The San Francisco Giants‘ current flux of long-term contracts could spell disaster in future seasons, especially if players like lead off hitter Angel Pagan prove to be continuously injury prone. The Giants are just one season removed from a World Series title, but struggled to amass any resemblance of a championship caliber ball club in 2013. The most prominent reason for the Giants’ semi unpredictable regression into mediocrity was injury.
In 2013, several key proponents of the Giants’ 2012 title run suffered significant injuries that caused them to miss substantial playing time. The most devastating injury happened to Pagan, who played in just 71 games due to a hamstring tear that required midseason surgery. Pagan was a catalyst at the top of the lineup for the Giants in 2012, registering a .338 on-base percentage while leading the league with 15 triples.
Pagan is entering the second season of a four-year deal. He’s due to earn $9 million this season, a figure that he’s absolutely worth if able to stay healthy. The 32-year-old spark plug has a history with battling injury, though. In 2009, he missed significant time with a right groin injury. He posted a .306/.350/.487 batting line that season, but played in just 88 games.
As Pagan begins to surpass his prime, his conditioning will become increasingly vital to his success. Pagan’s ability to aggressively play center field and sprint the base paths entirely relies upon his speed. If past injuries noticeably hamper his gameplay, the Giants will be on the hook for $20-plus million for a player that cannot compete like he’s accustomed to.
Second baseman Marco Scutaro also suffered a nagging injury in 2013, a bent pinkie finger on his glove hand. Scutaro was able to play in 127 games in spite of the injury while also earning All-Star honors for the first time in his career. But the 38-year-old veteran likely isn’t going to continuously improve statistically at this juncture of his career, despite a heroic effort in the 2012 stretch run. Scutaro is still owed $12 million over the duration of the next two seasons.
Hunter Pence is one of the best players on the Giants’ roster. He’s a dangerous middle-of-the-order threat that also plays stellar defense. He’s dedicated to the Paleo diet and takes tremendous pride in conditioning efforts, leading the Giants to comfortably hand over a five-year, $90 million contract earlier this offseason.
Pence was outstanding in 2013, recording a .822 OPS with a career-high 27 home runs while playing in all 162 games. At 30 years old, it’s highly unlikely for Pence to successfully duplicate that kind of success on a season-to-season basis over the duration of his new contract, though. Pence isn’t an injury-laden player, but he’s owed $18.5 million annually after this season. The life of the contract will last until Pence eclipses the 35-year-old marker. Whether or not his skill set diminishes before then remains to be seen.
The biggest contract on the books for the Giants belongs to the face of the franchise, Buster Posey. The Giants locked up Posey for nine years and $167 million before the 2013 season. Posey had just earned National League MVP honors while leading San Francisco to its second championship in three seasons. At 26 years old, Posey is hands down one of the best players in the game.
But the Giants’ franchise cornerstone is owed in excess of $20 million annually from 2016 to 2021. The Giants’ front office brass certainly never wants to see Posey play in another uniform, but his durability as a catcher is going to be tested over the course of the next few seasons.
Posey wants to remain a catcher, despite the gruesome season-ending injury he suffered in 2011. It’s arguable that catching could eventually prove detrimental to his offensive production, though. That was evidenced in the second half of last season, when Posey struggled to post a mere .244/.333/.310 line.
The culmination of several multi-year contracts could eventually spell disaster for the Giants, especially considering their thin talent pool of minor league prospects and lack of bench depth.