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Constructing a winner: Giants

Blend of homegrown core, experienced veterans has club back in playoffs

For the third time in five years, the Giants are headed back to the playoffs. And while some faces have changed from their 2010 and '12 World Series winning clubs, much remains the same. Brian Sabean, the architect of the championship teams, remains the general manager and Bruce Bochy is still the manager.

On the field, catcher Buster Posey anchors the lineup and left-hander Madison Bumgarner has seen his role grow, developing into the staff's ace.

That stability has been critical to the Giants' success, assistant general manager Bobby Evans said.

"Good leadership from our general manager, from our manager, from our coaching staff," Evans said. "One of the themes of the organization is continuity. When you think about the San Francisco Giants, they were purchased just prior to 1993 season and they've had just two GMs and three managers in 22 years. That continuity is a strong part of our success."
While a good percentage of the club's core played on at least one of the World Series winners, several newcomers played important roles on a team that won 88 games and finished second in the National League West. Some, like right-hander Tim Hudson, brought their own experience to a veteran clubhouse. Others were untested rookies, such as Joe Panik, who took over as the team's second baseman in June.

"When you put together your club, you try to build around guys with as few questions as possible," Evans said. "You try to build a club with certainties in as many places as possible and then take calculated risks in other places. Where our risks existed, players in the system have stepped up."

Here's a closer look at how the roster was built.

Player, how acquired, year:
Brandon Belt, Draft, 2009 (5th)
Gary Brown, Draft, 2010 (1st)
Madison Bumgarner, Draft, 2007 (1st)
Brandon Crawford, Draft, 2008 (4th)
Matt Duffy, Draft, 2012 (18th)
Tim Lincecum, Draft, 2006 (1st)
Joe Panik, Draft, 2011 (1st)
Juan Perez, Draft, 2008 (13th)
Buster Posey, Draft, 2008 (1st)
Sergio Romo, Draft, 2005 (28th)
Pablo Sandoval, Int'l sign, 2003
Andrew Susac, Draft, 2011 (2nd)

The Giants' recent success has been thanks in large part to homegrown players developed in their Minor League system. Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Lincecum and Posey, all former first-round picks in the First-Year Player Draft, played key roles in both championships. Sandoval, who signed with the club as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 2003, was named the MVP of the 2012 Series.

Like those teams, the Giants once again rely heavily on homegrown stars. Cain has been out since August when he had surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow, and Lincecum has been relegated to the bullpen, but Bumgarner and Posey remain the driving forces of the team.

The Giants have also gotten a boost from a trio of more recent Draft picks who all made their Major League debuts together May 22 in a 4-2 victory against the Rockies. That day marked the debuts of Panik, infielder Matt Duffy and catcher Andrew Susac.

Panik, the 29th overall pick in 2011, was the highest drafted of the group and currently has the biggest role on the team. The St. John's product has quickly taken hold of a regular spot in the lineup, filling in for Marco Scutaro, who has spent almost all of the season on the disabled list.

Susac, the Giants' second-round pick in 2011, has proven himself a capable backup for Posey and utility infielder Duffy, the club's 18th-round pick in 2012.

"Every organization in baseball needs its farm system to have continued success at the Major League level," Evans said. "It's a tribute to our guys who have made an impact, but also to the amateur scouts and those in player development that have helped those guys get ready."

Player, year, acquired from:
Javier Lopez, 2010, Pirates
Jake Peavy, 2014, Red Sox
Hunter Pence, 2012, Phillies
*Hunter Strickland, 2013, Pirates
*Acquired via Waivers

This July, Sabean once again went shopping at the Trade Deadline, looking to shore up his rotation. He found Peavy, sending Minor League pitchers Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree to Boston in exchange for the right-hander.

Peavy was a familiar face to both Sabean and Bochy. He broke into the Major Leagues with the Padres, where Bochy was his manager for the first five years of his career. He faced Sabean's Giants 26 times, going 12-9 with a 3.45 ERA in 169 2/3 innings, nearly a full season's worth of work.

"When we found out he was in the mix for a trade, knowing there were some question marks around Matt Cain, we felt there was no better guy to go out and get," Evans said. "We'd seen him in this division for a long time before he left the Padres, and then we saw his scouting reports and then were able to go out and see him ourselves. We felt confident he'd be able to contribute. He brings an energy and passion to the clubhouse that's hard to match."

Peavy was just the latest Trade Deadline addition Sabean has engineered in recent years. Outfielder Pence also joined the Giants in a July trade, coming from the Phillies in 2012 in exchange for Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin and Nate Schierholtz.

Evans said executing a Trade Deadline deal has gotten more difficult in recent years with the introduction of the second Wild Card. With more teams in contention for a playoff spot, there are fewer trade targets each summer, creating more of a seller's market.

While that scenario can create a tough position for contenders looking to supplement their clubs, Sabean was still able to get just the piece he sought.

"Brian made a commitment early on that we wouldn't get in a situation that we're overpaying to make a deal," Evans said. "The risk of that is that you wouldn't make many deals. The result was just one deal, but it was one significant deal."

Player, year:
Jeremy Affeldt, 2012
Joaquin Arias, 2011
Gregor Blanco, 2011
Santiago Casilla, 2010
Tim Hudson, 2013
Travis Ishikawa, 2014
Jean Machi, 2011
Yusmeiro Petit, 2012
Ryan Vogelsong, 2011

The Giants forayed into the free-agent market last winter, striking quickly to sign veteran right-hander Hudson in November and adding outfielder Morse the next month.

After spending the last nine years in Atlanta, Hudson returned to the Bay Area, where he began his career with Oakland. While he is no longer the young ace who won 20 games in 2000 for the Moneyball A's, he proved to be a reliable cog in the Giants' rotation and returned to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2010.

"In the free-agent market, we knew we needed to get a guy who would impact rotation," Evans said. "With his experience and leadership, our intention was that not only would he impact the team on the field, but he would also impact the team off the field."

Morse also experienced something of a career revival. After missing much of the 2013 season due to injury, he played in more than 130 games for just the second time in his career, providing the Giants with another powerful bat in their lineup. He did, though, miss virtually all of September with a strained left oblique, which kept him off the roster for the National League Division Series against his former team, the Nationals.

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill.
Read More: San Francisco Giants, Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Tim Hudson