Timid offseason will make Giants’ repeat tough

Jeff Passan
Yahoo! Sports
Timid offseason will make Giants’ repeat tough
The Giants earned their World Series celebration, and a repeat will hinge largely on pitchers such as Brian Wilson

Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the San Francisco Giants.

2010 record: 92-70
Finish: First place, NL West
2010 final payroll: $101.4 million
Estimated 2011 opening day payroll: $117 million

Offseason action

Win a World Series and, in most cases, the upgrades are more painting the trim than redoing the master bath. And so went the offseason of the San Francisco Giants, whose general manager, Brian Sabean, rested on his championship while the rest of the league tried to play catch-up.

Sure, a few transactions came across the champs' wire. Take the Miguel Tejada(notes) signing, a Sabean move if ever there were one, for he is friend, rescuer and savior to the wizened and past-his-prime ballplayer. What other GM would've given $6.5 million to a sub-.400-slugging, 37-year-old, wasn't-a-shortstop-three-years-ago-and-sure-ain't-one-now shortstop? An unemployed one.

And yet Sabean has carte blanche for the time being because his ownership group will soon get oversized rings to show off for the rest of their lives. Granted, most of the credit goes to the scouting staff that dropped in his lap Tim Lincecum(notes), Matt Cain(notes), Jonathan Sanchez(notes) and Madison Bumgarner(notes). Sabean's contribution to the Giants' rotation, the eminently vulnerable Barry Zito(notes), is owed $64.5 million for the next three years.

The other two moves of the Giants' offseason were to bring back Aubrey Huff(notes) (at a silly $22 million for two seasons, especially considering the Giants could've promoted hotshot prospect Brandon Belt(notes) for $400,000) and Pat Burrell(notes) (at an entirely reasonable $1 million, a nice get for Sabean).

Otherwise, the winter involved watching the Rockies lock in Troy Tulowitzki(notes) and Carlos Gonzalez(notes) for the rest of the decade, and with Cain able to walk in 2013 and Lincecum in 2014, the Giants soon will face difficult decisions about extending pitchers whose arms already have plenty of mileage before their 27th birthdays.

An easier choice, and one that should've been taken care of this offseason, is locking up Buster Posey(notes). Yes, he's not even a full season into his major league career. Neither was Ryan Braun(notes), and the Brewers guaranteed him $45 million over eight years, the sort of contract that is good for the player (set for life on spec) and great for the team (Braun is now a $20 million-a-year player, and they've got him through 2015).

Posey and Braun are represented by the same agency, and the reigning Rookie of the Year is the special sort of player who deserves a precedent-setting contract. Keep Posey in a Giants uniform for as long as Tulowitzki will be with the Rockies and Sabean can have all the Tejada and Huff he wants.

Reality check

It is difficult to overstate just how good the Giants' pitching is. Spectacular? Yeah. Superlative? Uh-huh. Incredible? Yep. Peerless? Well …

The Phillies, supposedly unbeatable in the NLCS until San Francisco dispatched them, went out and added one of the five best pitchers in baseball to a staff that already includes the best at No. 1, a former World Series MVP with four excellent pitches at No. 3 and the starter with the fourth-best adjusted ERA over the last decade at No. 4.

So, yeah, Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner doesn't look quite as dominant, not unless they repeat their performance over the last two months of 2010, which amounts to a near-impossible task. They are good. Just not that good. And the Giants as a whole certainly do not stack up to the Phillies, not when their lineup remains Posey and a bunch of guys who may or may not hit.

At this point, only a fool ignores the fact that the Phillies are a far superior team than the Giants. San Francisco outplayed Philadelphia last October, no question, but to conflate fleeting glory with long-term viability is fallacious. Though the Giants remain capable of defeating any team in a short series because of their pitching, they're simply not a team that's built to survive a season, and it took an epic Padres collapse and underachievement from the Rockies and Dodgers to do so last year.

If Pablo Sandoval's(notes) weight loss isn't a ruse and if Belt is the sort of potent bat scouts think he can be, suddenly the Giants' fortunes change. Great pitching is the fulcrum of success. A dangerous offense makes that team a viable threat to Philadelphia, even with Juan Uribe's(notes) departure leaving brutal defense across the diamond.

The Giants' run in 2010 was magical, something a devoted city and passionate fan base deserved. Barring something big – and the Giants seem to be done with this offseason after arbitration crushed any hope at a similar payroll as last year – it's also a championship that won't be repeated.

Giants in haiku

Although Prop 19
Did not pass, San Francisco's
Still high on Giants

Next: Chicago White Sox