The San Francisco Giants have completed their improbable playoff run with the ultimate prize: a World Series Title. After a period of 56 years without a championship, the Giants now have two titles in three years. While the city of San Francisco and its fans are still celebrating, it is already time to start looking towards next season and where this Giants team is headed.
The Giants have ten players who are scheduled to become free agents. Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Affeldt, Clay Hensley, Xavier Nady, Brad Penny, Freddy Sanchez, and Ryan Theriot will all be unrestricted free agents. The Giants will more than likely re-sign Pagan, Scutaro, and Affeldt. All three of these men had more than solid seasons this year, and all had key roles in their World Series run. Each will likely garner multi-year deals, with Pagan's likely to be the longest and worth the most. Something along the lines of a 3-year, 16-20 million dollar range sounds right. Expect Scutaro and Affeldt to sign two-year deals. Scutaro will be a tricky one, given his age (37). Despite his phenomenal play in a San Francisco uniform, there is reason to believe Scutaro won't be able to repeat his play next year. General Manager Brian Sabean can't give another aging veteran too big of a contract (Edgar Renteria and company).
The most interesting of the bunch is Melky Cabrera. Prior to his 50-game suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs, he was leading the National League in hitting, was the All-Star Game MVP, and a leading candidate for regular season MVP. There is no denying that Cabrera’s success over the first half of the year was a key factor in getting the Giants to the playoffs. He lied to the Giants about the positive test, then fabricated a story involving a phony website that offered the product that caused the positive test. It’s within reason to think he could be back next year on a one-year, $4 million dollar ballpark deal. But it all comes down to his relationship with the club, something only they know.
The rest of the free agents are question marks. It looks like the Giants liked Hensley out of the bullpen, so he should be back. It's hard to expect Mota, Nady, and Penny back. Sanchez might be signed to a one-year deal, but that is all dependent on his shoulder's health. And Theriot will probably be back in a backup infielder capacity.
Arbitration Players: Emmanuel Burriss, Santiago Casilla, Tim Lincecum, Jose Mijares, Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, Eli Whiteside, and Brian Wilson.
Sandoval and Lincecum signed extensions last season so won't be going to arbitration this year. Look for big paydays coming for Romo, Casilla, and Posey. Pence was already making $10 million+, so his salary shouldn't budge much. Romo made $1.5 million this year. After a dominant regular season and then near-flawless postseason, Romo's salary might end up near $4 or $5 million. Casilla made $2.2 million this season, accumulating 25 saves while helping fill in for Brian Wilson. With a 2.22 ERA with the Giants, look for Casilla's salary to bump up to near $4 million. And then there's the likely NL MVP Posey. Making just $615 thousand dollars, a HUGE payday is in his future. He was the unquestioned leader of this team and offense, and had a monster season. When this year's arbitration is over, Posey's salary could easily be around $10-$13 million. Burriss and Whiteside didn't do much of anything this year and spent a lot of time in AAA. Their respective salaries should remain the same. Mijares pitched well, so he'll get a minor salary bump.
Then there is Brian Wilson. Wilson isn't a free agent until after the 2013 season. But the Giants should start figuring out what they plan on doing with him now. He missed 99 percent of the season after undergoing 'Tommy John' surgery, but is expected to be ready for next season. With that said, Wilson will command a sizeable salary as a free agent, and the Giants must decide if they'll commit at least ten million dollars per year to retain their closer long term. What makes the decision all the more difficult is the way the bullpen was able to step-in and replace his production (the team had over 50 saves this season). Bullpen by committee is a formula that rarely works, but when you're a team with a bunch of very solid arms, it can actually be used to a team's advantage. The closer position is a vastly overrated position, and things did not work out well the last time the Giants spent a lot of money on a closer (see Armando Benitez). Now with that said, it would be ill advised for the Giants to allocate a large sum of money on a closer who is incredibly shaky at times and has a history of injuries. A smaller contract would best suit the Giants, it would just be a matter of Wilson wants to stay in SF or go to where the money is. With the emergence of cheaper options like Casilla and Romo, Wilson may have closed his last game as a Giant.
Free Agent Market:
The Giants will be linked to guys like Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn, but Sabean needs to err on the side of caution with free agent signings. That area seems to be his only real weak-link as a GM. If he pursues a top-tier hitter, he cannot afford to sign them to too long of a deal. While a guy like Hamilton or Bourn would undoubtedly bolster the Giant’s lineup and defense, don’t expect any big signings. After the 2010 championship, Sabean made sure to put his attention into signing his free agents. Since Sabean has plenty of “in-house” signing to take care of, the Giants should have a relatively quiet offseason as they gear towards yet another title in 2013.
Dynasty is a word thrown around all of the time by sports media. But two titles in three years is definitely something worth discussing. They won this year just like they did in 2010: with phenomenal pitching, timely hitting, and catching most conceivable breaks. The lineup should maintain, the rotation and bullpen will be the same, and expectations will remain high. This team was built to a long-term contender. As Market Street hosts another championship parade, there’s reason to believe it could happen again next season. With a stellar nucleus, this team is built to win again. 2013 might not be their year, but expect more titles to land in San Francisco in the near future.
**Stats obtained from baeball-reference.com**