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Legends On Deck

San Francisco Giants Primed For Greatness In 2016 After Fantastic Offseason

 

(Gabe Rodriguez)

(Gabe Rodriguez)

In the past six seasons, the San Francisco Giants have won three World Series championships (2010, 2012 and 2014) and failed to make the playoffs the other three years.

But this time around, the organization’s tremendous offseason acquisitions have more to do with the team’s World Series aspirations than the fact that it is an even year.

The Giants had some needs going into this offseason, and the front office filled them excellently.

Some starting pitching depth after Madison Bumgarner? The Giants signed not one, but two upper-echelon pitchers in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.

It is no secret that pitching wins championships, and now the Giants have that in spades. Bumgarner has already established himself as one of the best starters in the game as well as a postseason legend. Cueto had terrific success in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark, and his flyball approach should play well in a much more spacious AT&T Park.

“He’s not a guy that you relish facing,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said, via ESPN.com, about Cueto after signing him to a six-year, $130 million. “You have a guy who has a chance to be an elite presence in your rotation if he’s healthy and we can play good defense behind him and use our ballpark to our advantage. Johnny has upside beyond his 2015 final numbers.”

And then there’s the curious case of Samardzija. He might be the first player in the history of the MLB who goes from being one of the worst pitchers in all of baseball, and then the following offseason be considered a steal at $90 million. Okay, while he might not be a steal, I do think that he will be one of the most improved players in 2016.

It only takes a quick glance at his peripherals to see that he ran into plenty of bad luck last season. Samardzija allowed about the same amount of hard and medium contact last year that he did the year before—when he spun a sub-3.00 ERA and made the All-Star Game—so it’s not like hitters were teeing off on him. Samardzija also maintained his fastball velocity in 2015, but he didn’t throw it near as much—about 15 percent less often—maybe because he was pitching on the South Side of Chicago, known as hitter-friendly territory.

The main catalyst behind his inflated ERA was a major increase in fly ball percentage, which like in Cueto’s case, should play well in San Francisco. To put the ballparks in perspective, Great American and U.S Cellular ranked seventh and eighth in home runs allowed per game last season, according to ESPN Park Factors, while the cavernous AT&T Ballpark yielded the fewest in Major League Baseball.

“Both guys are very competitive, pitch a lot of innings, and have had huge success in the National League,” Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford told Fox Sports. “They’re tough ABs. I’m glad they’ll be on our side so I don’t have to face them anymore.”

The Giants’ top three in the rotation is one of the best in the National League, and throw in rookie breakout Chris Heston and possibly Matt Cain as the fifth starter, and they are stocked in the pitching department.

“Hopefully with these two significant additions it gives us a balance of five guys that can give us the starts and innings we need to protect our bullpen and give us the best chance within our division to compete for the division,” Evans said. “That’s the goal.”

Their other critical need was an outfielder, which they addressed on Thursday when they inked free agent Denard Span to a three-year, $31 million contract. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Giants got the second-lowest OPS production out of their center fielders in 2015, something that should change now that they have Span.

Not only is Span an outstanding defensive player and a consistent hitter, he is just a winning player. When he started for the Nationals in 2015, they went 36-25. When he didn’t, the Nats were only 47-54.

“I’m thrilled and excited to have such an elite athlete like Denard,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said at Span’s introductory press conference on Friday, per Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News. “Seeing him from the other side, I just love and respect how he plays the game. You’re getting one of the best center fielders and a proven leadoff hitter.

“This ballpark will suit him so well with room to roam out there. He makes great contact. There’s a lot of room out there for extra-base hits. He’s thrilled to be here, and that’s exciting for us. It gives us so much depth. It gives me so much flexibility.”

The Giants could have gone after power-hitting outfielders Yoenis Cespedes or Justin Upton, both of which would have been splashier signings, but they opted for Span, who plays better defense than both of the aforementioned players and can lead off for the Giants.

The additions of Cueto, Samardzija and Span give the Giants a juggernaut of a roster. Their up-the-middle talent might be second-to-none—defensively and offensively—with Buster Posey behind the plate, Joe Panik at second base, Crawford at short and Span at second, and their starting rotation is deep as well.

Span also gives Bochy and Co. plenty of flexibility. Angel Pagan can slide over and split time in left field with Gregor Blanco and, on days that Bochy wants to rest Posey’s legs, Posey can play first and first baseman Brandon Belt can play left.

Belt should thrive with another year of experience under his belt, as should third baseman Matt Duffy, who was a surprise Rookie of the Year candidate in 2015.

All in all, it looks right now like an incredibly successful offseason for the Giants. The front office gave Bochy plenty of resources to work with and put the team in a position to succeed. However, as always, championships are not won on paper in the offseason, they are won on the field from April to October.

“I couldn’t ask for more. It’s been a terrific offseason,” Bochy said. “Now it’s up to us. On paper, we look great. Now we have to go out and do it.”

Who knows, maybe another even-year championship is on the horizon for these Giants.

Original article posted on HC3 Cold Hard Sports.

Heath Clary

Heath is currently a finance student at Texas A&M University. The Astros are his favorite team, but he is an all-around baseball fanatic who continually marvels at the game's best players. He has written for Bleacher Report and VAVEL USA in his career, and also maintains a sports blog, HC3 Cold Hard Sports.