Spring Training is underway for the San Francisco Giants. The team is gearing up to start the Cactus League pre-season schedule and there is reason to be excited about 2016.
During the whirlwind of an off-season, the Giants reloaded in the pitching department, signing free agents Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. The team also bolstered the top spot in the lineup and added depth to the outfield by signing free agent Denard Span.
Beside a few other signings, including minor league deals reached with outfielder Kyle Blanks and infielder Conor Gillaspie who bounced between the minors and the Giants from 2008 to 2012, this concluded the off-season for General Manager Bobby Evans.
Cueto and Samardzija could compliment Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Matt Cain quite well. Although Samardzija is coming off a terrible season with the Chicago White Sox, the guy has crazy potential, and pitching at AT&T Park for half his starts will help him immensely.
“The shark,” as they call Samardzija, pitched well for the Oakland A’s in 2014 when they lost in the Wild Card game to the Kansas City Royals. Dating back to his days at Wrigley Field, the 6’5” righty posted multiple seasons with an E.R.A in the twos. It is hard to believe, but signing him for 5 years for $90 million was a steal for them.
When it comes to Cueto, he was the big fish the Giants got out of this off-season. In his eight years with the Cincinnati Reds before being traded to the Royals last season, the 30-year-old from the Dominican Republic posted a 3.21 E.R.A in a pretty hitter-friendly yard.
Giants’ fans should be ecstatic about this signing, as long as Cueto does not become a clubhouse issue. The San Francisco Giants have been notorious for having solid team chemistry over the last six years where they have won three World Series titles.
The outfield situation is also a sticky one for the Giants. Between Angel Pagan and Denard Span, who is going to anchor the vast centerfield at AT&T? The easy answer: Denard Span.
However, I am torn as a journalist because I play the game of baseball and I know that Pagan may have just had a bad season last year. His bat had not come around to its full potential last season, as he did not do enough offensively to make up for being one of the worst centerfielders in the big leagues — but he is in a contract year.
Pagan wants to get paid next season and the only way he is going to do that is if he returns to form in 2016. And who knows, maybe he will take care of his body and not get injured and miss big stretches of the year. If he can be healthy and play 145 games, I cannot help but think he will have a strong campaign.
The Giants do not have time to feel out the situation in the outfield however, as their window with Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt is now. They also have guys that are ready to step in if Pagan cannot get it done. Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson are knocking on the door, and this may permanently push Pagan out the door.
According to csnbayarea.com, Manager of the Giants Bruce Bochy had this to say of Spring Training. “You want to remind the players that you never arrive. Your job is to try to get better and try to improve.”
He was speaking of the team and their ability to hit in clutch situations last season. The team was great at this, hitting .272 last season with two outs and runners in scoring position.
If the Giants can get a vintage season from Matt Cain, figure out the outfield, stay healthy and keep the clubhouse chemistry good with new guys coming in, they are set to have another run at the playoffs.