The San Francisco Giants are the template for all organization without unlimited funds. GM Brian Sabean has developed young pitchers, drafted core players and made successful trades for key players. The most successful National League team since the Big Red Machine won its second World Series in three years despite hitting the fewest home runs in the league.
Sabean had a typically efficient offseason. Making no major offseason additions, he instead re-signed key players to fiscally intelligent contracts. Right fielder Hunter Pence completed the Giants team when he was acquired from Philadelphia in a deadline deal. A high quality, well rounded player, Pence has a career .813 OPS in six seasons and drove in 100 runs for the first time in 2012. Though not a superstar, contending teams have added him during the pennant race in two consecutive seasons. Sabean signed the arbitration eligible Pence to a one year $13.8 million deal.
Marco Scutaro has long been a valuable and versatile infielder who gives his manager lineup flexibility. Acquired from the Colorado Rockies in July, Scutaro had a torrid second half with the Giants, driving in 44 runs with an OPS of .859 in 243 at bats. The 2012 NLCS MVP signed a $20 million 3 year contract.
Jeremy Affeldt has been a valuable left handed reliever for the the Giants since 2009. Over the last two years his ERA is 2.66 in 125 IP. He signed in November for $21 million over 3 years.
Melky Cabrera was an All-Star and on his way to competing for the batting title when he tested positive for PED’s in August. Sabean elected not to re-sign Cabrera, who will play for the Blue Jays in 2013.
Aubrey Huff was a major contributor during the 2010 World Series campaign, but has not been a factor the previous two seasons. Sabean elected to not retain Huff’s services in 2013.
In typical Sabean fashion, even a negative has a bright side. Two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum suffered a horrendous year in 2012 with a 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. Sabean committed long term to Matt Cain and put off signing the more unconventional Lincecum. If Lincecum can regain his command, a career high 4.4 base on balls per nine innings in 2012, Sabean can make a rational decision regarding Lincecum in the 2014 offseason. If Lincecum stumbles, the Giants have Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong to pick up the slack.
The Giants organization mirrors its current team. The strength of the organization is its pitching depth. 24 year old Mike Kickham will be counted on to fill the void when Barry Zito’s contract (one of Sabean’s few mistakes) expires at year’s end.
The top positional prospect is Gary Brown, an athletic outfielder who may compete for leftfield playing time in 2013. Brown hit .279 and stole 33 bases for the Richmond Flying Squirrels in the Double AA Eastern league.
Entering 2013 the defending champs are in the odd position of being underdogs to the free spending Dodgers. On paper the Los Angeles lineup is superior to the Giants. Though the Giants could use some more offensive firepower, Sabean has masterfully crafted this team to fit spacious Pac-Bell Park. To consider the Dodgers over priced band of 2009 All-Stars a favorite to this crew of proven late season and postseason performers is folly.