It's time to look at all the free agents, one-by-one. If we take a day for each pitcher, factor in the occasional newsy posts, adjust for the season reviews and community projections, we should be done by next September. The ones from next August will really give us a good idea of how productive these players will be in 2014.
Today we're looking at Tim Hudson, a veteran right-hander of some note. Now I know what you're thinking. "Grant, the last time we got a former A's star pitcher, it didn't work out well! Remember that left-handed guy?" To which I respond: Nonsense. Vida Blue finished third in the NL Cy Young voting his first year as a Giant, and really had only two bad years out of six. And then we got Atlee Hammaker for him. Really, I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about.
Besides, the lineage of pitchers past and present isn't important. What matters is how the pitcher can help the Giants in 2014. Hudson missed the end of last season, but that was because Eric Young, Jr. stepped on his ankle. Don't watch the video. Here's a bunch of Hot Wheels crashing into each other if you need to get the general idea of what happened. So don't look at his innings pitched from last year and think, uh-oh, his arm's done busted.
No, look at his age and say uh-oh. His age is done busted. He's already 38, and his days as a workhorse are probably done. Hudson's been worth about two wins in each of the last two years, so he's been better than Zito, certainly. But he hasn't been a top-o'-the-rotation pitcher for a while now.
The whole thing makes me feel conflicted. Enough to dust off the cobwebs and bring back some old friends …
Point: With Tim Hudson, you're paying for a high floor, not a high ceiling. Shouldn't the Giants be more interested in high-risk, high-reward pitchers?
Counterpoint: I don't think so. The high-risk pitchers burned them last year, even though there was technically only one high-risk/high-reward pitcher on the staff, with Vogelsong being more of a medium-reward guy, and Zito claiming low-reward all for himself.
Point: Fine, I can see that. But if you're paying for a high floor with Hudson, doesn't that ignore that he's old enough to crater completely?
Counterpoint: Kind of. But Hudson isn't one of the pitchers I worry about, simply because he's already lost his velocity. We know what he'll be like when age starts chewing on him because it's already started.
Point: Ah, but if he's already lost velocity, that means he's closer to his tipping point. He can't just keep losing velocity indefinitely. At some point, his sinker isn't going to be fast enough to keep his other pitches honest, and hitters will tee off. I call this "The Zito Effect."
Counterpoint: Sure, but …
Point: After Barry Zito.
Counterpoint: Sure, fine. But we're not talking about a get-it-by-'em heater. We're talking about a sinker. Hudson's one of the better pitch-to-contact guys in baseball, and he has been for over a decade. He hasn't had an above-average strikeout rate since he was 25. That's not his game. And that plays well with the Giants having above-average defenders at short and first. Third and second aren't as good, but they're perfectly fine for now.
Point: Okay, but that's another thing. Does a ground-ball pitcher really make sense for the Giants compared to a fly-ball pitcher? The park hides the homer-prone tendencies of guys like Phil Hughes and Bronson Arroyo. Shouldn't the Giants seek those guys out?
Counterpoint: Ground balls are almost always better. Especially in the other 81 games. The balls in the air mean less in AT&T, but that doesn't mean that balls on the ground are somehow worse.
Counterpoint: Stop that. Seriously, though, the Giants need to kick the can a little bit with their new pitchers. They'll have a stable of guys in Double-A next year, and some of them might ready in 2015. Signing a bunch of dudes to expensive three- or four-year contracts wouldn't make sense. Not when there are so many good one- or two-year options out there.
Point: I just want more of an upside. Roy Halladay, now there's some upside. Josh Johnson would be a better example. It just feels like Hudson is a rich man's Jason Marquis.
Counterpoint: You're selling him short. Hudson's much better than that. Also Jason Marquis is the poor man's Jeremy Guthrie.
Point: Who is the rich man's Kevin Correia.
Counterpoint: Who used to be the poor man's Brad Hennessey.
Counterpoint: I have no idea where I am right now.
I'm with Counterpoint, here. Not because I don't know where I am, but because I'm pro-Hudson. There are a lot of one- and two-year options out there. Some of them are more exciting. Some of them are pretty dull. Hudson bridges the gap, and the Giants need at least one guy with a good chance of being a safe innings-eater.
The only thing going against Hudson's ability to do that role well is his age. That's a legitimate risk. But I'd take a chance on him for a year, and maybe even two. He's been competent for so long, I'd wager he's still less of a risk than Johnson or Hughes, even at an advanced age.
The problem is that the Giants aren't the only ones interest in Hudson, naturally:
8 teams have contacted #Braves FA pitcher Hudson, including Red Sox, Giants, A's, Rangers. ATL made him 1-yr offer (not qualifying offer)— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) November 4, 2013
Bidding war? Bidding war. Everyone wants Hudson at one year, so he'll get two. I'm pretty lukewarm on that. But the general idea of Hudson in the middle of the rotation is a good one.
The thing is, I'll be saying that about a lot of pitchers this offseason. This all reminds me of the 2008 draft, when I said, "I'll be thrilled with Beckham, Smoak, Alonso, or Posey!" and there was really only one right answer. One of these guys is going to make perfect sense after the fact, dang it. Hudson's as good a guess as any.