While the Giants did everything they could to alter their recent trend, 2015 will represent the third time they've failed to make the postseason after winning the World Series. From the start of spring training, they've dealt with injuries to key contributors, and a questionable starting rotation. There are still more than 20 games left in the regular season, but it unfortunately looks like the Giants will be watching the playoffs from home.
Not having to play for most of October will provide the front office with extra time to come up with their offseason plan. Fortunately they have a lot of money coming off the books after 2015, and with a strong core of players, the Giants should be able make significant upgrades before next season.
*Cain's 2018 salary is $21 million, but the Giants can buyout his final year for $7.5 million.
San Francisco already has $100 million committed in guaranteed contracts for next season, which doesn't include the raises that multiple players will get through arbitration. That's a considerable amount of money, but given their Opening Day payroll of $170 million, it shouldn't prevent the Giants from being able to sign at least a couple key free agents.
The Giants biggest weakness in 2015 was undoubtedly their rotation. Behind Bumgarner, their starting pitchers were Cain, Peavy, Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong, Chris Heston, Tim Lincecum, and Mike Leake. Heston will likely be given a chance to make the rotation next year, but that still leaves the Giants with three rotation spots to fill.
They've made it no secret that they have a desire to bring Leake back after the season is over, and he apparently feels the same way. The Giants don't seem like they'll be a big player for pitchers like Zack Greinke and David Price, but Scott Kazmir and Jordan Zimmermann could be enticing.
A few have also noted the possibility that San Francisco could bring Lincecum back on an incentive-laden deal, which both sides appear to be open to. However due to his recent struggles, as well as his hip surgery, Lincecum wouldn't be guaranteed a spot in the rotation.
While the Giants used to be known for their pitching, it's their infield that has become their biggest strength. With Posey behind the plate, and Matt Duffy, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Brandon Belt manning the infield, they have an entirely homegrown group. However of those five, only one of them is signed long-term.
Crawford and Belt are both in their second years of arbitration, and are set to become free agents at the conclusion of the 2018 season. Of the two, Crawford is the safest bet to get an extension this offseason after a breakout 2015 campaign. He earned his first All-Star nod, and in 504 plate appearances thus far, he's hit .255/.315/.463 with an ISO of .207, a wOBA of .331, and a wRC+ of 115. He's one of the front runners for the Gold Glove, and he could even capture the Silver Slugger.
The Giants would be wise to try and negotiate a multi-year deal that would buyout his final two years of arbitration, as well as a few years of free agency. Crawford will be 29 at the start of next season, which would make a four or five year deal realistic.
Belt has also had a breakout 2015 season, but because of his position, the Giants might be weary of locking him into contract. Posey seems destined to wind up at first base once his catching days are over, and despite multiple attempts for Belt to learn how to play the outfield, his production at the plate is noticeably lower. He's clearly worthy of an extension, but his lack of positional versatility could prevent a long-term pact with the team.
Panik and Duffy have also been fantastic, but neither has played more than 173 games at the major league level, and the Giants will undoubtedly wait at least another season before exploring any extensions with them. Once they're more established, it's almost a certainty that San Francisco will try to extend them both.
With Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, Nori Aoki, and Hunter Pence set to come back next season (assuming Aoki's option is picked up), the Giants don't have a huge need to fill in this area. However, they could look to an in-house candidate to add to their mix of outfielders.
Kelby Tomlinson was called up in early August to help the Giants deal with Panik's injury, and in 98 PA's since, he's proven to be more than just a bench player. Thus far, Tomlinson has hit .303/.367/.416, posted a wOBA of .344, and a wRC+ of 124. His immediate offensive value was surprising, which has prompted a comparison to one of baseball's best super-utility players.
Talked to one #sfgiants person who thinks Kelby can be Zobrist. That good? Remains to be seen. But that type.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) September 11, 2015
If Tomlinson can be half as good as Zobrist, the Giants would be thrilled with that outcome. However with a crowded infield, his future with the team will need to be elsewhere. Bobby Evans, San Francisco's GM, recently said that they might ask Tomlinson to take fly balls this winter, in preparation for next year's Spring Training.
Pagan has struggled with the Giants since 2013, and considering that he as well as Blanco and Aoki are free agents after next season, giving Tomlinson a chance in the outfield makes perfect sense. If he can continue to hit at his current level, and play average defense, he'll undoubtedly be a part of their future. Tomlinson will be entering his age 26 season, and he could potentially save the Giants millions by filling an outfield position.
The Giants are likely going to miss the playoffs this season, but with a strong offense, and money to play with, they have a great chance to upgrade their team. Their starting rotation is seemingly the only major area of concern, and with a horde of pitchers available, San Francisco should have no trouble finding replacements.