Do you remember the end of the 2015 season, when you just had to guess what the Giants would do? We were so young, so innocent. I thought the Giants were going to get Yovani Gallardo and Mike Leake, then pack up and wait for the season to start. So adorable.
Instead, they committed over $300 million to their roster, including the Brandon Crawford extension. They took two huge risks for their rotation, anticipating two huge rewards. They studied the 2015 team and made notes about how to improve it. They showed the notes to us. We agreed that the notes made sense.
There was a twist, though. The offseason seemed so obvious in August, when most of us assumed that spending $4.7 million to keep Norichika Aoki was an obvious move. Once the Giants declined his option, though -- correctly predicting a saturated outfield market -- they opened up all sorts of paths to an improved roster. And in retrospect, there were two sensible ways for the 2016 Giants to be better than they were in the previous season:
- Get better starting pitchers
- Get a better defender in center field
The first one was the obvious one. The second one wasn't far behind, though it was less likely. The Giants had the best defense in the National League last year according to some metrics, though, while starting one of the worst defensive center fielders in baseball according to those same metrics. That's hard to do!
I figured they could have fixed that by starting Gregor Blanco in center, though, which was something that was likely to happen by the end of the season, whether because the Giants just couldn't take Angel Pagan in center anymore, or because he was physically unable to play there. It was something that I figured would take care of itself.
The Giants, though, one-upped the internal options. Whereas an outfield of Aoki/Blanco/Pence would have improved on the default outfield of last year, it would have come with a lack of center field depth and an uncomfortable clubhouse dynamic. It's one thing for the Giants to say, "Move over, Pagan, we have an expensive new guy." It's another thing for them to say, "So that guy you've started over for the last three years when healthy? He's clearly a better fielder than you now, and you're old. So ..."
They have better starting pitchers. They have a better defender in center field. Goals complete. Good offseasoning, Giants.
Now, the quibbles come with the specific players they acquired. If I'm spending $220 million on two starting pitchers, I'd rather have Jordan Zimmermann, Scott Kazmir, and one hell of a party with the remaining $50 million. And while most of my Kenta Maeda fascination evaporated once teams found out the inside of his elbow was going to be the setting for Fallout 5, I still envy the risk the Dodgers are taking there.
And I would have gone for a power hitter for left, assuming that Blanco would be the upgrade in center if needed. I would have gone about the roster reinvention much differently.
That doesn't mean it's impossible to imagine a scenario in which the Giants don't look like a monster super-team with both Samardzija and Cueto pitching as well as they're capable of, though. And considering that last season was a 162-track concept album about why the Giants needed a better defender in center, it's not hard to get excited about that change, too.
The Giants had obvious holes. They fixed them. You can argue about the specific players, or the money spent to get them, but you can't say they didn't attack their problems very specifically and with a lot of force.
I'm not used to offseasons like this.