Denard Span completes the San Francisco Giants’ most strident holiday shopping season ever, a $31 million investment in plumping up the outfield that goes along with the Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto pitching grabs.
So the obvious question becomes how they can justify becoming a 5-1 bet in Las Vegas as a World Series favorite. Because after all, with daily fantasy sports in seeming retreat, where else can you put the discretionary income you used to waste on your children’s educations?
Right now, the everyday lineup seems fairly out-free, but only if you believe Span can stay healthy and embrace the chill and vast expanse of the San Francisco outfield, and if you believe Matt Duffy is the real deal at third base and not just a magic pixie who comes and goes, and if you believe Joe Panik will be the Panik of old . . . well, the Panik of 2014, and if you believe Brandon Belt can fill in the gaps in his service resume.
In other words, they’re yoked, unless.
And the same can be said of the rotation, which is locked and loaded if you believe Matt Cain can regain a greater percentage of his repertoire, and if you believe Samardzija and Cueto can adapt to the friendlier confines, and if you believe Jake Peavy can still flirt with disaster and escape, and if you believe Madison Bumgarner is made of adamantium and hair.
And the bullpen looks solid, if you believe that Santiago Casilla can regain his closer’s effectiveness, and if you believe that Sergio Romo is gone with the white-knuckling portion of his career, and if you believe Javier Lopez will never die, and if you believe Josh Osich and Hunter Strickland are ready to fill in any voids left by the top four.
In other words, the Giants came as close to winning the off-season as they have since 1992, when they signed Barry Bonds to change the course of the franchise and the tone of almost every baseball conversation for the past quarter-century.
But winning the off-season matters remarkably little, and the question to be asked now that general manager Bobby Evans has $162 million in play, give or take, invested in 14 players is not “Where are you putting the off-season championship trophy?” but “Do you have spending flexibility come summer if/when something or some things go south?”
Because that is going to be as important in the long run as having Denard Span in center field.
Let us always remember that no team is ever so deep that the wrong injury to the right player can’t blow up your season. Let us remember just as well that some players rise and others fall, as a result of the randomness of the Law of Big Numbers. In short, if you fix center field but third base becomes a sinkhole, or if you fix your No. 3 starter slot but Nos. 2 and 4 take a powder, what can you do to minimize that damage?
Is Span an upgrade? Indeed, and especially if he can remain healthy after a largely lost 2015 season. But the beauty of sport is that nothing as predictable as metrics fans wish it could be, and that the unknown mitigates as well against the best laid plans of mice and Irishmen.
For further evidence, consult the 2015 San Diego Padres, who substituted the adrenaline of action for the wisdom to temper one’s aggression, and celebrated by firing manager Bud Black.
In short, the Giants may or may not be December’s heroes, but the task never ends, and there is a constantly shifting level of imponderables that never don’t need to be monitored and addressed. In other words, well done Bob-O . . . now what have you got for us next?