Josh Friedman, investing editor for Bloomberg News, former LA Timesman, lifelong friend and a Giants fan for the last 40-plus years, offers his take on the Giants' off-season maneuvers:
Just enough is all it took for the Giants to snag a World Series two years ago: just enough hitting to back their stellar pitching and defense.
Last year's team sputtered out of contention with support, as it were, of the National League's worst offense. Those castoffs and misfits weren't so cute when production fell to an average of 3.5 runs a game -- a stat inflated by a few atypical outbursts -- from 4.3 in 2010.
General Manager Brian Sabean, sticking to a budget, tweaked the roster with a series of thrifty, unspectacular moves.
Has he done his part to lift the club back into the thick of the race? Maybe it's the inevitable offseason optimism talking, but the view here is that he has.
The team, whose pitching looks as good as ever, almost can't help but improve at hitting: Injuries to catcher Buster Posey, second baseman Freddy Sanchez and third baseman Pablo Sandoval were a major reason the 2011 run drought. Mean reversion makes it unlikely the injury bug will strike as brutally in 2012.
Budding star Posey's return will deliver the biggest lift, considering Eli Whiteside's sub-Mendoza line struggles last season.
Corner infield appears promising as well. Sandoval says he's seeing better with new contact lenses and is committed to a new fitness regime. The 25-year-old may be on the cusp of a big-time breakout season.
Who's on first? Who knows, but whoever wins the job won't need to be Willie McCovey to rake better than last year's combo: the regressing Aubrey Huff and the often-overmatched Brandon Belt, who are both back in the mix.
Brett Pill flashed talent in 50 at-bats and should get a chance to compete this spring. Huff's plunge in production was scary, with slugging and on-base percentages near career lows. The 34-year-old could man first or roam the outfield, but at this point he'll have to earn regular playing time.
Belt, who mashed in the minors before struggling to adjust at the majors, is sure to get another chance. After a strong performance in Latin American winter ball the 23-year-old may be ready to seize the first-base job for keeps, assuming he too isn't shifted to the outfield.
Middle infield, if we're being honest, is the one area that looks as anemic as it was last year. Sanchez is good for .290 batting when healthy, a step up from Keppinger, Burriss et al. But Brandon Crawford, the likely shortstop for his defense, is a downgrade offensively even from Orlando Cabrera.
After losing Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell to free agency, Sabean remade the outfield by trading for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan, who both figure to start. Returning Nate Schierholtz is also in the hunt.
This outfield can overachieve like the 2010 bunch. Pagan, the probable leadoff hitter, brings speed and adequate pinging to a team that will need every base it can get. His manager said he wilted last year under the New York glare as Beltran's replacement, so the hope is he can perk up in cushier confines.
Cabrera, coming off a career year and only 27, is a threat to repeat topping 100 runs scored and a lock to add a little pop to the top part of the lineup. Schierholtz, the likeliest right fielder, is the same age and also returning from his best season, though he lacks Cabrera's upside. He is what he is: a .270 guy sans power, and the club can get by with him or one of the other options.
Life would be easier for Sabean and the fans if ownership adopted the Angels/Yankees approach of cutting checks and letting the free-agent acquisitions fill in the amounts. In the real world, just enough is good enough.