The San Francisco Giants locked up the remaining big piece of their 2012 Championship team by signing second baseman Marco Scutaro to a three year $20 million deal.
Scutaro joins two other free agents, center fielder Angel Pagan (four years $40m) and relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt (three years $18m), in re-signing with the team they helped lead to a World Series sweep against the Detroit Tigers.
Scutaro will be 40 years old in the final year of his new contract but the Giants' front office expressed confidence that Scutaro's conditioning and his amazing 2012 .366 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) demonstrate value despite his age.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports reported the St Louis Cardinals aggressively went after Scutaro, making a two year offer for more money per year ($8m) with a third year option. The Giants did not want to go beyond two guaranteed years but had to make a move as the bidding war with the Cardinals began to heat up.
Apparently the New York Yankees were also expressing interest in Scutaro as they looked to replace third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who will miss at least half the 2013 season after hip surgery.
The Pagan, Scutaro, and Affeldt signings are evidence the Giants are deadly serious about becoming a perennial playoff team and are willing to increase their payroll to get that done. The signings also provide a nice bridge to reach the organization's three top minor league players, center fielder Gary Brown, second baseman Joe Panik, and closer Heath Hembree.
Look at the second or third years of Pagan, Scutaro and Affeldt's contracts as a potential mentoring years for Brown, Panik, and Hembree. Pagan's third and fourth years also offers the Giants a potential left field candidate or a potent bat off the bench.
The remaining questions for the 2013 Giants are the addition of a right hander in the bullpen and the not insignificant question of what to do in left field. Gregor Blanco was an electrifying defensive player but the ongoing need for offense requires both corner outfield positions to be run-producing spots in the San Francisco line-up.
Simply signing a right handed bat to platoon with Blanco will likely not get the job done. Although it appears the Giants' payroll limit may have been reached this off-season, hopefully the front office will bite the bullet on on this one and go out and get a Nick Swisher-type full time starter in left.
Swisher, who had a .364 OBP and knocked in 93 RBI with the Yankees in 2012, was paid $10.25 million in a club option year. His bat would fit in nicely in the 6th spot of the Giant's batting order between Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt. In 2012 Swisher's highest number of at-bats in the Yankee line-up were 56 times in the 6th slot and 52 times hitting 2nd.
MLB Trade Rumors has the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners hot on Swisher's trail, so we'll see.