in 30 or more games in consecutive seasons since 2006-07. The healthiest and youngest of the bunch, Madison Bumgarner, just threw 270 innings in his age-24 season between the regular and postseasons. Romo, meanwhile, will look to reclaim the closer job by correcting the spike in home runs allowed he experienced last season.
Of course, the big news is the departure of Pablo Sandoval and the Giants' weak attempt to paper over third base with Casey McGehee. One can't blame San Francisco for not wanting to give Sandoval a nine-figure contract, which the Red Sox did, and given the Giants' predilection for re-signing their players, it seems informative that they did not make a stronger play to keep a bad-body player whose production at the plate had been heading in the wrong direction three years running. However, in McGehee, they have another bad-body player who is four years older and wasn't nearly as productive last year, which was his best season in the majors since 2010 and his first since 2012 after a year spent in Japan. The two young Dominican righthanders the Giants sent to the Marlins for McGehee — 23-year-old starter Kendry Flores and 22-year-old reliever Luis Castillo, neither of whom has reached Double-A — may not be missed, but with McGehee as his replacement, Sandoval very much will be.
The Giants are also going to miss Mike Morse's bat, as he ranked second on the team in slugging (.475) and OPS+ (130) last year, trailing only Buster Posey in those categories. Morse was ultimately not a viable leftfielder in spacious AT&T Park (or anywhere else, for that matter), which undermined his value significantly last year, but with those two downgrades in the lineup, the Giants may struggle to be an average offense in 2015.
Nori Aoki, signed away from San Francisco's World Series opponent in Kansas City for a mere one-year deal worth $4.7 million, is the only major free-agent addition the team has made. He's likely ticketed for the bench, assuming the Giants realize that the 33-year-old Aoki is not a better option in left than 31-year-old Gregor Blanco, who is a similar player but a better fielder. Of course, Angel Pagan's next injury will render that comparison moot, as it will allow the Giants to put both of their slap-hitting lefties in the starting lineup.
Scutaro, incidentally, was designated for assignment to make room for Aoki, then released last week. Now 39 and having played just five games last year due to a back injury, his career may be over, but the Giants still owe him $6 million for the coming season.
Unfinished business: Third base
Yes, San Francisco traded for McGehee, but he hit just .243/.310/.310 in the second half last year and batted .221/.282/.351 in the 2011 and '12 seasons combined. I'd be more surprised to see him hold on to the position all season than I would be to see the Giants make a change before the All-Star break. In the offseason game of hot corner musical chairs, the Giants were left standing.
Preliminary Grade: D
The best thing that can be said about the Giants' offseason is that their expenditures largely match their results. They didn't spend, and they didn't improve. But using recent history as a guide, they're right on course to win it all again in 2016.