The San Francisco Giants rode their pitching staff and National League MVP Buster Posey to a somewhat surprising 2012 World Series win over the heavily favored Detroit Tigers, the Giants' second title in three seasons. They were certainly not expected to be a juggernaut in 2013 but were the early NL West favorites because pretty much everyone of substance was back. Thus last year's 76-86 record and third-place finish in the division can only be called a huge disappointment. It looks to be a tough climb up in the West for the Giants with the big-spending Dodgers and rising Diamondbacks looking well ahead at the moment.
Key Losses: RHP Chad Gaudin, LHP Jose Mijares, CF Andres Torres, LHP Barry Zito
Key Additions: RHP Tim Hudson, OF Mike Morse
As you can see above, it doesn't look like the Giants didn't too much this offseason. But the Tim Hudson addition could be one of the value deals of the winter. He got a pretty reasonable two-year, $23 million contract. Hudson was having a very solid season with Atlanta in 2013, going 8-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 21 starts, before gruesomely breaking his right ankle on July 24 against the Mets. Hudson will be 39 in July but has had an ERA over 4.00 just twice in his career. He's also considered a great clubhouse guy in terms of leadership. At worst, he's a big upgrade over his former A's teammate Barry Zito.
As for Mike Morse, he got a one-year, $6 million deal, which also looks potentially low-risk and high reward. Morse was terrific with Washington in 2011, hitting .303 with 31 homers. He hit only .215 with 13 homers in 88 combined games with Baltimore and Seattle in an injury-plagued 2013. Morse can play several positions but should start in left, moving Gregor Blanco into a fourth outfielder role.
It's somewhat surprising the Giants didn't address their lineup more aggressively. They ranked 10th in the NL in runs and 14th in homers with 107. No regular hit .300 last season and only Hunter Pence had more than 17 home runs (27) or 79 RBIs (99). Many think the Giants vastly overpaid by giving Pence a $90 million extension. The team also kicked the tires on trading third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.287, 14 HRs, 79 RBIs). The 2012 World Series MVP can become a free agent after this year. Posey (.294, 15 HRs, 72 RBIs last year) is going to continue to be pitched around often.
That the Giants failed to score much or hit for power wasn't a surprise in 2013. That the pitching staff had an ERA of 4.00 most certainly was. The only starter who was any good consistently was Madison Bumgarner (13-9, 2.77). Matt Cain (8-10, 4.00) was supposed to be a Cy Young candidate but was very inconsistent. Tim Lincecum (10-14, 4.37) continues to not remotely resemble a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He was rewarded with a stunning $35 million, two-year extension with a full no-trade clause. Yes, Lincecum is very popular in the Bay Area, but the Giants essentially bid against themselves there. Over the last two seasons, Lincecum has a 4.76 ERA, which translates to a 72 ERA+ that's tied for the worst among all big-league pitchers with at least 300 innings in that stretch. His fastball velocity is way down. At least Zito is gone. Too bad for sports bettors who wagered against him in road starts. Zito was 0-9 with a 9.56 ERA away from home in 2013.
San Francisco is +1200 on BetOnline's MLB futures odds to win the NL pennant and +1800 to win the World Series.
Posey hits like he did in the second half of the 2012 season, Morse finds his 2011 version and Sandoval plays like a guy looking for a big new contract. It's hard to imagine Cain will be that bad again next season. A wild-card spot is a possibility.
Lincecum continues his downward spiral, no one hits .300 or 30 homers yet again and the Giants lose a lot of 4-3 games -- hit the under on MLB odds often on this team -- because they don't have much power. They finish fourth in the NL West behind L.A., Arizona and better-than-you-think San Diego.