The Giants came into this offseason with a number of glaring holes to address; namely, an aging, broken rotation and a need for another outfielder. They decided their best course of action was to take piles of money and throw them at those holes. And while the additions the Giants made definitely seem to make them improved on paper, they come with a whole new set of questions too.
Consider the major names the Giants brought in, each with his own set of issues:
Jeff Samardzija, coming off of a season where he was one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball;
Johnny Cueto, who battled through elbow soreness and had a putrid second half;
Denard Span, who had multiple surgeries last year, including one on his hip.
Risky signings, all of them. But all of them come with significant upside too, and the Giants are banking on their return to form in order to keep up in the crazy NL West.
It’s fair to ask, though: are the Giants good enough to win the division as currently constructed? Or are the signings they’ve made all show and no go?
It’s clear that Samardzija and Cueto are upgrades over Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, and Ryan Vogelsong if they’re healthy. And since the Giants managed to stay in contention until the end of September last season with a patchwork rotation, it’s easy to think an improved starting staff might be what they need to get them back into the playoffs. Span gives them improved defense in center and a legitimate leadoff hitter, two things that Angel Pagan doesn’t give them anymore. And with Span in the mix, the Giants have arguably the toughest lineup in the division to pitch against.
All of that means nothing if the signings don’t pan out, of course. Every guy the Giants have brought aboard this winter has been high-risk, high-reward. And while fans like to dream about the reward part of that equation, the risk part is just as likely. The Giants are in a precarious position, betting huge on the reward.
But did they do enough to catch the Dodgers and fend off the Diamondbacks? The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke, but replaced him with impressive rotation depth and still boast a dangerous lineup. Arizona added Greinke and Shelby Miller to their rotation, backed by one of the league’s premiere offenses. Both teams improved in certain ways, and both can make legitimate claims as the team to beat in the division. And though they may have questions of their own to answer, none of them seem to be as precarious as the ones facing the Giants.
The Giants do get credit for going against their usual offseason plan this winter. They likely realized next year’s free agent class pales in comparison to this one, and they addressed areas that had no homegrown answers on the immediate horizon. Cueto has ace-level talent, Samardzija could be a number one starter on some teams, and Span is one of the best leadoff hitters around. If all of them return to form in some way, the Giants will be a force. Arguably, they’d be the best team in the division.
But that return to form has to come, and come fast. An even year can only do so much on its own.