In taking a look at the 2012 World Series champion San Francisco Giants, perhaps there is something for other teams around the league to learn from. This in terms of building a title contending team that has now won the Fall Classic in two of the past three years.
The most obvious observations about what has made the Giants the team they are are simple. The team's pitching is fantastic and the defense is sound. Hmmm, pitching and defense — what a concept for a place to start with a successful team.
Unlike the teams many have compiled over the past decade or so, the Giants have very few sluggers in their lineup. In fact, San Francisco hit the fewest home runs in the big leagues last season. Now, part of that has to do with their ballpark, AT&T, which is a big-time pitcher's park, but the success of Giants GM Brian Sabean in building the team this way shouldn't go unnoticed.
The Giants did spend money on their team. In fact, San Francisco's payroll entering the 2012 season was $117.6 million dollars, placing the team as the eighth-highest in baseball. Of course, $12 million of that was given to former centerfielder Aaron Rowand to stay home and away from the team. That horrible contract is now finally off the books.
The other big contract that has started to look a whole lot better after this postseason is pitcher Barry Zito. 2013 will be the final year on his contract, though the club has an option in 2014 that they will certainly decline and/or buy out. Zito is set to make $20 million next season.
Zito at least earned part of his seven-year, $126 million-dollar deal this postseason by winning twice — once in Game 5 of the NLCS against St. Louis in an elimination game and then again against the Tigers in the opening game of the World Series. Still, 58 wins for $106 million seems like a lot of tall coin to pay someone.
Barring a trade, expect the entire Giants starting rotation to be back next year. After Zito, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Baumgartner and Ryan Voglesong are all under contract in 2013. Lincecum had a down year but is a two-time Cy Young Arawrd winner and is scheduled to make $22 million in 2013. Cain is in the second year of a six-year, $127.5-million deal and he's making $20 million next year. After the big three, Voglesong will make $5 million next year and Baumgartner a paltry $750,000 in 2013 before his escalators kick in over the following five years. The Giants have an option on Voglesong in 2014.
So that's $67.75-million in payroll — just for the starting rotation. Not counting players that are arbitration-eligible and those with vested options, the entire Giants obligation next year is currently $81 million.
Of the starters in the team's World Series lineup, the following players will be back: 3B Pablo Sandoval (5.7-million), SS Brandon Crawford (not arbitration eligible), 1B Brandon Belt (not arbitration eligible), C Buster Posey (not arbitration eligible) and LF Gregor Blanco (not arbitration eligible). Off the bench, Joaquin Arias and backup catcher Hector Sanchez are also under contract.
In the bullpen, closer Sergio Romo is up for arbitration and he certainly will get more than the $1.575 he made in 2012. Santiago Casilla is arbitration-eligible, too, and he made 2.2-million this summer. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the only reliever under contact is Javier Lopez. The situational lefty will make $4.25 next year.
Still that's a pretty good block to build from.
What Sabean next needs to consider is who to bring back from this year's team. Here's a list of the free agents from the World Champions:
CF Angel Pagan
RF Hunter Pence
2B Marco Scutaro
1B Aubrey Huff
RP Jeremy Affeldt
IF Ryan Theriot
RP Guillermo Mota
OF Xavier Nady
RP Jose Mijares
RP George Kontos
Two others that will be interesting to see what happens to are closer Brian Wilson, who missed the entire season with an arm injury, and suspended outfielder Melky Cabrera. I'd expect Wilson to come back next year. He made $8.5 million last year after being disabled, but he has largely been considered one of the best relievers in the game when healthy.
As far as Cabrera goes, he was, of course, suspended for performance enhancers and missed the last 50 games of the season and the Giants decided not to add him to the postseason roster. He is still on their 40-man roster, however, and could negotiate a new deal with him. Otherwise, he is due to be a free agent this winter.
Several of those free agents on the above list were a big keys to the Giants' success this year, though guys like Pence, Pagan and Affeldt will likely get some good offers from other teams this offseason. Scutaro is another key player who could come back, but he's 37 now and who knows if this was his last hurrah or not.
No matter how you slice it, though, it looks like the Giants will have money available to spend in the free agent market this year with second base and two outfield spots being the biggest need. To me, that sets up well for San Francisco to be in line for another title run again in 2013.