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San Francisco Giants - TeamReport

BaseballSan Francisco GiantsWorld SeriesPablo SandovalMatt CainFree AgencyMarco Scutaro

MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - INSIDE PITCH


The San Francisco Giants were baseball's champs again in 2014.

Now begins the long wait for the 2016 World Series.

That's right. History tells us the Giants not only will fail to repeat as champs in 2015, but they will not even be in the fight.

Note the trend:

--2009: Third place in National League West, no playoffs

--2010: World Series champs

--2011: Second place in NL West, no playoffs

--2012: World Series champs

--2013: Tied for third place in NL West, no playoffs

--2014: World Series champs

The start of the 2015 season is far away, but already many similarities between it and the Giants' two earlier failures as the defending champs are obvious.

Begin with the fact that while the Giants dominated the postseason in their past three visits, they have hardly been regular-season champs. San Francisco tied for the fourth-best record in the NL this year and sneaked into the postseason with the second wild card.

In 2011, the Giants finished with 86 wins, the sixth most in the NL, six fewer than the year before.

In 2013, they won 76 games, tied for eighth most in the league, 18 fewer than 2012.

This time around, they are coming off an 88-win regular season, four fewer than either of their previous championship seasons. Any kind of a drop-off -- let alone the 12-game average from previous attempts -- likely would send them on October vacation next fall.

Then there is the loyalty factor. It is considered a Giants strength in good times, but it also can be a curse of sorts in bad times.

On the last two occasions the Giants won a World Series, they rewarded veteran contributors such as Aubrey Huff, Marco Scutaro and Matt Cain with big-money, multiyear deals. They are still paying off the Scutaro and Cain mistakes.

Now another of their fan favorites, Pablo Sandoval, enters free agency this offseason. The way he performed in the postseason, it is almost a sure thing somebody is going to make him fat and happy this summer.

History says that team will be the Giants, whose ships in 2011 and '13 were sunk by similarly bloated contracts.

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MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - NOTES, QUOTES


RECORD: 88-74, second place in National League West; won NL wild-card game over Pittsburgh Pirates; won NL Division Series 3-1 over Washington Nationals; won NL Championship Series 3-1 over St. Louis Cardinals; won World Series 4-3 over Kansas City Royals

TEAM MVP: LHP Madison Bumgarner was so dominant on two days' rest in Game 7 of the World Series, the natural question is whether the Giants will try to pitch him more often in 2015. Think about it: He won four times in a 17-game stretch of October outings against top teams in the American and National Leagues. Imagine what he could do on, say, three days' rest against the lesser competition of regular-season play. (Note: Before dismissing the idea entirely, consider the Giants' other rotation options.)

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: RHP Tim Lincecum was the poster boy for the perceived implosion of the Giants' starting staff in 2014. But truth be told, RHP Matt Cain was far worse. Even as a shell of his old self, Lincecum was the Giants' second-leading winner with 12 victories, a full 10 more than Cain accumulated in nine decisions before calling it a season because of elbow issues. Not a good return for the $20 million the Giants paid Cain in 2014.

TOP PROSPECT: C Andrew Susac rarely saw the light of day in the World Series as Buster Posey started all seven games. If Giants management draws a correlation between the former NL Most Valuable Player laboring behind the plate every game and his powerless .154 Series average, Susac could take on a greater role in 2015. The 24-year-old rookie proved he belonged in a 35-game cameo in 2014, hitting .273 and driving in 19 runs over that stretch.

PLAYER NOTES:

--3B Pablo Sandoval couldn't have picked a better time to become a free agent. He enters the offseason with a resume full of postseason heroics, including his three-hit Game 7, a .429 World Series batting average and 26 hits in October, an all-time major league record for a single postseason. The Giants offered Sandoval a three-year deal worth around $40 million last spring, a figure that made the slugger's representatives laugh. They wanted more like five years and $90 million. Six months later, the Giants must now consider something in that ballpark. The question is: How much more is Sandoval now commanding?

--C Buster Posey will be a year older in 2015. That has to get the Giants considering his future as a catcher. Again. There is nothing wrong with Posey defensively. Heck, the speed-rich Kansas City Royals stole all of one base in seven games of the World Series with Posey, 27, catching for the Giants. But Posey hit just .154 as the every-game catcher in the Series, capping a postseason in which he hit 65 points lower (.246) than in the regular season (.311). The Giants must ask themselves if it is worth letting free agent 3B Pablo Sandoval walk so that Posey can move to third base.

