After re-signing several key free agents and adding veteran right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson, the San Francisco Giants‘ 40-man roster has begun to take form. General manager Brian Sabean has seemingly accomplished the Giants’ most idealized offseason priority already by revamping the pitching staff. However, San Francisco isn’t a full-fledged, ready-made team capable of immediately contending.
The Giants still need to bolster their offense, which finished 21st in runs scored last season and 22nd in slugging percentage. San Francisco’s panic-stricken lineup features a power-laden band of misfits that aren’t formidable enough to compete against the reigning NL West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants’ tired mantra that screams “pitching and defense” likely won’t propel the orange and black back to the promised land.
However, it remains distinctly unlikely for San Francisco to stand pat on their current decrepit situation in left field. Speedy outfielder Gregor Blanco is a solid complementary player capable of making huge contributions off the bench, but he isn’t a legitimate starter. What’s more, supposed-to-be pinch hit power-threat Brett Pill doesn’t possess the defensive prowess — or offensive consistency — necessary to thrive in an everyday role.
The Giants’ farm system is ultimately devoid of could-be talents capable of making an impact in 2014. San Francisco also doesn’t boast substantial talent off the bench, which is why signing a possible difference-making free agent or trading for a proven veteran is critical to the Giants’ impending success.
San Francisco made a slew of roster moves over the course of the past week, most of which appear relatively permanent. As the 40-man roster begins to take shape more than two months before pitchers and catchers report, Sabean and Co. still have a ton of work to do. Still, careful examination of San Francisco’s band of championship-savvy proponents make it implausible to believe the projected 2014 version of the Giants can contend, specifically because of an extreme lack of power and a weak bench.
San Francisco’s starting rotation is essentially set, assuming the team officially re-signs Ryan Vogelsong. The rotation would then feature four proponents of last season’s disastrous starting unit that managed just 80 quality starts in 2013, ranking 22nd in the league. However, it seems likely that front-line starter Matt Cain will regain formidability next season, given his stout career track record. It’s also not unfeasible for former fire-throwing right-handed pitcher Tim Lincecum to post better numbers than he has over the past two seasons. In addition, southpaw Madison Bumgarner has continuously developed into an elite pitcher while veteran Hudson provides some stability.
The Giants’ bullpen also appears secure, headlined by bearded closer Sergio Romo who saved 38 games last season. San Francisco features a slew of solid relievers like Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla. Flame-throwing right-handed pitcher Heath Hembree also figures to be in the mix.
Overall, the Giants’ pitching staff should reclaim status as one of the best units in baseball. However, it’s unknown how productive certain veteran position players will be, namely second baseman Marco Scutaro, who posted solid numbers last season but could be in decline. The 38-year-old contact hitter recorded a solid .357 on-base percentage in 2013 but missed significant time due to injury. He also performed below average defensively, posting a .976 fielding percentage.
A majority of the Giants’ starting lineup from last season’s 76-win team will return in 2014. The top-half of San Francisco’s lineup figures to include center fielder Angel Pagan, Scutaro, third baseman Pablo Sandoval (barring a potential trade), catcher Buster Posey and right fielder Hunter Pence. The strength of the Giants’ lineup dwindles in the bottom half, where it’s entirely possible for Blanco to earn the starting nod in left field given Sabean’s dimwitted stubbornness not to pursue a free agent bat in fear of losing a draft pick. In addition, first baseman Brandon Belt broke out in 2013 but remains vastly inconsistent. Shortstop Brandon Crawford also figures to be marginally productive at the plate.
The Giants’ bench is essentially nonexistent at the moment, featuring players that boast inadequate levels of talent like Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu and Pill. It’s distinctly unlikely for the Giants not to pursue players that could make a difference on offense, but don’t expect San Francisco to be overly aggressive. It simply counteracts Sabean’s relatively conservative track record.