Bruce Bochy - Photo: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Bochy - Photo: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports



Last season, the San Francisco Giants came up short in an even-numbered year for the first time since 2008. They're looking to collect their fourth World Series trophy in the past decade as they venture into the 2017 campaign and have taken steps to remove some of the roadblocks that brought the unique run of success to a halt.

In 2016, San Francisco was staying close to the Chicago Cubs during the first half of the season. However, once the Giants returned from the All-Star break, they seemed to be able to do little right and watched the Los Angeles Dodgers take over first place in the Western Division. That led to a Wild Card berth and a Divisional Series matchup against those Cubs, which ended in five games.

One of the main reasons it ended that quickly was because of a meltdown in Game 4 from the bullpen, which was shaky for the entire season. To address that concern, San Francisco signed closer Mark Melancon to a $62 million deal. That's a steep price for someone throwing one inning every few days but offers a window into how important the team believes this problem was last year.

The starting pitchers certainly need no additions at the top of the rotation, with Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto combining to finish 33-14 in 2016. After that, things get a little dicier, though Jeff Samardzija's 12-11 record partly caused by the weak run support. Matt Moore arrived in a trade deadline deal from Tampa Bay and provided a decent amount of help, with the hope being that a full year in the National League will get him back on track.

Trevor Brown and Matt Cain - Photo: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports


Getting back to the World Series would become much more likely if either veteran Jake Peavy or Matt Cain return to their prior form. Cain has especially faded in the past few years while Peavy got off to a bad start and never was able to get going.

With regard to the everyday lineup, two players need to stay healthy for the Giants to reach the postseason. Gold Glove second baseman Joe Panik struggled at the plate and had problems coming back from a concussion last June.

In the outfield, veteran Hunter Pence has been a key component of the team's previous three titles, serving as a leader in the clubhouse. His hamstring troubles kept him off the field too much last year, so if he's healthy, the Giants could play deep into October.

A key position to watch is third base, with Conor Gillaspie hoping to come somewhere close to last season's postseason effort when he batted .421. San Francisco will happily take 100 points lower if he can handle the hot corner and establish himself as a player that can make it through the grind of an entire season.

Having Bruce Bochy in the dugout immediately puts the Giants in World Series contention, though getting past the Cubs will likely determine how they finish in 2017.