The San Francisco Giants cannot be classified as a formidable contender after re-signing a contingency of in-house free agents and adding veteran right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson. The Giants don’t figure to sleepwalk through the rest of the offseason, although it appears highly unlikely for San Francisco to make a big splash in free agency.
General manager Brian Sabean deserves credit for inserting Hudson, who has a proven track record of success, into the starting rotation. Re-signing left-handed specialist Javier Lopez was also crucial. It remains unknown whether Tim Lincecum can virtually earn the value of his shiny new contract, though. “The Freak” flashed some signs of future promise in 2013, most notably on July 13 when he hurled a 148-pitch no-hitter.
The only gaping void in the Giants’ lineup is in left field, but it’s possible for Sabean to potentially use an everyday player, like Pablo Sandoval, as trade bait. Sandoval’s statistics have depreciated over the past two seasons. The hefty third baseman is also eligible for free agency at the conclusion of the 2014 season, creating added incentive for the Giants to deal the Venezuelan native. Sandoval is a career .298 hitter but has struggled to mount substantial power numbers while simultaneously playing below average defense.
San Francisco’s offseason has been relatively status quo. The Giants haven’t acquired a clear-cut difference-maker on offense but have successfully shored up their starting rotation and the back end of the bullpen. San Francisco continuously prioritizes pitching and defense when trying to construct a championship-caliber roster, although the Giants committed the third highest number of errors (107) in the National League last season. They’re expected to retain at least six of their eight regular position players, sparking concern over whether the Giants’ defense is legitimately good enough to help propel the team into contention.
The Giants’ 2013 struggles in the field increase the importance of bolstering the offense this season, specifically in left field. The free agent market features a limited crop of talent, though. Sabean has previously noted that it’s distinctly unlikely for San Francisco to target certain players, like Jacoby Ellsbury, over fear of losing a draft pick. The lack of perennial talent on the open market is expected to inflate the price tags of several “marquee” free agents, such as Ellsbury and former Giant Carlos Beltran.
Sabean figures to explore all possible solutions to the Giants’ glaring outfield gap, which includes entertaining the idea of trading a player like Sandoval. To date, the Giants’ long-time GM has accomplished the first phase of compiling a roster that could contend in 2014. But San Francisco still needs to address its most pressing offseason need.