I used to be obsessed with windows. When a team's window is open, that means they have players who are currently good and should help the team contend with additional support. If the window's closed, that means the team is rebuilding, amassing by the windowsill, waiting for the danged thing to open. Occasionally you'll get a special player, like Eugenio Velez, who puts his whole mouth on the window and blows, which makes him look like a sea creature from the other side. Good times, good times.
In 2007 and 2008, I kept thinking about the Giants' window. It was CLOSED, and I wanted it to be OPEN, so the goal was to identify the players who could pry it OPEN and jettison the players who kept it CLOSED. Back then, it was pretty obvious who was going to be around for the next good Giants team. Fred Lewis, Kevin Frandsen, probably John Bowker … those were the young players who should play. Anyone blocking them or impeding their progress was the enemy, by gum.
Then when the Giants were good, the window was OPEN, and anything went. Miguel Tejada? Sure! It's just for a year, what's the worst that could happen? Trading a prospect for Carlos Beltran makes sense when the window's OPEN. No one knows when the Giants are going to be good again, and they needed immediate offensive help. Besides, no one knew if the Giants would even need a pitcher when Zack Wheeler was ready.
For the better part of a decade, that was the dichotomy. When the window was OPEN, the Giants could make sense out of almost any short-term move. When it was CLOSED, the focus was supposed to be on the young players. It was easy to tell which was which just by looking at the record every season.
Last year, the Giants were bad. The pitching was mostly deplorable, and the hitters had a weird aversion to getting runners in from second base. Pack it in, everyone. Looks like the window is closed. It was a good run.
Except here are some key Giants who I'm expecting to be good in 2014:
Buster Posey - 27
Brandon Belt - 25
Brandon Crawford - 26
Pablo Sandoval - 26
Madison Bumgarner - 24
Matt Cain - 29
That's a quarter of the roster filled with key contributors under 30. Other than Cain, the players are well under 30, and only Sandoval isn't under contract for the next four years. It's a solid core, especially if you're convinced (like I am), that Cain was mostly unlucky instead of broken last year. That's a roster that you'd want to start building around. In window terms, the window would be opening.
Other key contributors:
Hunter Pence - 31
Angel Pagan - 32
Tim Lincecum - 30
Tim Hudson - 38
Sergio Romo - 31
Marco Scutaro - 38
Those are guys who I'm still expecting to be good to some degree, even though they're 30 and older. Scutaro's something of a stretch, as his back and wrist injuries at his age are probably a prologue to more ouchies, not the last chapter of a closed book. And you might quibble with Lincecum because of petty things like him not being good for the last two years. But that's a quarter of the roster under 30 that should contribute, and another quarter of the roster about which I'm still optimistic. In window terms, this second group would be a part of a team with a closing window, the kind that'll make you slide through and reach back for your fedora.
The rest of the roster is mostly filled with relievers and bench players, so it doesn't make sense to spend a lot of time worrying about the other half. The bulk of the Giants' roster, the guys who will get the most innings and at-bats, are players who should be okay or better next year. And half of those guys are long-term pillars.
Long article short: This is a weird roster. It's weird because the window dichotomy doesn't really apply. It's a win-now team that didn't win last year. It's a team with a closing window that's also wide open for the future. It's a team that, even if it's bad again this year, will still make me want short-term fixes for the various holes on the roster. It's a team young enough to not need a complete rebuild, but old enough to have a sense of urgency.
It's also a team with a ton of payroll commitments for the future compared to the rest of the league (from here.) They can use long-term help, but they should stay the heck away from other long-term deals if they can avoid it, especially if they're interested in keeping Sandoval.
That's why I'm thrilled with the Hudson signing. It helps now, but it doesn't hose the team in the future. For the next couple of years, that's all the Giants should be looking at, really. No four- or five-year deals for anyone, regardless of how cool it would be to have them in the short-term. It's a windowless team that needs to reload furiously over the next couple years.
With any luck, in two years the cavalry of young arms will keep this strange, amorphous, windowless blob of talent going. The goal is to be the 2013 Cardinals, not the 2011 Phillies. So far, so good. Except for the "winning" part, but that'll come. I hope.