The Giants want to make clear that they got money, that it will not affect their baseball decisions, talent will (this is the change in attitude that Neukom introduced into Giants management). So don't worry about the payroll, that won't enter into the decision on whether to pursue a free agent or not. However, the exception is that they are committed to keeping their draft pick for next year under most expected scenarios (for example, if Choo or Kuroda came to them wanting to play for $1 per season, they probably would be OK losing the pick), so any QO free agent is most likely not on their radar.
Part of that reasoning, apparently, is that the Giants are not necessarily convinced that the players with QO available have the talent people think, noting "whether they are big time remains to be seen." Another part is that the Giants think that, at the 14th pick, the quantity and quality of talent that they think is available will result in a good prospect falling to them at that point. And that makes some sense, while the Giants selected Lincecum and Bumgarner with the 10th pick, they both could have conceivably fallen to the 14th pick, and Wacha, who apparently the Giants were interested in, was selected just before the Giants 20th pick where they got Stratton (h/t to Shankbone for that key bit of info). Plus, undoubtedly, they probably have already compiled a working draft of their prospect ranking, and is happy with the names falling into the 5-15 range.
With Hudson in the fold, they got one of the pitchers they were targeting for improving the rotation. That gives them four pretty good or better starters in their rotation, their formula to be one of the top teams in ERA in the majors from 2009-2012. Their major heavy lifting appears to be done, with regards to the 2014 team, getting Pence, Lincecum, and Hudson signed (plus Lopez, which happened after this press conference).
The Giants are still looking for a 5th starter SP and a LF, in that order, perhaps exponentially so. They make the point that they won their championships with pitching and that 2013 was a huge disappointment, so they are reloading the rotation to get back to their dominating 2009-2012 ways. As well, they view options in SP to be more viable than in LF in the free agent market.
For the 5th starter, the Giants are apparently willing to go with Vogelsong as their 5th starter, at the right price. However, he is, up to now, hesitant to accept that lower contract. If he wants the spot, it is currently in his power, but once the Giants sign anyone to be the 5th starter, Vogie will have to move on. Given Vogie's uncertain expectencies with regards to his 2014 production, the Giants clearly have a low bar in what they are hoping for from the 5th starter. Still, if they can get a clear improvement over Vogie at a fair value, it sounds like they won't hesitate to move on from Vogie, and I wonder if they are waiting for the non-tenders to see what is available there as well. Movin' on up!
In addition, the Giants are clearly cognizant of the talent percolating up their farm system. Sabean noted that a long term contract for the 5th starter is not exactly the best solution for them given their young pitcher advancing upward. In particularly, he specifically named Edwin Escobar and noted that the Giants are "banking" that Escobar "will accelerate his development." In other words, this is similar to 2010 when the Giants took a flier on Wellemeyer as the 5th starter, but when he happened to get injured, he got Wally Pipped by Bumgarner, not even getting a chance to stay with the team when he came off the DL, he just got DFAed (at least he got a ring). Because they expect Escobar to be ready for the majors (hence "banking"), they are not thinking big with the 5th starter spot (Petit was also mentioned as a possibility for the 5th spot), but if the opportunity presented itself, they would listen.
I was really impressed with what Escobar and Petit did in 2013. Escobar posting a 9.0 K/9 and 4.15 K/BB in AA at age 21 is rare, and the better prospects do well in AA at age 22 or lower. He should be very close if not already. Petit did really well in AAA for us, and in his limited chance with us as a starter, he nailed it and did well, and probably is the long reliever to start the season and has first dibs on the 5th spot if whoever the Giants get fails and Escobar isn't ready. Also, Petit was incredibly good with strikes, getting 70% strikes thrown (best at 66%+) and 19% swinging strikes (best at 18%+).
For LF, it sounds like it will be Blanco in a platoon with a RH batter. The Giants don't like the talent out there, don't think that it is better than a Blanco platoon with a righty. A trade is always possible, either for a LF or platoon partner with Blanco, but it sounds like the Giants are OK with an internal RH OF playing with Blanco. Right now, that would be Perez, who was superlative in defense in 2013, piling up a high DRS despite not playing that many innings in the OF, but perhaps Brown will be competing too, plus perhaps a signing, either a non-tender or a free agent left without a team by February. In addition, Perez has the added feature of being capable of playing the whole infield as well as outfield. And as Baer repeatedly said in other interviews, the Giants were able to fill OF positions with starters during the season before and could do so again, should you be dissatisfied with their Blanco decision.
I like that they are not stressing over adding a better LF, Blanco is actually not that bad. For example, replacing him with say, if Pagan was available on the market, would not necessarily result in an improvement, for while Pagan is a better hitter, Blanco is a superior defender in LF, making up much of the difference in projected wins. Is it worth $10M (Pagan's per season salary) to get a marginal improvement in LF? Another Pagan in LF probably don't add one extra win to the team over Blanco, and that is without a RH LF platoon partner, who might hit even better vs. LHP than Blanco.
And the team, based on the current lineup and pitching (using Bill James projections in the lineup calculator), is projected to win around 92 games in 2014, which in the past dozen years has been enough to get any team into the playoffs, and with the added wild card team, should make it that much more likely. And once they get into the playoffs, their superior pitching, as well as depth in quality, will make them a hard team to beat in a series, much like in 2010 and 2012.