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Like every other pitcher on the free-agent market, Esteban Loaiza comes with a curse. He'll start out doing his thing, which is something around league average, and keep his team in most games. In the third year of his eventual deal, some team will realize that the wishes granted by Loiaza's metaphorical monkey paw can only come true in some dark, twisted fashion. To our old friends, Point and Counterpoint:

Point: Ever since his breakout season of 2003, Loaiza's strikeout rate has stayed above seven for every nine innings he's pitched. That's good.

Counterpoint: That 2003 season set an Olympic record for Downhill Fluke. You have to throw that season out.

Point: The improvement came with a new cut fastball, and the strikeout rate has held a lot of the gains. He's not going to be as good, of course, but I'm comfortable with the expectation of an above-average starter.

Counterpoint: His solid 2005 was a mirage. Check out the Home/Road splits for Loaiza, because RFK was a huge pitcher's park last year.

Point: He had 17 starts on the road last year, of which four were awful. I'm not going to ignore the good pitching in a pitcher's park just because he was knocked around in other pitcher's parks like Florida and Atlanta.

Counterpoint: Left-handed batters just rake Loaiza, even in his good years.

Point: The Giants play in a park that minimizes a lot of the damage from lefty hitters.

Counterpoint: It minimizes the damage from lefty power hitters. Loaiza's problem isn't that he gives up a lot of homers to left-handers, it's that he gives up a lot of hits. Mays Field doesn't suppress that at all.

Point: Loaiza's control has always been excellent, and coupled with the increased strikeout rate of the last three years, he's a great fit for the Giants. He made 34 starts last year, and was knocked out before finishing the fifth inning in only two of those.

Counterpoint: The dude's going to be 34 years old.

Point: It's just like you to bring up age. You and your obsessions. This is just what Dr. Stanley was talking about.

Counterpoint: Oh, one counselor makes an offhand comment, and you think I'm just an open book to you? Let's not forget why we were in counseling in the first place. If I'm the one obsessed with age, why were you the one caught "tutoring" a college student when you thought I was away on business?

Point: That was four years ago. I'm not sure if I can be with someone who doesn't know how to forgive.

It goes on like that for another couple of pages. The final counterpoint about age is what should make the Giants wary, and forces a conclusion similar to the examination of every other free-agent possibility. If the money's right, and if the years are right, sure, I'm for picking up Loaiza. At two years/$10M, he's a good fit. But this is a lean market, and it will be for the foreseeable future. Teams don't have many options if they have a hole in the rotation, and someone is going to overpay Loaiza, probably giving him guaranteed money until he's 36 or 37. He just isn't a good enough pitcher in the short-term to justify the hit that will likely come in the long-term.

Some one will give up the money and the years, and I hope that team isn't the Giants. Just like Kevin Millwood, just like Matt Morris, and, to a lesser extent, just like A.J. Burnett. It's hard to imagine a situation where there wouldn't be any reservations about a free-agent pitcher. Every pitcher is going to have injury or age-related concerns, and any pitcher can lose effectiveness at any time. However, Loaiza mixes the obvious caveats with a near certainty of being overpaid. At sensible money, he's a worthwhile Giant. But if the Giants are looking to overpay for 2006, and willing to ignore 2009 to do so, there are higher reward pitchers to break the bank for.