Giants hope productive winter leads to 4th even-year title

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2016, file photo, San Francisco Giants outfielder Denard Span, center left, holds up a jersey between general manager Bobby Evans, left, manager Bruce Bochy, second from right, and president and CEO Larry Baer at a news conference in San Francisco. After an offseason spending spree that targeted most of San Francisco's glaring holes, manager Bruce Bochy heads into spring training with fewer questions than ever about the Giants roster. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After an offseason spending spree that targeted most of San Francisco’s glaring holes, manager Bruce Bochy heads into spring training with fewer questions than ever about the Giants roster.

San Francisco just might be poised for another even-year title run.

After committing $220 million to fortify the rotation with high-priced additions Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and filling a hole in center field and the leadoff spot with Denard Span, the Giants are looking to once again rely on their tried and true formula of strong pitching and defense and a lineup filled with contact hitters who can pressure the opposing staff.

“We’re set everywhere right now,” Bochy said. “I usually go to spring training with some question marks. Across the infield and outfield, this is as set as we’ve been and as good a defensive club as I’ve ever had. If we all play to our capabilities, I feel like we have a chance to be one of the best defensive teams in baseball. That’s how good we can be defensively.”

The Giants are coming off an 84-win season that left them in second place in the NL West, eight games out of the playoffs last season. That marked the third straight time they followed a World Series title by missing the playoffs.

If the pattern continues, San Francisco would have a fourth title to celebrate following the ones won in 2010, ’12 and ’14.

“It doesn’t matter how it gets done. We’re going to do it,” Samardzija said. “We’re going to win a lot of ballgames and I just want to be part of that.”

Here are some things to watch for the Giants in spring training:

BIG TICKET ADDITIONS: The Giants paid Cueto ($130 million for six years) and Samardzija ($90 million for five) like top starters but both have shown signs of inconsistency in their careers. Cueto went 4-7 with a 4.76 ERA after a midseason trade to Kansas City last year but did win the division series clincher against Houston and Game 2 of the World Series vs. the Mets. Samardzija allowed the most hits, homers and earned runs in the AL last season, but had a 2.99 ERA the previous season with the A’s and Cubs.

BRANDON’S DEAL: After winning his first Gold Glove award and a Silver Slugger, SS Brandon Crawford was rewarded with a $75 million, six-year contract. The Giants hope last year’s breakthrough campaign when Crawford more than doubled his career high in homers with 21, drove in 84 runs and led all NL shortstops with a .466 slugging percentage is just the start.

BACK OF ROTATION: The top of the rotation is set with Madison Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija forming a formidable trio. Jake Peavy looks set as the No. 4 starter but the final spot in the rotation is up for grabs. Matt Cain has been limited to four wins the past two seasons because of injuries but will compete with Chris Heston, who won 12 games as a rookie, to fill that role.

HEALTH QUAESTIONS: 2B Joe Panik missed most of the last two months of the season with back problems and is being counted on to be healthy this year. Panik batted .312 with a .378 on-base percentage and is part of the strong up-the-middle defense with Crawford, Span and C Buster Posey. Span also has injury concerns after being limited to 61 games last year because of three operations. But he is expected to be healthy for spring training.

LOOKING FOR LEFTY: Jeremy Affeldt was a mainstay in the bullpen the last seven seasons and a key part of the three title teams. With his retirement, the Giants would like to find another lefty reliever to pair with specialist Javier Lopez.

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AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

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