A third-place finish in the NL West and a 76-86 record was hardly what Giants general manager Brian Sabean had in mind when he devoted last offseason to keeping his World Series championship team together. But injuries to Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong contributed to the Giants' starting rotation performing far below expectations, negating a more productive offense. The lineup might have been even better had Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval been able to stay healthy. This is close to the same team that won the World Series in 2012 and could recover to challenge the Dodgers for a division title with the right additions.
Sabean's offseason priority has to be starting pitching. That's already been addressed to an extent with the two-year, $35 million contract for Tim Lincecum. But after declining the options on Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito, the Giants might need to sign two more starters. One of them will probably be viewed as a No. 3 starter who can slot in behind Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The other could be a veteran fifth starter who can throw a lot of innings.
A left fielder will also likely be on San Francisco's shopping list, someone who can provide more run production than Gregor Blanco did this past season. The Giants could possibly get a better hitter if they pursued a center fielder and moved Pagan over to left field. Another possibility would be to acquire a first baseman and take a chance on Brandon Belt in the outfield.
Adding some bench depth is a necessity as well. Bringing in another outfielder would strengthen that position by making Blanco a reserve that could help out at all three spots, in addition to a left-handed bat and speed off the bench. A utility infielder would also be beneficial, unless the Giants felt a prospect like Joe Panik might be suitable for such a role, rather than continuing to develop in the minors.
The Giants were one of the teams pursuing Ricky Nolasco before the trade deadline, and might revisit that interest in free agency. Nolasco is exactly the sort of middle-of-the-rotation starter San Francisco needs, one that could push Lincecum to the fourth or fifth spot. Matt Garza also fits such a description. Bronson Arroyo would surely benefit from pitching in AT&T Park rather than Great American Ball Park. Dan Haren is another veteran starter who could provide innings at the back of the rotation.
San Francisco could also be an ideal spot for a starter recovering from injury and looking for a short-term deal to build up his value. Josh Johnson, Johan Santana and Roy Halladay are among the pitchers who could thrive in one of MLB's best pitcher's parks.
Would Carlos Beltran be interested in a return to the Bay Area? His bat would go well in the middle of the Giants' batting order. Likely to sign a short-term deal, Beltran could be a stopgap until Gary Brown is ready for the majors or the team decides to move on. Curtis Granderson is someone who could play left or center field and cover more ground in the outfield. The same applies to Chris Young, who would likely be far less expensive. If the Giants were looking for more power, Nelson Cruz could certainly provide that. Otherwise, Michael Morse might make a good platoon in left with Blanco.
The free agent market offers plenty of veteran utility infielders for the Giants to choose from. Willie Bloomquist, Clint Barmes, Luis Cruz and Nick Punto are just a few of the names that could back up various infield positions next season.
Sabean will have to depend on free agency to make key additions to his team because he doesn't have much to offer in trade, especially on the major league roster. He could see what the market is for prospects like Brown and Panik, or shop around young pitchers like Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton or Mike Kickham. But those arms will also be needed to stock the Giants' major league rotation in another couple of years.
If acquiring a first baseman and moving Belt to left field is really something the Giants would consider, the Nationals' Adam LaRoche is a player they could pursue. Mark Trumbo of the Angels might add even more power to the lineup. Pursuing natural outfielders would likely be preferable, however. The Twins' Josh Willingham seems like an ideal candidate to fill that left field opening. Peter Bourjos of the Angels could be a center fielder to pursue, allowing the Giants to move Pagan to left. But is he that much better a player than Blanco?
Would San Francisco consider bringing in another second baseman to put Scutaro in more of a utility role or give him and Sandoval opportunities to rest throughout the season? If so, the Reds' Brandon Phillips, Dan Uggla of the Braves or perhaps the Nationals' Danny Espinosa are players who could bolster the Giants' infield depth.
On the pitching side, the Tigers' Rick Porcello would look good at the back of San Francisco's rotation. But do the Giants have the relievers or outfielders Detroit is likely seeking in return? Perhaps Sabean will check in with the Red Sox to see if a pitcher like Franklin Morales or Felix Doubront might be available.