The Giants should be preparing for the next two seasons, and the first move should be to assign Barry Zito to oblivion. Find some mysterious ailment and put him on the 60-day disabled list. He can't be traded because nobody would take him. Last year at this time, Zito bore down because he didn't want to be left off the postseason roster again. With no such incentive this year, he once again has that “What am I doing out here?” look on the mound.
Beyond that, the Giants need to assess their whole team to see where they need to get better.
Three spots in the infield are secure. Buster Posey is a standout as catcher and, despite all the talk about moving him, he should stay there. At three positions — catcher, shortstop and center field — a team looks first for defense, so if a good defensive player is also a good hitter, that's a huge plus for the team.
At first base, Brandon Belt has shown in the last two weeks that he can be a good hitter, and at 25, he's still two years away from what should be his peak years. Belt should be a .300 hitter with 25-30 homers. That's still below what many first basemen provide, but the Giants haven't had a first baseman who has hit more than 30 homers since Will Clark.
Brandon Crawford is a top-flight shortstop who is still improving. Once almost an automatic out, he's now hitting at about a .270 clip, which is good for a shortstop.
Marco Scutaro is still a good second baseman but his offensive skills — able to put his bat on the ball on the hit-and-run, for instance — are of far more help to a winning team. If the Giants could deal him to a contender, it would be good for both Scutaro and the Giants.
Pablo Sandoval has lost 20 pounds, because his brother is traveling with him and monitoring his diet, but I remain unconvinced that Sandoval will maintain any eating discipline when his brother leaves. He has no trade value because of that, so he'll be with the Giants next year. After that, who knows?
The outfield will be solidified when Angel Pagan returns, which will be soon. Hunter Pence wants to return next year and I think the Giants should re-sign him. He's a mid-20s home run hitter which, on a team so deficient in power, is essential.
That still leaves a hole in left field. Gregor Blanco is outstanding on defense but he doesn't hit for either average or power. The Giants have been auditioning minor-league prospects but none has shown the kind of hitting they need. There are usually veterans who are good hitters but not very good defensively available as free agents — think Pat Burrell — and that's what the Giants should look for in the offseason.
The change in Los Angeles Dodgers ownership last year has dramatically changed the landscape for the Giants. Suddenly, they're in the same position that the AL East teams have been with the New York Yankees, not able to spend nearly as much money. That means they have to be smart. No more Zito mistakes allowed.