MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Giants have eyes on return to top in 2016

Frustrated by numerous injuries, San Francisco doesn't need much to return to postseason

Giants have eyes on return to top in 2016

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Maybe what the San Francisco Giants did in 2015 was remind us how difficult it is to win.

"So many things can go haywire," Giants general manager Bobby Evans said.

Let us count the ways. The Giants had three of their key offensive contributors on the field together for 26 games. When Hunter Pence, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt all played, San Francisco was 19-7.

Hot Stove Tracker

In other words, the Giants were as good as ever. But even teams with great leadership, consummate professionals and a track record of winning, even those with every positive intangible on the planet, occasionally can't overcome an avalanche of injuries.

Only it didn't end there. Matt Cain made just 11 starts. Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy missed chunks of time as well.

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After winning the World Series three times in five seasons, the Giants missed the postseason with an 84-78 record. As disappointing as it was, they revealed plenty of good things about themselves in remaining in contention as long as they did.

Crawford wins first Gold Glove

In doing so, they reaffirmed what they already knew about manager Bruce Bochy and Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, etc. These Giants, they're made of the right stuff, but that's a tough consolation prize for a franchise accustomed to playing and winning in October. It's also a good place to begin what's likely to be a busy offseason.

"To see the guys fight all the way to the last week of the season is a credit to the whole clubhouse and the culture," Evans said. "It was young players recognizing we're without some of our bigger pieces, but we can still make a difference. We were very proud."

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Typically gracious, Evans said he watched the postseason and appreciated how good the Royals were to win back-to-back American League pennants. Also, he appreciated the Cardinals winning the National League Central for a third straight season.

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"It's disappointing when you look at the quality of the guys we had to not be able to see them compete in the postseason," Evans said. "That hurts for them, hurts for our fans. That's what we want to be able to do. To not get there is very disappointing.

"But I was very impressed with the postseason. Very impressed with the talent. Very impressed with the quality of the baseball. Very drawn to watch as much of it as I could. It was very exciting. It's difficult to watch, because you miss being there, but it was exciting baseball and drew you in."

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"What really impresses me is Kansas City getting back there. They faced adversity, too. Year in and year out, how St. Louis fights through injuries and still gets back in there. No club goes without its tough waters to tread. We saw it come down to the last week. As disappointing as it is, it's a tribute to the guys [that] we were still competing and fighting for it."

Evans would seem to have two things on his primary shopping list: a starting pitcher and a left fielder. He has internal options at both those spots, but will sort through the possibilities in the free-agent and trade markets.

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"I think we recognize that there's a need to deepen our rotation, improve our rotation," Evans said. "There's also a need to keep an open mind about other areas we could improve, whether that's looking at our left-field situation or at ways to give us some depth. There are a lot of opportunities out there that we don't yet know in great detail -- trade-market opportunities."

No one should be surprised if a David Price or a Jason Heyward -- two prominent free agents -- end up with the Giants. Beyond that, no one should be surprised if San Francisco gets back to the postseason in 2016. Despite a disappointing season, the Giants are still one of the franchises against which every other is measured.

"It's a special group of guys and a very special group of leaders," Evans said. "Bruce Bochy is a Hall of Fame manager. Buster Posey is a significant portion of the leadership in our clubhouse. Hunter Pence. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The stability and continuity, the tone set by our team president Larry Baer, by our ownership group, there's a lot to be thankful for. We take pride in it, and we continue to try and get better and live up to it."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.