By Adam Berry
Already this offseason, the Giants have discovered a disappointing recurring theme.
They were heavily involved in the bidding for Cuban outfielder/third baseman Yasmany Tomas but lost out to the D-backs. They fought hard to retain third baseman Pablo Sandoval, but the Red Sox reeled in San Francisco's beloved Panda.
Then the Giants turned their eyes toward an even bigger prize, left-hander Jon Lester, but once again they came away empty-handed as he signed with the Cubs.
They've been aggressive, smart and competitive. They just haven't been able to sign anyone.
Not that anyone's going to sit around feeling sorry for the Giants. They've got three of the last five World Series championship trophies to console themselves.
They also have plenty of options left to consider this winter.
The Giants' holes are easy to spot on their depth chart, and they're just as obvious based on their offseason pursuits. They desperately need a third baseman, they could use an outfielder and they want another starting pitcher.
The Giants stood still amid the Winter Meetings' storm of activity, as prominent free agents found new homes and the trade market took shape.
Now, all the Giants have to do is reach the finish line with one of their targets. Here's a look at how they could handle the rest of the winter's to-do list:
Problem: What do they do with the rotation now?
Solution: Lester is off the table. Max Scherzer is probably too expensive. The best second-tier options like Brandon McCarthy and Ervin Santana came off the board quickly after Lester signed. So there's really one remaining course of action here for the Giants, and his name is James Shields.
First of all, pair him with Madison Bumgarner and you'll have a lefty/righty combo capable of eating up nearly 450 innings. Tim Hudson pitched almost 190 innings last year, and Matt Cain was a guaranteed 200-inning guy when he was healthy.
Shields will come at a cost -- perhaps five years and $85-90 million? -- but if the Giants could afford Lester, they can certainly afford Shields. Furthermore, he's a flyball pitcher and the Giants play in a ballpark that suppresses power.
Shields, a Southern California native, is a good guy to have in the clubhouse and -- knock on wood -- hasn't shown any signs of injury while averaging 223 innings per season since 2007.
If they can keep him away from the Dodgers, it's hard to find a better fit for the Giants and, really, for Shields.
Since San Francisco realistically needs two starters to round out the rotation, it makes sense to give either Jake Peavy or Ryan Vogelsong a chance to return.
Problem: They have absolutely no answer at third base.
Solution: They missed on Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez also signed with the Red Sox and there just aren't that many options out there. Chase Headley probably isn't worth the asking price, either.
Problem is, the Giants need someone from outside the organization. They can't go into the season with Joaquin Arias as their starting third baseman, and they know that.
Could they try to trade for Boston's Will Middlebrooks and see if they can get his bat figured out? Sure, if the price is right, but odds are the Red Sox would like to turn Middlebrooks and the rest of their offensive surplus into a top-flight starter.
Instead, they should turn to former A's shortstop Jed Lowrie, keep the Stanford University graduate in the Bay Area, and ask him to play third base.
Lowrie probably shouldn't be playing shortstop anymore, but he wouldn't have to in San Francisco. He has a serviceable bat and should provide value at third. He'll be 31 next year, and he's hit .265/.333/.412 over the past three years.
Problem: They need someone to replace Michael Morse.
Solution: The Giants are reportedly keeping in touch with Morse's camp, and a return to San Francisco would make sense for Morse and fill a need in left field for the Giants with a power bat.
They have Angel Pagan in center field, albeit with questions about his health, and a sure thing in right field with Hunter Pence. They also have Gregor Blanco, a valuable player but not an ideal everyday left fielder. (And they'll inevitably need him in center to rest or replace Pagan.)
Assuming Morse heads elsewhere -- or the Giants balk because of his defensive shortcomings -- they should turn their eyes toward a platoon partner for Blanco, someone like Jonny Gomes, Ryan Ludwick or Kyle Blanks.
But here's a fun thought, though admittedly an unrealistic one: Could they shake loose Desmond Jennings or even Wil Myers from the Rays? If Myers can regain his American League Rookie of the Year form, he'll hit in any ballpark, and he's under team control for a long time.
Jennings isn't quite the same offensive threat, but he's a valuable player, a strong center fielder who played left as a rookie. He's arbitration-eligible for three more years, meaning he's about to get expensive, by Tampa Bay's standards.
It would take quite a bit of negotiating in the form of a big, multi-player deal, but you'd have to think the Rays would listen if the Giants were willing to include catcher Andrew Susac -- obviously blocked from a starting job by Buster Posey -- in such a deal.
Problem: The bullpen could use a little tweaking.
Solution: It's safe to assume that manager Bruce Bochy will get the best out of whichever relievers wind up in his bullpen, but the Giants don't look like a finished product yet.
Step one should be bringing back right-hander Sergio Romo, re-signing him to a deal like the one Luke Gregerson just received from the Astros, if not slightly more -- perhaps three years and $20-21 million.
Romo is coming off a weak walk year, by his standards, but he's only a season removed from looking like one of the best late-inning relievers in the game. He gave up an uncharacteristic number of home runs, but the rest of his peripherals weren't too far off his career marks.
Here's another solution: Keep Tim Lincecum in the bullpen. It may not be a popular move, but at some point, you just have to admit when it's not working. And it's really not working for Lincecum in the rotation.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has performed exactly three wins below replacement level the last three years, according to baseball-reference.com, the worst such performance for any pitcher who has started at least 60 percent of his appearances.
His adjusted ERAs the last three seasons have been 32, 21 and 26 percent below league average. He just simply isn't the same Freak anymore.
It's hard to say whether a move to the bullpen will turn Lincecum into a consistently effective pitcher again, but it can't hurt to try.
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Adam Berry is a contributor to Sports on Earth and a reporter for MLB.com.