SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants committed $22 million of this season's club-record budget to bringing Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong back to San Francisco. They will pay out another $23 million over two years to have Tim Hudson in a rotation anchored by Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, each of whom is locked into a long-term deal.
Throw in a handful of top pitching prospects, and you have an organization that continues to rotate around the starting rotation, but the path back to the postseason may be paved by a different group.
The addition of Michael Morse, the slimming down of Pablo Sandoval and the continued development of Brandon Belt have players and management picturing a much improved offense. For manager Bruce Bochy, it's not a question of "if" the Giants can outslug opponents.
"We need to," Bochy said. "We're going to have to put more runs on the board this year. The way we played in the second half (last year), that's a lot of pressure that you put on your pitchers. You have to feel like you have the ability to come back, and this lineup does."
En route to 86 losses last season, the Giants ranked 10th in the National League in runs (3.88 per game), 10th in OPS (.702) and 14th in home runs (107). But this year's lineup feels it can win games without leaning on the starting staff, even with second baseman and No. 2 hitter Marco Scutaro out indefinitely with a back injury.
The potential starts at the top, where leadoff hitter Angel Pagan is eager for a bounce-back season after playing just 71 games in 2013 because of a hamstring surgery. The Giants were averaging 4.5 runs per game before Pagan got hurt May 25 but dropped to 3.4 from then until Pagan's return Aug. 30. With their leadoff hitter back on the field for the final 29 games, the lineup averaged 4.3 runs per game.
Pagan had no hamstring issues this spring and said he is well past back tightness that held him out of a few Cactus League games. Few Giants are more excited for opening day than Pagan, who said his focus is simply on getting on base in front of the sluggers.
"This is a very balanced lineup that really has everything," he said. "Speed, power, guys who make a lot of contact. They're going to give me a lot of opportunities to make something happen. We have a lineup that can make a lot of good things happen. Don't just go by last year's stats."
Instead, you can use this year's projections. FanGraphs.com uses four projection systems for players, and all see the Giants getting more production from the heart of their lineup than they did a year ago.
With Scutaro out, the Giants likely will turn to Hunter Pence in the No. 2 spot, and the right fielder is as steady as it gets, hitting between 22 and 27 homers in each of the last five seasons. Buster Posey will anchor the lineup and hit .419 with a 1.061 OPS in Cactus League action after coming to camp with additional muscle and a renewed focus.
Sandoval dropped more than 40 pounds in the offseason, resulting in a quicker swing from the right side and, the Giants hope, an ability to keep his All-Star level production on the field all season. Morse isn't far removed from a 31-homer season, and the four FanGraphs projections have him adding between 14 and 22 homers in left field, an offensive black hole a season ago.
The key, though, could be the young Brandons. Crawford, 27, was hitting .288 before he sprained two fingers on his right hand in late June and slumped to the finish line. Belt, 25, changed his grip and moved back in the box in early August and then hit .346 with 27 extra-base hits over the season's final 51 games.
"We hope he's the Brandon Belt from August and September," general manager Brian Sabean said. "If he takes off or starts the season like he did last year, and if Crawford is able to do better than he did in the second half, that really lengthens our lineup."
The increased production could extend to the No. 9 spot, too. The coaching staff had the starting pitchers do more hitting work this spring in hopes that they improve on last season's league-worst .096 batting average. Just the addition of Hudson, who broke Frank Thomas' single-season RBI record at Auburn, should provide a tiny boost.
The 38-year-old right-hander likes to joke about his hitting, saying he fools opposing pitchers by dragging his bat to the on-deck circle and looking old. Hudson wasn't brought to San Francisco to hit, but he likes what he has seen from those who were.
"The whole idea of a lineup is not to have any breaks," Hudson said. "The teams you see go far in the playoffs and win the World Series are teams that don't give away spots offensively, and I feel like we're definitely moving toward that. If guys do what they're able to do, I think we're going to have a good shot at doing something special."