San Francisco is still relishing the aura of earning championship glory for the second time in three seasons as the offseason hot stove is about to start up.
GM Brian Sabean has publicly stated that the World Champions have prioritized bringing back the two catalysts that solidified the top of the order in 2012, but both free agents are commanding significant value in the market, and it remains unknown how much the Giants are willing to spend on player payroll entering the 2013 season.
The market should heat-up when MLB Winter Meetings commence in Nashville, Tennessee on December 3rd, although the Giants have until midnight EST of November 30th to tender contracts to Pagan and Scutaro before the exclusive signing period ends.
It doesn't seem likely that either free agent will ink a contract before that date, however.
Pagan is widely considered to be one of the best outfielders on the market and is coming off a stellar season. The 31-year-old hit .288 with eight home runs and drove in 56 runs during the regular season, while also crushing a league-best 15 triples.
Pagan struggled in the postseason offensively, but played Gold Glove-caliber defense to aid a lights-out pitching staff en route to a championship.
He's expected to earn a multi-year contract worth more than $10 million annually, which could prove to be too costly for the Giants, who have previously outlined a payroll ceiling in the $130 million range.
Scutaro has immeasurable value to the Giants and should be easier to retain than Pagan. The NLCS MVP was outstanding, hitting .362 in 61 regular season games with the Giants.
The 37-year-old veteran never let up in the postseason, mounting a historic performance in the NLCS when he collected six multi-hit games and sustained a .500 average. His 21 hits in 64 at bats were good enough for a .328 postseason average.
It would be cataclysmic for the Giants not to resign Scutaro. He figures to command a two-year deal worth about $16 million, which fits the Giants' budget.
The Giants' front office has not publicly stated what their expected player payroll will be for the 2013 season, but it should incrementally increase from last season's figure of $130 million, especially given the influx of new revenue generated from winning another world championship.
Left-handed set-up man Jeremy Affeldt earned himself a three-year, $18 million deal after tossing 10.2 shutout innings in the postseason. That contract, coupled with contracts already in place, means that the Giants have approximately $84 million allocated to eight players for 2013, including all five starting pitchers.
It's assumed that funky outfielder Hunter Pence will be retained in his final year of arbitration for a figure of about $13.8 million, which would increase total payroll to about $98 million.
That means the Giants have nearly $100 million in place for nine players. Team payroll has increased every year since 2008, jumping $22 million in 2011 after the Giants won a championship the season prior.
It would seem reasonable for player payroll to stretch to about $150 million for the 2013 season, giving Sabean approximately $50 million to sign 16 players, including those who are arbitration eligible.
The Giants' eight arbitration-eligible players (not including Pence) are estimated to yield a collective sum of $27.1 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Those players include Santiago Casilla ($5.4), Brian Wilson ($8.5), Sergio Romo ($3.6), Jose Mijares ($1.6), Buster Posey ($5.9), Gregor Blanco ($1.3), and Joaquin Arias ($0.8).
If all eight arbitration-eligible players are retained for 2013, then the Giants' player payroll would reach an estimated total of $125 million with nine available roster spots remaining.
Brandon Belt (1B), Brandon Crawford (SS), Hector Sanchez (C), and George Kontos (RHP) are among non-arbitration eligible players that had significant influence on the Giants' 2012 title run. Each will earn approximately $0.6 million apiece.
Retaining both Pagan and Scutaro would boost the total payroll to at least $140 million and leave less than $10 million in the bank to fish for at least three more players.
Signing Pagan to a multi-year deal totaling more than $10 million annually could potentially cripple the Giants' roster depth on the bench and in the bullpen.
However, failing to retain Pagan could prosper a significant void in the lead-off spot.
Blanco would be the most obvious candidate to fill in if Pagan signs elsewhere, but the speedy outfielder hit just .241 in the lead-off spot in 2012, compared to .321 in the seventh slot in the lineup.
The most pivotal decision that Sabean faces this offseason is consequentially whether or not to potentially overpay Pagan and keep the entirety of the 2012 World Series lineup in tact.
The Giants provided outlandish contracts to players such as Aubrey Huff (2 years, $22 million) and Cody Ross (1 year, $6 million) after winning the 2010 World Series.
It's doubtful that they'd repeat a familiar debacle, but that decision is dependent on how highly they value their coveted center-fielder.
The Giants ultimately enter baseball’s winter meetings with two goals in mind: Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro.
The determining factor in retaining both players is objectively dependent on how high the Giants’ payroll ceiling climbs.
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