Do The San Francisco Giants Have Any Moves Left To Make?
With the start of the New Year behind us we can finally start to smell the scent of a freshly cut baseball field in the air. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to their team’s Spring Training facilities in a little over a month which signifies the unofficial end to the Baseball Hot Stove league.
For the San Francisco Giants it was a relatively quiet offseason. The Giants held true to their word and retained their own pending free agents: outfielder Hunter Pence, starting pitcher Tim Lincecum, and relief pitcher/lefty-specialist Javier Lopez. They made smaller moves to fill big needs as well. The Giants had a glaring need for a veteran #3/#4 starting pitcher; a guy who could come in on a two-three year deal and help bridge the gap for when the young pitching prospect are ready for the big show. They also needed an innings-eating starting pitcher to help alleviate some pressure from their strong bullpen. The Giants accomplished both tasks by signing veteran starting pitcher Tim Hudson to a two-year deal worth $23 million.
The other glaring need the Giants had to fill was getting a capable starting left fielder. Last season, the Giants handed the job to Gregor Blanco, who in the 2012 postseason played like a viable starting outfielder for the Giants. However, over the course of the 2013 season it became apparent that Blanco was not suited to be a full-time regular starting outfielder and is more valuable to the Giants as a 4th outfielder who can come into a game late and provide superior defensive. With the Giants now in need of the starting left fielder, there was some debate on whether or not the Giants needed to make a splash with this signing either via free agency or trade, or by signing a veteran looking to rebuild his career and re-brand himself for that next big contract. The Giants went with the latter and signed outfielder Michael Morse to a one-year, $6 million contract that is heavily incentive-laden.
So with all of their holes seemingly filled, do the Giants have any more moves left to make?
I think the Giants should keep exploring possible moves to improve their team. Here are two additional moves the Giants should consider making to complete their roster:
1. Get one more hard-throwing, right-handed arm for the bullpen.
The Giants bullpen was good last season despite two of their key relievers Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla missing time with injuries, but it wasn’t as strong as it has been in the past. Overall, the bullpen posted a 3.30 ERA with 41 SVs, 441 SOs, and a .247 BBA in 501.1 IP. Their W/L record as a bullpen was 27–30; meaning they weren’t able to hold onto a lot of leads for the starting pitchers. With both Affeldt and Casilla missing significant time last season and relievers George Kontos and Jose Mijares not able to build on their strong pitching performances in the 2012 postseason the bullpen surrendered a lot of leads late in games. To cauterize the problem, the Giants called-up young pitching prospects from their farm systems; guys like Jake Dunning, Sandy Rosario, Jean Machi, and Mike Kickham to pitch the middle innings and preserve leads for when closer Sergio Romo could get into the game. Unfortunately for the Giants, that group couldn’t get the job done.
If the Giants can sign one more hard-throwing, right-handed arm for their bullpen (an ex-closer like Fernando Rodney or Grant Balfour to maybe come in and be that 8th inning/extra-closer guy) it would be another weapon in the arsenal to go along with a healthy Affedlt, Casilla, their lefty-special Lopez, and closer Romo.
2. Win the bidding for Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and sign him to a five-year, $120 million contract.
I know Giants General Manager Brian Sabean has already stated publicly the team is pretty much done making any big moves this off-season, but it could be just semantics and him keeping his cards close his chest. Reportedly, the Giants were one team that was supposedly very interested in how the new bidding process for Japanese players would play out. Additionally, it’s being reported by news outlets that Tanaka would prefer to play for a team on the West Coast. Looking at the financial situations for teams on the West Coast leaves the Seattle Marines, Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, and the Giants all in play. The D-Backs are reportedly really high on Tanaka and will be aggressive in making a push to sign him.
While participating in an on-line chat with ESPN’s Baseball Writer David Schoenfield I posed a question to him about the Giants possibly winning the bid and signing Tanaka. Schoenfield said in the chat, “Giants and Tanaka … very good sleeper possibility. I do think the Giants have a little money left, especially if they backload the contract. Wouldn’t shock me.”
From the Giants prospective it would be a very wise and necessary move for them to make. They only gave #5 starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong a one-year deal, Hudson was only signed to a two-year deal and he is 37-years old, and the Giants resigned Lincecum to just a two-year deal. Tanaka is only 25-years old and could become a mainstay in the Giants rotation along with Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and possibly Lincecum