Despite continuing their trend of winning the World Series, then missing the playoffs altogether the following year, the San Francisco Giants actually had a pretty impressive season. After losing their starting third baseman to free agency and eventually handing the reins to someone who'd never played in AAA, the Giants stayed in the hunt right to the second-to-last series of the regular season.
Once again the Giants' starting rotation took some serious injury blows. Coupled with even more serious injuries to the outfield and it's a wonder the Giants stayed even remotely relevant this past season.
Where they stand: 2016 payroll obligations
According to Baseball Reference's estimations, the Giants will already have $159.4 million committed to their 2016 roster. The good news is, that includes arbitration projections. The even better news is that it includes Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Posey will be due $20 million next season, which, for your best player, is pretty affordable. Bumgarner on the other hand will be due $9.75 million. For his services, that is an extremely affordable contract.
Matt Cain will represent the biggest dollar commitment next season, making $21 million in 2016. After being a sub-replacement level starter over his 60 innings in 2015, Cain will look to bounce back if he is given another shot at starting. His home run per fly-ball rate has been unsustainably high -- even playing in AT&T Park -- so if that can come back down to an average level, Cain would likely have better results. Hunter Pence, Jake Peavy, and Angel Pagan -- who represent the balance of the larger commitments -- will earn a combined $44.75 million next season.
Pending free agents
With the starting lineup seemingly already set, the Giants' priority will be to go after starting pitchers. With Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, and Mike Leake hitting free agency, the rotation will definitely need to be addressed.
After having a great first month of the season, Lincecum regressed back to replacement level and missed the second half of the season altogether with elbow and hip injuries. It's unclear what the two-time Cy Young winner will fetch in free agency but it continues to be clear that he's not the same pitcher as he was early in his career.
Vogelsong re-upped for one year with the Giants last season for $4 million after a decent 2014 campaign. Now he is going into free agency with 130 innings of replacement-level pitching and very little leverage. After trading away Keury Mella and Adam Duvall, Evans will likely want to retain Leake's services (which both parties have publicly stated is a definite possibility). Furthermore, Leake is likely the best option of the three free agent starters.
Other payroll obligations: Arbitration
Only Yusmeiro Petit will be entering his final arbitration year. Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Hector Sanchez and George Kontos will all also be eligible for arbitration filings. Belt avoided arbitration last season, signing a one-year contract worth $3.6 million. After arguably his best season, he should be able to get a significant raise. Crawford is also coming off of his best season and will be looking for a raise from his $3.17 million contract that likewise avoided arbitration. Crawford is seemingly the most likely of the Giants to get an extension this offseason, as he's one of the best defenders at a premium position, and wouldn't be blocking anyone (major leaguer or minor leaguer).
With zero prospects in MLB.com's top 100, the Giants system is somewhat beleaguered. However, no help on the immediate horizon might not be that big of a problem for the Giants.
Christian Arroyo posted a .304/.344/.459 slash line in High-A, and at just 20 years old, still has time to develop. Lucius Fox, who is just 18, seems to be a very toolsy shortstop prospect as well, and was highly sought after before and after San Francisco signed him to a contract.
As for their future rotation, Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach, and Tyler Beede all made progress in 2015. Of the three, Blackburn likely has the greatest chance of making the team at some point in 2016, as he impressed the front office with a 2.85 ERA in 123 innings while pitching in the PCL.
Phil Bickford might have the highest ceiling out of any pitching prospect in the Giants' system, as he possesses a fastball that can reach as high as 98 MPH, and in 22 innings at Rookie ball, he posted a K/9 of 12.90, and a BB/9 of just 2.42
While the Giants don't rate highly on any farm system rankings, with a core of Posey, Bumgarner, Belt, Crawford, Duffy, and Panik still young or in their prime, it's okay to have a prospect system that seems this distant. They also have Kelby Tomlinson, who before the season was seemingly unheard of, but after stepping in to replace the injured Panik, put his name on the map. He's reportedly going to work on playing in the outfield this offseason, and could give the Giants' another homegrown position player.
Where do the Giants go from here?
Of course, much has been made of the Giants' ability to win in even-numbered years. However, it isn't some mystifying every-other-year curse that has made the Giants such a dynasty. Brian Sabean has put together a strong core that Evans is now at the helm of. With a lineup that consists of an entirely homegrown infield, and a seemingly already set outfield, the Giants' main concern is to add starting pitching. It was without a doubt their greatest weakness in 2015, but with more than a few talented pitchers on the open-market, Evans and his front office shouldn't have a problem addressing those needs.