The San Francisco Giants have been busy this offseason. They have extended their franchise shortstop Brandon Crawford to a new long-term contract and signed two top-of-the-rotation pitchers in Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. They have also said goodbye to many players who had key roles in championship seasons in San Francisco.
Crawford’s deal is the Giants way, giving extensions to homegrown players that are part of the nucleus of the franchise. The Giants did the same with several key pieces over the years, including Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and many others.
However, the other common thread among the previous seasons for the Giants is to re-sign players when they become free agents. Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, Angel Pagan, Jeremy Affeldt, and others came from other teams, fit right in with the clubhouse and all contributed greatly to a championship. Then, when it was time for free agency, they were re-signed. Many of these players struggled at times to put up the numbers they had previously, but this was a part of the reason that this franchise was winning so many post-season games. The locker room felt like a family because the front office kept the family together.
So when Cody Ross, Javier Lopez, Marco Scutaro or Hunter Pence were brought in during the season and only spent a few months with the franchise, it was already clear that the team would keep them around.
Going into the 2015 off-season, fans expected the Giants to bring back Mike Leake, a mid-season trade, who struggled to stay healthy, but was the type of pitcher they were looking for in the rotation behind Bumgarner.
Affeldt and Tim Hudson had announced their retirement before the season ended, so Giants fans were able to say goodbye to both pitchers, but several free agents were question marks to return to the club.
This was unusual, because very few free agents have ever left the team. Yet, in 2015, the Giants have already lost Ryan Vogelsong, Yusmeiro Petit, Hector Sanchez, Juan Perez, Joaquin Arias, Nori Aoki, and are unlikely to bring back Lincecum. Alejandro De Aza and Marlon Byrd are both still free agents, but there isn’t any indication that either will be brought back to play left field in 2016.
Some fans may see this as a change from what they are used to, but we saw a glimpse of this new version last off-season. Before the Giants brought back Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo, and Vogelsong, the Giants went after Jon Lester.
Bobby Evans, the team’s general manager, was trying to find a pitcher to pair with Bumgarner. He had also hoped publicly that Cain could return to form and give them the type of season they were accustomed to for Matt’s first eight years with the club. With injuries to Peavy and Cain crippling the Giants starting pitching depth last year, the mission was clear this offseason — add pitching depth to the rotation.
At first, that meant going after Zack Greinke, the runner up to the Cy Young award in 2015, and an elite pitcher. When the Giants became runners up for the second straight offseason to a top pitcher, the Giants stayed the course and went after Samardzija. After signing him to a five-year deal, they turned their attention to Cueto, and were able to sign him as well.
But with all this money handed out to big time free agents, are the Giants getting away from what has made them so great? The simple answer is no. The 2010, 2012, and 2014 World Series Championships were won on pitching and defense. The Giants have given $295 million to three players this offseason — their golden-gloved shortstop and two starting pitchers with ace potential.
The team may have gone about it differently than in past offseasons, with the front page signings, but Crawford, Samardzija and Cueto fit everything the Giants do and have done the last six seasons. What Bobby Evans has done is no different than the money the team has given to so many other players in past seasons. They know the formula it takes to win and they have the horses now to compete again for a fourth championship this decade.