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The Giants failed this season.

The defending World Series Champions will not defend their championship this postseason. They ended play Wednesday 15 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot with 23 games to go. They haven't been mathematically eliminated yet, but they're history.

We're talking about the same players who won the World Series last year minus Angel Pagan, who tore a hamstring and missed three months this season.

And now, the Giants are one of the worst teams in the majors.

Is that a fluke?

Will the Giants be World Series contenders next year? And which players absolutely are essential to their future?

Let's go position-by-position with the help of New York Mets' scout and CSN Bay Area commentator Shooty Babitt:

Babitt on the Giants' starting pitchers: "Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are essential, obviously. They are front-of-the-rotation studs.

"Tim Lincecum, that's where the Giants are going to start looking at dollars and cents. How much money do they make every time Lincecum pitches? People love Lincecum, so I think that's the value. I don't know what his value is going to be on the market. That's going to be real interesting to see if teams think he can reinvent himself. He's been 50/50 with that. I don't think anyone knows."

Babitt on the catcher: "I guess the Giants are all right at this position."

Babitt on right field: "Hunter Pence has been great for them. They'll miss him if they don't re-sign him this offseason. But can they afford him? They still need another big bat in the outfield, because ... "

That brings us to Babitt on left field: "Roger Keischnick is not the answer. Brett Pill is not the answer."

More on the left-field answer down below.

Babitt on center field: "The Giants are committed to Angel Pagan for three more seasons. We had Pagan in New York and we let him go. We traded him. He didn't bring that World-Series pedigree to us. He's come to San Francisco and become a hero. He got $40 million over there. Timing is everything."

Babitt on shortstop: "Brandon Crawford definitely is a keeper because it's so hard to fill the shortstop position."

Babitt on third base: "As good as Pablo Sandoval has done with his nutrition, I hope that becomes an everyday part of his life. Then the Giants will get an upgrade there."

Strange to think of a player becoming an upgrade over himself.

Babitt on first base: "Brandon Belt is their guy that they believe in."

Babitt on second base: "Marco Scutaro is good on a real good team. I think he makes good players play great. He's a hired gun. The Giants should have traded him at the deadline to the Dodgers or the Red Sox or the Tigers, somebody who can utilize his services."

But the Giants did not trade Scutaro because they were trying to defend their championship. Babitt explains: "They were still getting over the champagne hangover." They kept Scutaro because they kept believing they would play like champions.

"The Giants got old quickly," Babitt said. "They're not a dynasty. You have to win at least three-out-of-five World Series to be a dynasty. They weren't a great bunch of players. They were good players that played great."

If the Giants are serious about becoming a dynasty, they have to keep pouring money into their roster. That's what the division rival Dodgers are doing and it's working for them. The Giants must re-sign Pence AND bring in a big-time, power-hitting left fielder because the Dodgers aren't going away.

"The Giants need offense, not pitching," insisted Babitt. "They've got two studs in the starting rotation and they've got some young starters with big arms in the minors who are coming, they're just not ready yet. There is this Adalberto Mejia kid down in San Jose. He's a lefty. And I like Kyle Crick, the righty. He's still a thrower (not a pitcher). He's still a year away. But the Giants have some power arms down there. The pitching isn't a concern."

To contend next season, the Giants need to sign a marquee hitter in the upcoming free agency. "But it's uncharacteristic for the Giants to do that," said Babitt. "When they do, they sign Aaron Rowand or something stupid like that. They need to go out and get Nelson Cruz, a guy like him. If they do, then you start saying, 'Hmmm, I kind of like this.' But they've got to add offense."

Cruz turned 33 in July. He also was suspended 50 games for Performance Enhancing Drug use. Still, the Giants need him and should sign him. Or, they should sign someone even better.

Otherwise, next season could be a repeat of this one.

<i>Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the "Inside the 49ers" blog for The Press Democrat's website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com</i>