Posted January 21, 2014

Winter Report Card: San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants, Winter report cards

Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum’s new deal may become problematic for the Giants. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

With little less than a month before pitchers and catchers report, we’re checking in on how each team has fared in conducting its offseason business while acknowledging that there’s still time for its prognosis to change. Teams will be presented in reverse order of finish from 2013. 

San Francisco Giants

2013 results: 76-86 (.469), 4th place in NL West (Hot Stove Preview)

Key departures: RHP Chad Gaudin*, LHP Jose Mijares*, CF Andres Torres*, LHP Barry Zito* (* = free agent, still unsigned)

Key arrivals: RHP Tim Hudson, OF Mike Morse

The Giants were busier than the above would suggest this offseason. In addition to signing free agents Hudson and Morse, they re-signed right fielder Hunter Pence (on the final weekend of the regular season), starters Tim Lincecum (on the eve of the World Series) and Ryan Vogelsong, and lefty matchup reliever Javier Lopez. Of those six contracts, of which only Pence’s exceeds three years, only Lincecum’s seems problematic.

Lincecum’s ERA and walk rate improved in 2013, but his strikeout rate hit a career low, as did his fastball velocity, and his park-adjusted ERA+ remained among the worst in the majors at 76 (fifth worst among qualified pitchers in 2013). Yet, the Giants agreed to pay him $35 million over the next two years, which stands as the third-richest pitching contract this offseason, behind Ricky Nolasco’s $49 million over four years and Clayton Kershaw’s record-breaking $215 million extension (that’s with the top five pitchers on the market still unsigned, but still).

The Giants did far better in inking Tim Hudson for $23 million over the same two years. Hudson is 38, has seen his ERA rise each of the last three seasons, and is coming off a broken ankle that required surgery. However, he has only posted an ERA+ below average in a qualifying season once in 15 years and should benefit from the move to the Giants’ pitching-friendly ballpark. The 36-year-old Vogelsong, meanwhile, returns for just one year and $5 million looking to rebound from a season in which he got off to a lousy start then lost nearly three months to a broken finger. That’s a worthwhile gamble given his strong showing in the previous two seasons.

Re-signing Lopez, also 36, was an easy decision given his dominance over the last four seasons (154 ERA+, just four home runs allowed in 186 innings, and lefties hitting just .168/.236/.238 against him over that span), even at $13 million over three years. The five-year, $90 million extension given to Pence, covering his age-31 to -35 seasons, looks even better in the wake of the seven-year, $130 million deal given to Shin-Soo Choo, who is nearly a year older than Pence, and the $153 million over seven years for the fragile Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as the four-year, $60 million deal the Mets gave to Curtis Granderson, who turns 33 in March.

As for Morse, he’s a nice right-handed slugging complement to slap-hitting lefty speedster Gregor Blanco (or even 27-year-old minor league slugger Roger Kieschnick, also a left-handed hitter) in left field. The Giants are taking a reasonable $6 million, one-year gamble on the chance of Morse, a career .281/.334/.473 hitter, rebounding from a down season and taking over the position full time.

Unfinished business: none

Looking ahead toward the offseason in September, the Giants’ biggest needs were in the starting rotation and left field and, potentially, replacing their departing free agents. They solved the last by re-signing four of those men, solved left field with Morse, and solved the rotation by signing three starters.

Preliminary Grade: A-

Even if two of the three starting pitchers the Giants signed this offseason are returning members of last year’s rotation coming off awful years, Tim Hudson was a nice, low-cost addition, and San Francisco can reasonably expect improvements from his spot in the rotation as well as from Vogelsong and Matt Cain. The Giants may not have made many major upgrades, but they targeted their needs with precision, made small improvements in left and the rotation with greater upside in both cases, and, with the exception of Lincecum’s two-year deal, didn’t overspend anywhere. Plus, Pablo Sandoval is in the Best Shape of His Life.

