Giants face tough decisions

Giants GM Brian Sabean had to be happy after making deals that improved his championship team. Brad Mangin/MLB Photos/Getty Images

The challenges for the San Francisco Giants before the trade deadline extend beyond what they lack, and need, in 2013 -- and they need a lot right now. They have won two World Series in the last three years because of strong pitching, but as of this morning, the Giants’ rank 19th among the 30 teams in ERA, with their rotation ranking 22nd.

The Giants are two games under .500 and 3 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona in the mud bog otherwise known as the NL West, and their rotation has to perform better in order for them to return to the playoffs.

But there is also a long-term concern. Barry Zito’s seven-year, $126 million deal expires after this season, and the Giants will need to replace him in the rotation. Tim Lincecum will be eligible for free agency, and while there’s no telling what he or the Giants will want this winter, it’s safe to assume he will not be making $22.5 million next year -- that’s his 2013 salary -- or that he’ll be back as a starting pitcher for San Francisco. As his velocity has declined, so has his strikeout rate, while his ERA has climbed.