World Series - San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers - Game 4

Brian Sabean has some tough calls to make this offseason

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Brian Sabean bashing is a pretty common pastime among stathead types. I’ve spent an awful lot of time doing it, I’ll admit. For what it’s worth, my bashing him has less to do with any individual moves he’s made and more to do with some poor behavior on his part, but it’s undeniable that, for whatever reason, Sabean catches a lot of flak from the so-called smart set.

But that flack pales compared to two World Series championships in three years. No, you can’t absolve Sabean of bad moves and give him all the credit for those titles — like most GMs he’s had good moments and bad — but it seems pretty damn petty to take potshots at the job he’s done, especially in recent years, in light of the undeniable success of the Giants. Ultimately the job is to win and the Brian Sabean-led Giants have won.

But baseball success is a fleeting thing, and there are a couple of decisions Sabean has to make soon that are anything but easy calls: contracts for Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro.

Pagan and Scutaro were key components for the Giants down the stretch. Indeed, despite there being little reason to assume he’d be useful, Scutaro was probably the absolute best mid-season pickup by any team. Pagan likewise was a critical cog in the machine, posting his best season in 2012, hitting .288, finding the big gaps in AT&T Park to his liking with 15 triples and playing some sweet D.

However, as Chris Haft notes at MLB.com, both of them are free agents. Today is Scutaro’s 37th birthday. Pagan will turn 32 next summer. Neither has the sort of track record that anticipated their 2012 contributions to the Giants’ World Series championship and neither can be expected to repeat that performance on a consistent basis for an extended period, but both will greet the ecstatic San Francisco fans at the victory parade tomorrow as heroes. And there will be a lot of those folks who desperately want to see Scutaro and Pagan back in Giants uniforms next year.

And each is likely the best option for the Giants too. But not at any price and not for a lengthy period of time.  And that’s Sabean’s biggest challenge this offseason. A challenge that a lot of World Series winning general managers have had to face mere days after the champagne dried: how to balance the past, the present and the future of a winning team without overpaying and without letting emotion play too large a role.

It’s a nice problem for a GM to have, but it’s certainly not an easy one to solve, even if you have a couple of World Series rings on your fingers. And no matter how much success Brian Sabean has had in recent years, he gets almost no time to rest on those laurels before being put to the test once again.

The Padres non-tendered RHP Tyson Ross

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 04:  Tyson Ross #38 of the San Diego Padres walks off the field as he's taken out of the game in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day at PETCO Park on April 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Per a report by MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, the Padres non-tendered right-handed starter Tyson Ross on Friday, cutting loose their top ace after three seasons with the club.

Ross, 29, was sidelined for the bulk of the season with inflammation in his right shoulder and underwent thoracic outlet surgery in October. His injuries limited him to only 5 1/3 innings in 2016, during which he gave up seven runs and struck out five in a 15-0 blowout against the Dodgers.

Prior to his lengthy stint on the disabled list, the right-hander earned 9.5 fWAR and pitched to a 3.07 ERA and 9.2 K/9 rate in three full seasons with the Padres. He avoided arbitration with a one-year, $9.625 million deal prior to the 2016 season after leading the league with 33 starts and delivering a 3.26 ERA and career-best 4.4 WARP over 196 innings in 2015.

The Padres appear open to bringing Ross back to San Diego, reported Cassavell, albeit not at such a steep cost. Cassavell quoted Padres’ GM A.J. Preller, who was reportedly in trade talks involving Ross but unable to strike a deal, likely due to the right-hander’s recent health issues. Preller denied that those same health issues factored into the club’s decision to non-tender their ace.

With the move, Ross became one of 35 major leaguers to enter free agency on Friday.

Angels’ Pujols has foot surgery, could be sidelined 4 months

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols had surgery on his right foot Friday, possibly sidelining him past opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Pujols had the procedure Friday in North Carolina to release his plantar fascia, the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. The three-time NL MVP was bothered by plantar fasciitis repeatedly during the season, but played through the pain in arguably the strongest year of his half-decade with the Angels.

Eppler said the surgery typically prevents players from participating in baseball activities for three months, along with another month before they’re ready to resume playing in games. Opening day for Los Angeles is April 3, and the Angels hope Pujols can be ready.

“He’s at that point in his career where he’s keenly aware of what’s happening with his body,” Eppler said in a phone interview. “I don’t put the timetable on Albert like you would with your younger players. We’ll just see in Albert’s case, as he progresses, what his timetable is.”

Pujols, who turns 37 next month, batted .268 last year with 31 homers and 119 RBIs, the fourth-most in the majors – although his .780 OPS was among the worst of his career. He largely served as a designated hitter instead of playing first base due to problems with his hamstrings and feet.

Pujols heads into 2017 with 591 career homers, ranking him ninth in major league history. He is 18 homers behind Sammy Sosa for eighth place.

After playing in pain until the final week of the Angels’ disappointing season, Pujols began shock wave therapy on his foot early in the offseason, believing he wouldn’t need surgery.

But Pujols’ foot became more painful in recent weeks despite the therapy, and he huddled with the Angels’ top brass to decide on surgery after his most recent trip to see Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina. Continuing with conservative care would have required 10 more weeks, forcing Pujols to miss the first half of the 2017 season if he still required surgery.

“He just felt that the pain had gotten to a point where he was comfortable” having surgery, Eppler said. “If we did delay it, you’re just looking at 2 1/2 more months into the season.”

Pujols had a different type of surgery on his right foot last winter, but recovered in time for opening day. He also had plantar fasciitis in his left foot during the 2013 season, eventually forcing him out for the year when his fascia snapped.

Pujols has five years and $140 million remaining on the 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract that pried him out of St. Louis, where he won two World Series and became a nine-time NL All-Star.

The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since Pujols’ arrival and Mike Trout‘s concurrent emergence as one of baseball’s best players. They went 74-88 last season, the injury-plagued club’s worst record since 1999.