After sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 Fall Classic, the San Francisco Giants were expected to be a force in the National League. After going 76-86 and finishing in a third place tie with the San Diego Padres in the National League West, the Giants had a very disappointing 2013. The front office entered the offseason with some pretty big expectations from some of the most devoted fans in baseball. The checklist for the offseason was to resign Tim Lincecum, acquire a power hitting left fielder, and to replace Barry Zito. So far, the Giants have re-signed Hunter Pence (5 years, $90 million), Lincecum (2 years, $35 million), Ryan Vogelsong (one year, $5 million before incentives), and Javier Lopez (3 years, $13 million). The Giants also signed free agent outfielder Michael Morse to a one-year, $6 million deal and free agent starting pitcher Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal. Although they have filled a lot of holes on their roster, I believe there are two more spots that need to be improved upon.
One of those spots is a closer. In 2013 Sergio Romo pitched a full season as the full-time closer for the first time in his career. He had a 2.54 ERA, an 8.7 K/9, and a 1.077 WHIP. All of those are very good numbers, but they aren’t consistent with his career stats. From 2010-2012 Romo averaged a 1.82 ERA, an 11.2 K/9, and a 0.842 WHIP. I believe he could maximize his potential in the eighth inning and the Giants are better off acquiring a closer like Grant Balfour. Balfour’s two-year deal with the Orioles recently fell through because of a supposed problem with his physical, although he says he is baffled at what happened and that he is 100% healthy. Balfour was very similar to Romo in 2013 and would be well-suited in the ninth inning for the Giants. If the Giants signed Balfour to close, they would have one of the strongest bullpens in baseball. They would have Balfour in the ninth, Romo and Javier Lopez in the eighth, Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt in the seventh, Heath Hembree in the sixth, and Yusmeiro Petit as the long man and replacement starter.
The other problem that needs to be fixed is the situation with the backup catcher. Although Hector Sanchez is very young and could possibly develop into a solid offensive player, he just doesn’t belong in the major leagues at this time. In a combined 150 games since 2011, Sanchez has averaged a 91 OPS+, .299 OBP, .370 SLG, and collected a 0.6 fWAR. In 2013 he had an ISO of .101 and a 5.0 BB%. He is below average defensively and doesn’t run the bases well. The bottom line is that Buster Posey doesn’t catch 162 games per year so the Giants would benefit greatly by getting a competent backup catcher.
All together, the Giants’ offseason is filled with a lot of question marks. Lincecum, Hudson, Vogelsong, and Morse are all very high risk players. Hudson, Vogelsong, and Morse are coming off of injury-plagued seasons and Lincecum, as we all know, used to be one of the best pitchers in baseball until he completely tanked in 2012 and slightly improved in 2013. The Giants are banking on him somewhat returning to form in 2014 so he isn’t a waste of money. If the Giants signed an effective closer/reliever and a backup catcher, I think they would be set for the upcoming season and can feel fairly confident about the possibility of returning to the postseason.
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