The pitching issues facing the Giants following an embarrassing World Series defense-- if you call what they did in 2013 defending a championship-- are long and well-documented. But, let's do it again, just for old time's sake.
Under club control with buyouts
Barry Zito ($7MM buyout)
Ryan Vogelsong ($6.5MM club option w/$300k buyout)
"Analysis" (Look at me, I"m a blog analyst! I think I'm cool!)
To me, Zito is gone; he just has to be. He had his sendoff, he got his curtain calls, and we had the lovefest. Giants fans are the most sentimental in baseball, and that's fine. I love being part of such a loving group of fans. But let's be real. Enough is enough with Zeets. He's not good, he never really was, and yes we appreciate the great performances in the 2012 postseason. I wish him the best, but it can no longer be on my team as a player. I'd welcome him to the coaching staff.
Vogelsong is an interesting case. He showed signs after his return from injury that he was capable of being a starting pitcher. But he also showed some signs that he was the horrendous first half pitcher in 2013 during the back stretch. I know he's a stubborn, chainsaw-angry, motivated son of a bitch, so I'm willing to give him another shot if I'm Brian Sabean. However, I buy him out of his deal at $300k, and say, "Look man, we like you here, and we don't think you're finished, but based on last year, we can't justify $6.5 mil. We'll offer you the $300k, plus a base of $2 million, and we'll incentivize (is that a word?) the shit out of your contract. Cool? Now excuse me while I answer my Moto Razr flip phone."
If Vogey says no, then I wish him the best as well. He's a good dude, a better story, and was an inspiration.
Chad "Grope-din" is a guy I'd like back. Assuming this whole "groped a woman on a gurney at 4am in a Las Vegas hospital" thing was a misunderstanding-- or rather there was a better explanation than him being absolutely shitfaced and a complete scumbag, then I'd like him back.
Gaudin was an invaluable part of the Giants' staff last season, and kept things from getting completely "Houston Astros bad" when Vogelsong went down. That of course weakened the bullpen, but his versatility was a necessity in 2013. A 2-3 year deal in the $10MM range isn't out of the question, and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets way more from another desperate team. He was obviously fatigued from all the extra
Javier Lopez is an absolute necessity to be back. He sported better numbers than 2012 and shows no signs of slowing down-- especially against lefties. That's his job, he does it well, and a raise from the $4.25MM he made in 2013 is certainly warranted. If I'm Lopez, I look at the $5MM Affeldt is guaranteed through 2015 and say, "I'll have what he's having, plus a full tank of gas, a bloomin' onion from Outback with extra sauce MIND YOU. I'M TIRED OF RUNNING OUT OF BLOOMIN' ONION SAUCE."
Pay the man.
And now to Timmy.
I'm not going to go through why we like Lincecum, we all know his history with the team. As Tim McGraw might've said, "We like him, we love him, and some of us want some more of him."
Unlike Tim McGraw in his song about a hot chick, Giants brass and fans are a bit divided on whether bringing back Lincecum is the correct move.
He showed signs of life in 2013 after a 2012 regular season that could be described nicely as embarrassing. Still, he finished with a 4.37 ERA while making $22 million last year. Among the 79 qualified starters last year, that ERA mark is tied with Wily Peralta of the Brewers for 11th worst in baseball. If you're into WAR, which I'm not, he placed 16th in the league at 1.6 games above average. He walked people at the 10th highest rate in baseball, and his overall numbers are just hit and miss-- just like his starts.
I say he's all even-steven with the Giants when you think big picture. He outperformed small salaries early in his career and underperformed with big salaries recently. He won 2 CYs, 2 Championships, threw a no-no, and if this is the last we see of him, I'm okay with that.
But, if he's willing to be reasonable about his value and accept a deal in the neighborhood of $6-8MM a year for 2-3 years with incentives, then I'm fine with having him back.
Anything more than that, and he can go back home to Seattle and toss fish around with Pete Carroll in the rain.
I hate the Seahawks.
Pitching staff big picture
Beyond Cain and Bumgarner, the future is murky.
Assuming Zito and Vogelsong are not back, and the potential departure of Lincecum, we're talking about replacing 60% of the rotation-- and possibly needing to place its insurance policy, Chad Gaudin.
