SAN FRANCISCO — The last team standing in 2012 has been the first one to hit the ground running this offseason.
The Giants, after a disappointing and failed title defense, head into the winter with a pair of items already crossed off the shopping list. The front office pulled a rare move, locking up two priorities — right fielder Hunter Pence and pitcher Tim Lincecum — in the weeks before they were set to test free agency.
Where do the Giants turn next? You can start, even after Lincecum was given a two-year, $35 million deal, with the rotation.
Long dependent on strong starting pitching, the Giants ranked 13th in the National League last season in starters ERA (4.37). In wrapping up the team's 76-86 season, general manager Brian Sabean said upgrading the rotation would be a priority.
"We need to add depth," Sabean said. "I don't know how the market will play out, but we have another starter on the wish list, with or without Timmy."
The top name on wish lists around baseball is Masahiro Tanaka, a 25-year-old Japanese right-hander who went 24-0 in the Japan Pacific League. Rival executives have noted the Giants' increased presence in the international market and expect the club to make a push to bring Tanaka across the Pacific Ocean.
But the Giants are unlikely to win a bidding war that could make Tanaka the most expensive import in MLB history.
The Giants are not enamored with the majority of the free agent pitching class, one reason why they moved quickly to keep Lincecum off the market. But there are options for a team that needs a stopgap until a wave of talented minor leaguers starts arriving in 2015.
Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Bartolo Colon are among the veteran arms available. One player often tied to the Giants has been Cincinnati Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who had a 3.79 ERA last season and has a 3.27 career ERA at AT&T Park. Arroyo, 36, fueled the fire late in the season.
"I love San Francisco," he told USA Today. "I love the whole vibe of the city."
Ryan Vogelsong said similar things at the end of the season, and the Giants have indicated a desire to bring him back, albeit at a lower price. The Giants declined Vogelsong's $6.5 million option.
Assistant G.M. Bobby Evans said the Giants would explore all avenues while trying to fill out the rotation and the front office has been aggressive in identifying potential trade targets.
The lineup is set at every position but left field, where the Giants paid dearly for a Gregor Blanco-Andres Torres platoon. Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo head the free agent list, but the Giants avoided the so-called "big-ticket" outfielders last offseason and have since committed $130 million to Pence and Angel Pagan.
Nelson Cruz, Chris Young or Michael Morse could come at a lower price, but the best option may be a trade. The months before the 2012 season provide a blueprint; deals for Pagan and Melky Cabrera didn't make many waves but ultimately helped the Giants win a second title in three seasons.