The dust has settled, the champagne has gone the way of our livers and free agency has started. Yeah, that quickly. We now look to how the Giants are going to retool as the defending World Series Champions.
That's still pretty cool to say.
The team's strength is obvious: pitching. But that isn't to say there are not tweaks to be made.
For instance, the likes of Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, Chris Ray and Santiago Casilla are arbitration eligible. Guillermo Mota is a free agent. Whom do you bring back?
The obvious one is Javier Lopez after his great months of September and October. After that, it's all up in the air.
Mota was used sparingly down the stretch and in October. Ramon Ramirez was inconsistent at best in the postseason. Chris Ray was hurt for the stretch run and—when healthy—was not used much.
Santiago Casilla is a key to the bullpen. Throwing 95-98 MPH puts him on another level, and with him it's all about locating his pitches. If he can continue to improve his control, he could be the set-up man for Brian Wilson.
The next part of the equation is the starting staff. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner are all under contract. Jonathan Sanchez is arbitration eligible.
This is an easy call: bring Sanchez back.
The more difficult situation is Zito's contract. His contract is not something other teams have an interest in picking up—at least not the entire thing. There is a possibility in convincing a team to split the remainder of his contract, but options are limited.
Although, having Zito as a fifth starter (if it wasn't for the contract) makes the rotation look really good.
Giants GM Brian Sabean has said he would like to keep all the arbitration eligible players on the roster.
The Giants are keying in on one aspect of the team: offense.
San Francisco was a much better team this year than in 2009. They ranked in the middle of the pack in home runs, RBIs and batting average this season.
The free agents are Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and Juan Uribe. Mike Fontenot, Andres Torres and Cody Ross are arbitration eligible.
The no-brainers are Torres, Ross, Huff and Uribe. It's a matter of how much and how long for Huff and Uribe. Huff has made it a point to say he wants to be in San Francisco, which is obviously a good sign.
Where do the Giants go from here with the offense? It's easier to say when you think about what you already have. Catcher, second base, centerfield and right field are taken care of. Assuming Uribe and Huff re-sign, that takes care of shortstop/third base and first base/left field.
Keep in mind, Pablo Sandoval will be in the mix, as well as Mark DeRosa.
There is speculation the Giants may not need to go through free agency to fill one of these spots. First baseman Brandon Belt was at AA-Richmond and A-San Jose this season and absolutely lit them up.
He hit .364 between the two minor league affiliates, with 19 home runs, 102 RBIs and an OPS of 1.088. Many in the Giants organization feel he is close to ready.
If so, this fills the first base position, leaving shortstop and third base. There are not a lot of big name free agents, so the big, sexy move may not come this offseason. They will have to rely on the production of Pablo Sandoval, Mark DeRosa or another small free agent pick up. Jorge Cantu, perhaps?
The most productive move this offseason could be dumping the Aaron Rowand contract. Because it is a smaller contract, the Giants may be able to unload it if they bite the bullet and pay half of the $12 million he is owed annually.
There is also another young infielder lighting up the Arizona Fall League wearing Giants colors. Charlie Culberson is batting .424, which ranks second in the AFL. Culberson also batted .290 with 16 home runs, 75 RBIs and 25 steals for A-San Jose.
The Giants minor league system may soon provide all the offense this pitching needs.
San Francisco proved the old formula to winning baseball still works: pitching and defense. They sprinkled in some offense and it worked. The cast of characters should be back and for a full season this time.
Maturation and patience has worked for the Giants. Let it continue.
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