Since 2010, numerology has been strong with the Giants. They hoisted their first World Series trophy since moving to San Francisco; then missed the playoffs completely in 2011. With a healthy Buster Posey back on the field, and increased production from some of their homegrown players, the Giants once again took home the Commissioner's trophy in 2012 by sweeping the Detroit Tigers. In 2013, just as their previous title defense, San Francisco was shunned from playoff baseball, and forced to wait until next year. Despite some struggles in June and July during the 2014 season, the Giants managed to take the second Wild Card, and eventually marched all the way to Game 7 of the World Series, and emerged with their third World Series title in five-years.
Their streak continued in 2015, as various injuries prevented San Francisco from getting to run out their projected starting lineup for most the year. With the 2016 season nearly here, the Giants are geared up and ready to make it back to the playoffs, and given their offseason, they have a better than decent shot at accomplishing that goal.
There's almost nothing to speak of in this department. During the July trade deadline, the Giants were trying to upgrade their club, but almost every team wanted them to part with either Tyler Beede (their 2014 first round pick), or Lucius Fox (their most heralded international signing in years). Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans weren't willing to trade either player, and this offseason, they likely received calls about Christian Arroyo, who would also appear to be untouchable after a strong 2015 season.
The only trade the Giants made this offseason was to send relief pitcher Cody Hall to the Diamondbacks for a player to be named later or cash.
The Free Agents
This is where San Francisco made their significant additions. Heading into the offseason, the Giants had three major holes to address. They needed at least one starting pitcher, although Evans had publicly stated that he hoped to sign two for slotting behind Madison Bumgarner; and they also needed another outfielder. While Gregor Blanco in left, Angel Pagan in center, and Hunter Pence in right could have worked, Pagan's injury history makes it hard to count on him, and his declining skill set defensively was another red flag.
Their first move was to sign Jeff Samardzija to a five-year deal worth $90 million. After missing out on Zack Greinke, who was apparently hours away from becoming a Giant, San Francisco suddenly had a lot of cash to hand out to more than one player. Samardzija had a down 2015 season, but he still managed to post an fWAR of 2.7 (which translates to $21.3 million in value), and throw 214 innings, which was a major factor for the Giants' interest in him.
Nine days later, San Francisco signed Johnny Cueto to a six-year deal worth $130 million, which contains an opt-out after the second year. While Cueto didn't have the smoothest 2015 season, he still posted an ERA of 3.44, along with an FIP of 3.53, and an fWAR of 4.1. With those two additions, the Giants rotation now looks like Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, Jake Peavy, and Matt Cain. If Cain can't prove to be effective, San Francisco can slot Chris Heston back into the rotation, or turn to Clayton Blackburn, who posted some incredibly impressive numbers in the notoriously hitter friendly PCL.
As for the outfield, for a while it didn't look like the Giants would add anybody, but on January 7th, San Francisco announced that they'd agreed to a $31 million, three-year deal with Denard Span. He's dealt with a few injuries over the past year, but the Giants' medical staff is confident that he's healthy and and will remain productive for the life of his contract. By several defensive metrics, Span was awful last year with the Nationals, but he was still better than Pagan, who by DRS cost the Giants 20 runs.
Reasons to Worry
Despite the additions that San Francisco made, there are still more than a few ways for their 2016 season to go south. Samardzija's 2015 campaign could be a foreshadowing of what's to come, rather than the aberration the Giants are hoping it was. Cueto could be the pitcher he was with the Royals, who never got into a groove, and had more downs than ups; and Span could re-injure his core, and be forced to miss significant time in 2016 and beyond.
The Giants are also counting on Matt Duffy's 2015 season to be genuine, and not a fluke. He had significant success in the minor leagues, and even skipped AAA, but with any rookie breakout season, especially from someone who was drafted in the 18th round, there are bound to be skeptics.
They'll also need for Peavy to repeat, or at least come close to his 2015 statistics, as he finished with an ERA of 3.58 and an FIP of 3.87. He only managed to pitch in 19 games, and the Giants desperately need him to be able to take the hill closer to 30 times in 2016.
Reasons for Hope
While these reasons to worry are all legitimate, there are far more reasons for hope than to worry. According to Samardzija, and Don Cooper (Chicago's pitching coach), they realized far too late into the season that he was tipping his pitches, which would undoubtedly help explain how he served up 29 HR's. The Giants have also stated that they spotted some mechanical issues, and with Dave Righetti as their pitching coach, there's little reason to doubt that they can iron out the kinks.
San Francisco also has one of the best infields in baseball. With Posey behind the plate, Duffy at 3rd, Brandon Crawford at SS, Joe Panik at 2nd, and Brandon Belt at 1st, not only do they represent one of the best infield defenses, but also the one of the best offenses. While there was some trepidation about Panik's back injury that forced him to miss more than two months in 2015, a recent report from Andrew Baggarly revealed that there's no reason to worry that he's dealing with a chronic injury.
Even if the Giants' new additions don't contribute the value that their front office is expecting, and they come up a tad short, San Francisco still looks like a playoff team. They won 84 games in 2015, and Samardzija, Cueto, and Span should help add to that total. If they can stay healthy, and avoid major regression from some of their homegrown players, the Giants will be a scary team in 2016.