After a disappointing season filled with injuries and poor performances, the Giants face the difficult task to prove that the 2013 season was a fluke. Here is what I would do, in a realistic world, if I were given the keys to the San Francisco Giants this off-season:
KEY LOSSES: Ryan Vogelsong (Option Declined), Barry Zito (Option Declined), Yusmeiro Petit (Trade)
Declining Ryan Vogelsong’s $6.5 million option is a tough decision due to the fact that he performed very well in both 2011 and 2012, and there is a chance that his poor 2013 season was due to a heavy workload during the prior year, paired with his participation in the 2013 WBC. The Giants have fallen into the bad habit of over-paying older players for their past glory (see Huff, Pagan, and Scutaro, among others), and I would change that trend by declining the Vogelsong’s option. At the age of 36, I think there is a good chance that the poor command of Vogelsong’s 87 MPH fastball is here to stay. As the great Bill Walsh used to say, it’s better to get rid of someone a year too early than a year too late.
Zito will always be known for signing an enormous contract and coming up big in the 2012 playoffs, but parting ways with Zito is addition by subtraction. Overall Zito has been terrible as a Giant, posting a total WAR of 3.0 in his 7 years with the club. He also posted a poor 4.62 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in that span, which is pretty much on par with the career numbers of former Giant, William Vanlandingham (4.54 ERA, 1.44 WHIP).
KEY ADDITIONS: Dan Haren (Free Agent – WASH), Ricky Nolasco (Free Agent – LAD)
I would look to bolster the starting rotation by signing Dan Haren to a 1-year, 8 million dollar deal with a club option for 2015. While Dan Haren has had a rough last couple of seasons, he flashed his old dominant self the second half 2013, posting a 3.52 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, while striking out 70 and walking only 14 in 76.2 IP. Pitching at AT&T Park should also help Haren, as the sinker-baller has been uncharacteristically hurt by the long ball in recent years. If Haren can pitch close to how he performed during the second half of 2013, he would be one of the best 5th starters in baseball, and could be a bargain much like Francisco Liriano in 2013.
My “big splash” of the off-season would be signing former Dodgers RHP, Ricky Nolasco (30), to a 4-year, $50 Million dollar deal. While Nolasco posted a solid ERA of 3.70 in 2013, he pitched extremely well after his mid-season trade to the Dodgers (2.07 ERA). Nolasco is also a guy who always eats up around 200 innings a year, which would work wonders for a good Giants bullpen that became vulnerable last year due to overuse. By locking in Nolasco, the Giants would have Cain, Bumgarner and Nolasco locked up long-term, with a good crop of Minor League arms like Crick, Blackburn, Stratton and Escobar ready to fill Haren and Lincecum’s possible vacancies as early as 2015.
KEY LOSSES: Jose Mijares (Non-tender), Guillermo Moscoso (Free Agent)
While Mijares is a decent lefty out of the bullpen, there are already enough lefties on the roster, making him the odd man out. Guillermo Moscoso provided negative value last year for the Giants (-0.2 WAR, 5.10 ERA, 1.37 WHIP), so unless he wanted to become the team’s right handed batting practice pitcher, his time with the club is over.
KEY ADDITIONS: Javier Lopez (Resign), Chad Gaudin (Resign)
The Giants once again had a solid bullpen in 2013 (3.30 ERA – 8th in MLB), but injuries and a heavy workload led to inconsistent results. I feel that it is very necessary to resign Javier Lopez, as he is one of the most effective left handed specialists in the game. Despite being 36 years old, I would be comfortable giving Lopez a 2-year deal worth $8 million, as he is the type of pitcher (deceptive lefty) that typically ages well. I would also resign Chad Gaudin to a 1-year, $4 million dollar deal to work out of the pen in long relief. Gaudin is very valuable due to his durability and ability to effectively spot start or fill in the rotation, as he proved in 2013. I would fill out the bullpen with cheap in-house arms, Heath Hembre (0.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP in 7.2 IP) and Jean Machi (2.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 53 IP), who performed very well in 2013.
KEY LOSSES: Andres Torres (Free Agent), Gregor Blanco (Non-Tender), Tony Abreu (Free Agent)
The Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres platoon in left field was a disaster for the 2013 Giants to say the least. The duo hit a combined 5 home runs in 811 plate appearances while playing mostly at a power position for an already power starved team. While Blanco could still be a valuable 4th/5th outfielder, I’d rather just let him go and use the cost savings to boost the team’s overall depth. I would also let Tony Abreu go, as he is pretty much a waste of a roster spot as a utility guy who can’t play a decent SS.
KEY ADDITIONS: Alex Gordon (Trade- KC), Corey Hart (Free Agent – MIL), Kelly Johnson (Free Agent – TB), Gary Brown (Call-up)
To fill the Giants’ MASSIVE left field void, I would deal RP Derek Law (A+), 2B/SS Joe Panik (AA) and SP Yusmeiro Petit (ML) to the Kansas City Royals for Alex Gordon. Gordon, while not a massive power hitter, has good power (Hit 57 HRs over the last 3 year, including 20 in 2013), a good batter’s eye, and is a well above average defensive left fielder (16 runs saved above average in 2013). He has 2-years, $22 million left on his contract, so he would be a major bargain over the upper-tier free agents on the market. By trading for a left fielder instead of signing one of the big ones on the market, the Giants would also hang onto their unprotected first round draft pick (#14 overall).
One of the biggest weaknesses the Giants had in 2013 was their bench. I would sign OF/1B Corey Hart and 2B/LF Kelly Johnson to 1-year, $3 million deals. Hart, who missed all of 2013 with injuries, would add big power off the bench and could start for the left-handed Belt or Gordon against tough left-handed pitchers. Kelly Johnson would provide solid insurance should the 37-year old Marco Scutaro get hurt or need increased rest. Johnson would also be a valuable left handed power bat off the bench, as he hit 16 home runs last year for the Rays. I would fill the final bench spot by calling up center fielder, Gary Brown, to provide the team with much needed speed as well as a great OF glove. While Brown has struggled offensively the past couple years in the minors, his defense and speed make him valuable and anything he provides with the bat is a bonus.
2014 OPENING DAY ROSTER:
1) Matt Cain
2) Madison Bumgarner
3) Ricky Nolasco
4) Tim Lincecum
5) Dan Haren
1) Angel Pagan CF
2) Marco Scutaro 2B
3) Brandon Belt 1B
4) Buster Posey C
5) Hunter Pence RF
6) Alex Gordon LF
7) Pablo Sandoval 3B
8) Brandon Crawford SS
Hector Sanchez C
Kelly Johnson 2B/3B/LF
Corey Hart 1B/OF
Gary Brown OF
Joaquin Arias SS/3B/2B
Please feel free to include your thoughts in the comment section