A year after winning the 2012 World Series, the Giants struggled and finished in a tie for third place with the Padres. San Francisco finished the 2013 season with a 76-86 record. Heading into the offseason, the Giants had a couple of holes to fill. I caught up with Grant Brisbee of the McCovey Chronicles to find out how San Fran did this offseason.
DAVID: What was the biggest offseason move the Giants made?
GRANT: They needed at least one more starting pitcher to replace Barry Zito, and they did well to get Tim Hudson, even if he's scarily close to 40. There was an ocean of one- and two-year options for the rotation, and the Giants went with one of the safer ones in Hudson. it helps balance out the high-risk pitchers like (Tim) Lincecum and (Ryan) Vogelsong.
DL: What was the biggest offseason move San Francisco DID NOT make?
GB: They didn't get an expensive outfielder -- a Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury. I wasn't for that idea, but there were a lot of folks who wanted the shiny, expensive toy.
DL: What was the worst offseason move the Giants made?
GB: Michael Morse doesn't fix anything. Someone on Twitter said it was more about outfield depth -- making (Gregor) Blanco an above-average fourth outfielder, and Juan Perez or Tyler Colvin a solid option as a fifth outfielder. But Morse is so bad with the glove, it's almost impossible for him to make it up with his bat.
DL: Where does this team stand now as a whole? Are there a lot of weaknesses that will be/have been fixed in spring training?
GB: It's a solid team that needs a little help to get in the playoffs, but you can say that about almost any team. There is nothing to fix in spring because there aren't any battles. There's maybe a bullpen spot up for grabs, maybe a fifth-outfielder slot, and possible a second utility infielder spot open. If Marco Scutaro can't play, there will be a scrum between Joaquin Arias, Tony Abreu, Ehire Adrianza, and maybe Joe Panik.
DL: What is San Francisco's biggest strength heading into the season?
GB: With a healthy Marco Scutaro, the Giants have a deceptively deep lineup. Brandon Crawford is okay for a plus-defending shortstop, and Morse is a Morse, of course, of course. Those two are the weak links. Everyone else is at least average, with a Belt/Posey/Sandoval/Pence middle that's as good as the Giants have had since the end of 2010.
DL: What do you think of the Tim Lincecum deal? Did they pay him too much?
GB: In retrospect, they paid too much. They underestimated the unwillingness of teams to give up draft picks. If they had to do it over again, they would have extended the qualifying offer, and probably got him back later in the offseason for less money.
DL: Who is a rookie to look out for this year?
GB: Edwin Escobar is one of the top prospects in the system, and he finished the year in Double-A. He's the first line of defense if Vogelsong or Lincecum struggle. The scuttlebutt in camp is that he's throwing the ball really well.
DL: Who is your pre-season Cy Young for the Giants?
GB: Not ready to give up on the idea that he's the best pitcher on the staff, so I'll say Matt Cain.
DL: Who is your pre-season MVP for San Francisco?
GB: If it's not Buster Posey, then something has gone horribly wrong. Unless we're talking about Brandon Belt turning into peak John Olerud. I could be okay with that.
DL: What do the Giants need to do to make the playoffs?
GB: Allow fewer runs than they score. Stay Healthy. Aside from the earth-shattering stuff, they'll need one of Vogelsong or Lincecum to pitch well. They don't have to be All-Stars, but they can't both be Zitos.
DL: Where do you see San Francisco finishing at the end of the regular season? Record, place in division, place in playoffs, etc.
GB: I can make an argument for all five teams, actually. Seriously. I think the Dodgers are the favorites for a good reason, the Giants and Diamondbacks are pretty close, and the Rockies and Padres are close to each other, but not as far away as you might think. I think the Giants will fight for a playoff spot.
GB: Considering Yasiel Puig is going to go full Francoeur -- looooook in your hearts -- and that Clayton Kershaw is going to retire to do missionary work in June, they might take the division after all.