9 comments
jackman
jackman

Before we take SI's latest predictions too seriously, here's what they said in the 2013 winter report card for the Toronto Blue Jays:


Preliminary grade: A. No team has remade its fortunes in more impressive fashion this winter than the Jays, who are poised to seize the day in the AL East given the relatively lackluster winter work of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.

How'd that work out, guys?

ariess
ariess

I agree with much of what has been said here about the giants, but saying that the giants got Hudson for a very reasonable amount and did not overpay, is a bit of a stretch.  Over 11 million a year for two years for a 38 year old pitcher coming off a broken ankle is a pretty strong over payment.

SoniaH
SoniaH

Breaking news, another anti-rabid Lincecum article by Cliff Corcoran.


You contradict yourself all the way, you say Timmy improved last year, but this year...no, this year he cannot improve anymore why? because Cliff Corcoran says so. There is not an argument said about why Timmy cannot improve as a pitcher.


His strike rate hit a career low, let's see 193 K's , btw, you conveniently ommit that stat, why? because that does not fit your agenda. His strike rate is fine, that is not his problem, his problem is control.


Finally, why do you use a Lincecum picture to promote your article? Again, to fit your agenda, that is, that Lincecum is going to cause the Giants such a big problem, that he is the key factor to their failure.


Your theory is insane, even in 2012, his worst year in MLB, he didn't derail the Giants. He even helped them coming from the bullpen, in extraordinary fashion.


So is clear you dont like his salary or the human being, I dont know at this point, so what is your suggestion genius? Retirement at age 29?


(for the record, I'm not even a Giants fan)

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@SoniaH 


Let's see Sonia H.


In Tim's seasons in MLB, here is how many strikeouts he has averaged per 9 innings in his career so far.


9.2

10.5

10.4

9.8

9.1

9.2

8.8  so last season he struck out the FEWEST batters per 9 innings in his career.


You said his problem was control.  Here is how many walks Tim has had per 9 innings in his career each season.


4.0

3.3

2.7

3.2

3.6

4.4

3.5  so he was in the middle last season.  He's had THREE seasons where his control was WORSE than his control was last season.  3.5 walks per 9 innings is also his career average so I wouldn't say his control was his biggest issue last year.

howboutthis?
howboutthis?

@SoniaH Era 4.37 (in San Fran!) ERA+ 76 WAR -0.6 


That was not a banner year by anyone's standards. 198 innings of below league average pitching is not getting great value for 35 million over two years. They are clearly paying for past performance with him. It looks to me like the are following good money with bad on this one.

gymviking
gymviking

@Sportsfan18 You can look up stats, but that doesn't give you an understanding of them or baseball, in general.


8.8 strikeouts is the lowest rate of his career, it's true,  but it is statistically pretty close to what he has been doing in his non-Cy Young seasons. To point it out as a big change or a specific indication of a problem is inaccurate.


As to control....bad control does not always lead to walks. In Lincecum's case, it usually leads to him getting behind in the count, or getting the ball up in the zone, and batters hitting him pretty hard.

SoniaH
SoniaH

@Sportsfan18 @SoniaH  


193 K's a year is a pretty good stat for any pitcher. Timmy has swing and miss stuff. That is not his problem. In fact, some people want him to pitch to contact and stop trying to KO everybody. 


In my opinion the Giants organization is the problem. Sometimes you need a change of scenary, a new coach, new teammates. The bullpen was atrocious for Timmy.


Also, the Giants decided to cripple his FA chances by threatening him with a qualifying offer.


Timmy deserved a clean exit from the Giants with a farewell game to say goodbye and thank him for everything he did for the Giants.


But no, they didn't do that. WHY?


If Giants paid too much, it's their fault. Period.

SoniaH
SoniaH

@howboutthis? @SoniaH  


The issue here is not the money. Corcoran just has an agenda against Lincecum.


Giants paid 7 million dollars to say goodbye to Zito.Giants refuse to let Lincecum go.


I wonder why? They have a sort of schizophrenic relationship with Timmy. They misshandled him, they burned his arm, but they dont let him go.


Timmy needed a change of scenary. Sadly, it wont happen this year.