Sabean has some work to do, and I just hope this team doesn't have to overpay for pitching in some sick Zito-like scenario just to plug a couple holes.
With its present outstanding questions, there's no way this team can be considered a World Series contender. If Vogey, Timmy, Gaudin, and Lopez all return, and someone like Petit gets a shot at the rotation, we're basically the same as last year.
And last year, we were terrible.
Let's not get hung up on names and remember that the goal is improve from year to year. Unfortunately, that's not easy, especially when you don't have Magic Johnson Guggenheim Time Warner Cable money to blow on expensive booze and unnecessary shiny things that break after a year of regular use-- like a Jaguar with 80,000 miles on it.
Free Agents aren't abundant this year, and the good ones (including Lincecum) will receive the dreaded "qualifying offer". Teams like the Giants are able to offer its FAs a Q.O., which is an average of the 125 top salaries in baseball-- almost like the NFL's "Franchise Tag". This season it works out to around $14MM.
If a team thinks it'll lose an FA and is okay with the possibility of that player accepting the 1 year, $14MM deal, then the team that signs said player will forfeit their 1st round pick (unless they have a top 10 pick), in which case they forfeit their 2nd rounder. The team that lost the FA then receives a "sandwich pick" in between rounds 1 and 2.
This may work to the Giants' advantage if they lose Lincecum to another team after offering him the QA. However, by the Giants stupidly winning games at the end of the season (I blame management), they are slated to have the 14th pick in the draft, which is unprotected.
If the Giants sign someone like, let's say, Bronson Arroyo, who always kills us and would put up great numbers in a big ballpark like AT&T, the Giants will lose their 1st rounder to Cin
cinnati (assuming the Reds have offered Bronson the Q.O.
Arroyo would also fit in perfectly, as we have one departing guitar player in Zito. Plugging in another guitar player ensures that the McCovey Cove Starship won't miss a beat.
In case you're wondering, the Giants (SO STUPIDLY) won 2-3 games more than they should've. Had they benched their starters and tanked, they'd have had a protected top 10 pick.
I will never in my life understand the benefit of winning any games in a lost season like 2013, especially when this scenario was at stake. They needed to take a page from other sports like the Indianapolis Colts in their "Suck For Luck" year.
I never want to see my team lose, but winning those extra 3-5 games that they did at the end of the season only hurt their situation this offseason and weakened their hand.
------End of rant-------
Notable Free Agents starting pitchers include:
Roy Halladay (37), Josh Johnson (30), Matt Garza (30), Ervin Santana (31), Ricky Nolasco (31), Chien-Ming Wang (34), Bronson Arroyo (37), Paul Maholm (32), AJ Burnett (37), Hiroki Kuroda (39)...
There are others, but they aren't worth really mentioning on this list.
Check out MLBTR 2014 FAs here.
As you can see, the list isn't extensive, and Lincecum will likely benefit from this. However, if the Giants are able to re-sign Timmy for a reasonable rate, plug an effective Yusmeiro Petit in as a 5th starter, and add someone like Bronson Arroyo, we'd be talking about a pretty solid rotation. Not amazing, but goddamned solid.
Josh Johnson also intrigues me, but the guy is a walking injury report, and his 2013 campaign in Toronto was horrendous in the starts that he did make. He had bone spurs removed from his forearm a week ago, and may be a good buy low opportunity for someone with a decent contingency plan (like Chad Gaudin or Ryan Vogelsong).
There are more questions than answers at this point in regard to the pitching staff, and it's going to take money to fix. Heath Hembree will likely be a part of the bullpen, and that will help, but we can't depend on the Eric Surkamps and Mike Kickhams of the world to step into the rotation anytime soon.
There's a gap in the starting pitching pipeline right now, and the best talent not named Cain or Bumgarner the Giants have right now isn't in the form of Major League ready starting pitching. They have 3 guys-- Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, and Chris Stratton-- that all project to be good big leaguers, but they're just not quite ready. All have yet to pitch above High A San Jose, and are a year or two away.
When they are ready to pair with Cain and Bumgarner though, we're looking at a talented group. Until then we're in full-blown hole-filling mode.
As I said... more questions than answers this offseason.