The second baseman proved essential to the club's success, as his Most Valuable Player distinction in the NLCS demonstrated. He also will be 37 next season. Senior vice president and general manager Brian Sabean must decide whether Scutaro can contribute for at least another year, or if he's a breakdown waiting to happen. Most likely, they'll forge a deal with Scutaro, whose salary demands probably won't be overly excessive. Moreover, he was simply too integral a part of the team, on and off the field, to lose.
Here's a subject for considerable debate. The center fielder had what could be considered his best all-around season in 2012. To what extent was this driven by his impending free agency? Or, as many observers agree, did Pagan capitalize on reaching full maturity as a ballplayer and being in an environment that encouraged him to succeed? Regardless, in a free-agent market that's widely regarded as thin on talent, Pagan will be a highly sought commodity. He's expected to command in excess of $10 million annually on a multiyear contract. The Giants must decide whether Pagan is truly worth that figure or if they can live with overpaying him.
Some other team -- possibly several of them -- will be prepared to give Affeldt a multiyear contract with an annual value exceeding the $5 million he earned this season. Saddled with a ballooning payroll, the Giants have to try to economize somewhere. Do they save a few million by allowing Affeldt to walk and entrusting his role to Jose Mijares? Or do they top all offers for Affeldt and watch the payroll skyrocket further?
If the Giants could repeat the offseason following their 2010 title, they might have tried more aggressively to upgrade themselves in the outfield and first base instead of bringing everybody back -- which, in fairness, is the inclination that grips most championship clubs in any sport (they also shouldn't have signed shortstop Miguel Tejada, but that's another story). Wiser for having endured that experience, the Giants should be prepared to make tough choices where necessary -- that is, let popular and productive players walk -- if they have a chance to grab a skilled alternative.
Expect Sabean to sample the free-agent market as much as he deems necessary. Sabean has long favored obtaining players through this avenue, calling it a "clean" method of acquisition since it doesn't cost him any players off his roster.
Scutaro, Pagan, Affeldt, OF Melky Cabrera, 1B Aubrey Huff, RHP Guillermo Mota, OF Xavier Nady, 2B Freddy Sanchez, INF Ryan Theriot, RHP Brad Penny
Eligible for arbitration:
C Buster Posey, INF Joaquin Arias, RHP Sergio Romo, OF Gregor Blanco, INF Emmanuel Burriss, C Eli Whiteside, RHP Brian Wilson, RHP Santiago Casilla, LHP Mijares.
Huff ($2 million).
Areas of need
Unless the Giants keep Pagan and ignore Blanco's tendency to endure prolonged slumps, the Giants will need one -- and possibly two -- additional players. In a perfect world, Gary Brown would be ready to ascend from the Minors and become the center fielder. But the 2010 first-round pick is expected to need at least one more year of seasoning in the Giants' farm system.
The Giants won't need an overhaul, even if Affeldt departs. They'll just need another live arm to provide depth and give them a different look.
If the Giants have an opportunity to acquire a proven closer, they might feel tempted to make a move. Wilson's recovery from Tommy John surgery makes him a question mark, and Romo has never closed full-time.
Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But the Giants have no depth in this area, and left-hander Eric Surkamp will be attempting to regain his effectiveness after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Adding a candidate to occupy a fourth- or fifth-starter's role to generate competition and provide an alternative would strengthen the club.
San Francisco's payroll has increased significantly during each of its four consecutive winning seasons. The Giants don't mind spending if it helps insure on-field success. They'll shed approximately $30 million by no longer having to pay the likes of Aaron Rowand, Huff and Sanchez, but they're responsible for around $15 million in guaranteed raises for Matt Cain ($5 million), Tim Lincecum ($4 million), Pablo Sandoval ($2.5 million) and others.
Arbitration-eligible players such as Posey, Hunter Pence and Romo can anticipate significant raises, too. Expect this year's payroll of approximately $130 million to rise, but not soar astronomically.