After winning the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the San Francisco Giants were expecting stellar results in 2011 and 2013.
However, they didn't get what they were looking for, and their inactive offseasons had a lot to do with why.
The Giants simply retained their own guys, bringing back Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, all of whom were critical to the team's World Series title after the 2012 season. They didn't make a splash outside of this, which cost them in 2013.
San Francisco can learn from its post-World Series mistakes and improve this offseason. It needs to push the right buttons, because vital players, such as Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse, are hitting free agency.
Sandoval is a free agent, and while the Giants want to keep the three-time World Series champion, they want to address other needs.
That's where the possibility of a trade or a cheaper alternative comes into play.
Free-agent third baseman Chase Headley could find himself playing on the shores of McCovey Cove. Casey McGehee, who hit .287 in 2014, is also on the market. David Freese, who posted a respectable .721 OPS in 2014 and has had postseason success, could come to San Francisco via trade.
Sandoval is better than both of these players, but because of pricing, it's worth questioning whether the team should simply focus on signing Sandoval and the incumbents.
For starters, Sandoval's .739 OPS ranked just 13th among third baseman, and his 3.4 WAR was actually worse than Headley's. If the Giants could acquire Headley, McGehee or Freese at a discounted price, it might end up benefiting the team more than signing Sandoval would.
Why? According to SF Gate's Henry Schulman, Sandoval wants a six-year deal. The Kung Fu Panda has a history of difficulties with his weight, and while his defense was stellar in 2014, wondering whether he can stay motivated after cashing in is warranted.
There are positives regarding the Giants potentially letting Sandoval go, and they go beyond simply that they would save a boatload of money. However, that imperative factor cannot be ignored.
As fellow Bleacher Report writer Rick Weiner notes, the Giants have about $22 million to play with. They can't realistically expect to sign Sandoval and improve their rotation significantly with that kind of money.
In addition, Sandoval was given a qualifying offer, meaning that any team that signs him will give the Giants a compensatory draft pick. The Giants wouldn't have to surrender a draft pick for Headley, Freese or McGehee, which is a huge positive.
The Giants' farm system is weak, and replenishing it for the future is critical. Bolstering the rotation, which is also mired in uncertainty, could come through the farm system.
In short, getting rid of Sandoval could net the Giants lots of talent in the upcoming draft.
As for the rotation, it was an issue in the postseason. Madison Bumgarner is the team's ace, but he won't be able to pitch three out of every seven games in the regular season like he did in the World Series. Matt Cain will return from elbow surgery, but his effectiveness is up in the air.
As for the rest of the rotation, there's an immense amount of uncertainty. Thirty-nine-year-old Tim Hudson had a solid 3.57 ERA in 2014, but he also had a mediocre postseason ERA of 4.29.
Free agent Jake Peavy labored through four postseason starts with a 6.19 ERA and an average of four innings per start, so it's unclear whether he'll be brought back.
According to Hardball Talk, the Giants will move Tim Lincecum back to the rotation, but the small right-hander who had a 4.74 ERA in 2014 is an enigma. Even if Lincecum irons out his kinks in 2015, the Giants would need another starter.
Unless they want Yusmeiro Petit, who had a 4.90 ERA in the rotation last season, they should be proactive on the market.
Starters like Edinson Volquez, who posted a brilliant 3.04 ERA, and Ervin Santana, he of the respectable 3.95 ERA, could give the Giants rotation a significant boost. However, signing one of them isn't likely without Sandoval leaving.
Left field is also a problem. Michael Morse is a free agent, and his deplorable defense in left field likely means a relocation to the American League.
Should the Giants re-sign Pablo Sandoval?
This should leave the Giants scrambling for a left fielder to platoon with defensive wizard Gregor Blanco. In 2013, they attempted to use Andres Torres, to the tune of disastrous results.
They went with Morse, who will likely be too expensive to keep, last year, and they need to find an adequate right-handed platoon partner in 2015.
San Francisco has a plethora of issues; third base isn't the only one. Sandoval is a tremendous player, and the Giants would likely have failed to win the 2012 and 2014 World Series without him.
However, in order to receive a draft pick, a more valuable, cheaper player in Headley (or Freese) and a boost in other areas, the Giants will need to let Sandoval go. His postseason heroics mean that he will strike it rich, and the Giants don't have the money to keep him.
Actually, they do. But they'll need to sacrifice their future in order to keep a player whose future remains a question mark.