--OF/1B Michael Morse was far more valuable to the Giants in 2014 than the one-year, $6 million deal he signed with them in the offseason. Even as a part-time player in the playoffs after sustaining an oblique injury in September, Morse came through big-time with a game-tying home run in Game 5 against St. Louis in the NL Championship Series and two RBIs -- including the game-winner -- in Game 7 of the World Series. His personality was a perfect fit for the Giants' locker room, and no doubt the club would like him back in 2015. But at what cost? The Giants no doubt remember the two-year, $22 million with which they rewarded OF/1B Aubrey Huff after his initial success with the team in 2010.

--RHP Tim Lincecum is unquestionably Giants fans' favorite player. That helps explain why the club would give the struggling pitcher a two-year, $35 million deal last summer. With still $18 million due in 2015, the Giants' options are to make him a full-time reliever (unlikely), offer to pay most of the salary as part of a trade agreement (this would not go over well with the fan base) or give him another shot at the rotation. Lincecum did win 12 games in 2014, the second most on the Giants staff. However, it is hard to believe a defending champ would have to hand a spot in the Opening Day rotation to a guy who was demoted because of a 4.74 ERA the previous season.

--RHP Yusmeiro Petit enters the 2015 offseason as the Giants' second-most valuable pitcher. He was a difference-maker in the postseason as a long reliever, but not many teams can afford to slot their second-best pitcher in long relief. Thus, it is possible Petit will open next season as the club's No. 2 starter behind LHP Madison Bumgarner. Then again, if the likes of RHP Jake Peavy, RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Ryan Vogelsong and RHP Tim Lincecum are your options for starters three, four and five, one thing is obvious: San Francisco will need a trustworthy long reliever.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We'll do the best we can. And up 'til now, the best we can has been to secure our guys." -- Giants president Larry Baer, on the likelihood of re-signing free agent 3B Pablo Sandoval this offseason.

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MLB Team Report - San Francisco Giants - ROSTER REPORT


The Giants enter the offseason with four priorities: finding a No. 2 starter. Then finding a No. 3 starter. Then a No. 4. Then a No. 5. Yes, their 2015 rotation is so muddled, it is almost impossible to project. But the good news is, the lineup of position players is so solid, the organization can focus almost all of its winter work on pitchers.

BIGGEST NEEDS: Fittingly, the team near the bay has a rotation that at this point can best be described as Madison Bumgarner and sardines. Veteran RHPs Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents, fellow old-time RHP Tim Hudson was one of the National League's worst starters after the All-Star break, and the $38.8 million combination of RHPs Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum hasn't been worth 38 cents the last two seasons. The Giants can't begin free agent shopping soon enough.

FREE AGENTS: 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF/1B Michael Morse, RHP Jake Peavy, RHP Ryan Vogelsong, RHP Sergio Romo

Sandoval was looking for $18 million a year before he batted .429 in the World Series. Chances are the price now tops $20 million. The Giants went to that level for RHP Matt Cain, so it is possible they will scale that mountain once again for the vastly popular Sandoval. However, given his weight problems, the Giants might want an ability to cut their potential losses after three seasons. Maybe four. Sandoval's people were seeking a five-year deal in the spring.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: C Hector Sanchez, C Guillermo Quiroz, 1B Brandon Belt, SS Brandon Crawford, OF Gregor Blanco, OF/1B Travis Ishikawa, RHP Yusmeiro Petit, RHP Juan Gutierrez

Crawford and Petit played for a combined $1.4 million in 2014. No doubt each will earn more than that next season in his role. It's not out of the question that the Giants could let Blanco, their starting center fielder in the postseason, walk if they were convinced their regular starter, Angel Pagan, can be trusted to stay healthy.

IN LIMBO: 2B Marco Scutaro

The Giants still owe Scutaro one-third of the $20 million contract he got in the wake of the club's last World Series title in 2012. If nothing else, the $6.7 million saved if Scutaro were to retire would offset the cost of the champagne that was spilled in the club's five -- yes, five -- celebrations in September and October.

MEDICAL WATCH:

--RHP Matt Cain (right elbow surgery in August 2014) had chips removed from his pitching elbow. He is expected to be fully recovered for the start of spring training in February.

--CF Angel Pagan (back surgery in September 2014) is projected to have a three-month recovery period. He should be ready for the start of spring training in February.

--2B Marco Scutaro (strained lower back) was hurt in spring training and played only five games in the regular season. He hopes basically a full year of rest will resolve the issue and allow him to play in 2015. Scutaro is not planning any sort of offseason surgery.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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