The defending world champion San Francisco Giants have a lot to feel good about. 

They are, after all, coming off of their most historic and successful season since moving west in 1958, and they are full of budding young stars just approaching their primes.

Perhaps the two young stars most important to last year’s success, and the future of the franchise are Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson.

Lincecum has had unprecedented success in his first three major league seasons, winning two National League Cy Young awards and leading all of baseball in strikeouts all three years. 

He has also added what has proven to be the key missing ingredient to many great pitcher resumes throughout baseball history: a World Series ring. 

Lincecum pitched eight masterful innings in the clinching Game 5 victory in last year’s Fall Classic for the Giants.

Brian Wilson, San Francisco’s eccentric, black-bearded closer, has emerged as the game’s best, saving a major league-leading 48 games last year and cementing his status as most feared closer with his nearly flawless postseason performance.

As the Giants received their World Series rings last Saturday night at AT&T Park, the memories of last year’s magical run, along with all of the joy that accompanied them, were relived by the franchise and its fans.

But now, as the 2011 season gets into full gear, the question quickly becomes can the Giants repeat, and looking even further into the future, will this Giants club become a championship dynasty?

The answer may very well hinge on whether San Francisco can hold on to Lincecum and Wilson.

Lincecum and the Giants went through a bit of a contract dispute after the 2009 season, which ended in a pre-arbitration settlement in which the parties agreed to a two-year, $23 million contract that would keep “The Franchise” in a Giants uniform through the 2012 season.

But if Lincecum continues to put up numbers like he has in his first three full seasons, come 2013 (after an arbitration-eligible 2012) he could be in a position to command serious free-agent money. 

Lincecum is just approaching his prime.  He turns 27 this season, and given what we’ve seen from him thus far, he’s only likely to get better.  That’s a scary thought for opposing hitters and in a weird way, an even scarier one for Giants general manager Brian Sabean.

Brian Wilson’s contract ensures he’ll be a Giant through 2012 as well, but again, he will become a free agent following the last pitch of the 2013 season, so he and Lincecum will be free agents in the same year, making it even tougher for the Giants to try and keep them in San Francisco.

Other franchises will have additional incentive to go after the two Giants hurlers, not only because of their amazing talents for throwing a baseball but because stealing them away from San Francisco would break up what has become arguably the best all-around pitching staff, top to bottom, in the game. 

It’s almost like Teddy Roosevelt breaking up the railroad monopoly in the early 20th century.

The question of whether the Giants can repeat as world champions has been hotly debated this past offseason, but perhaps the more crucial one is whether or not the Giants be able to keep their pitching staff together in the long-run by locking up its most valuable arms.

Read more MLB news on