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The Giants did not fill each and every hole while I was away. Damn.

When writing about the Giants offseason, I've had a tendency to deal in absolutes. Big hitter, or nothing. If a free agent pitcher isn't a genetic copy of Nolan Ryan he's a risk, and the Giants shouldn't bother. For all of the bad moves the team could make, though, a lot of them would actually improve the team in the short-term. Signing Paul Konerko to a six-year contract would be a move that ends kind of like Easy Rider. But for 2006? Gravy. A third year to Matt Morris would be a bad move for 2008, but he's an improvement on a whole heck of a lot of options for next season.

There is a catch. If the Giants were to sign Konerko, Morris, and, for good measure, Rafael Furcal and A.J. Burnett, the nerves and indigestion wouldn't stop. The team would look just swell, but there would still be an elephant in the room, and the elephant would be dangling the sword of Damocles over our head as we all collectively held our breath and waited for the other shoe to drop. It's the pitching depth, stupid. Take the foursome of Jason Schmidt/Noah Lowry/Matt Cain/Guy Sabean's Going to Overpay, and start thinking about where the Giants would need to be if two of those needed to be replaced. This isn't a very fair exercise, because few teams would be able to withstand 40% of their rotation disappearing, but, yick, that wouldn't be pretty.

Last season, this sort of thinking would have lead to names like Brad Hennessey, Kevin Correia, and Matt Cain. The theoretical came to be, and all three were leaned on heavily. If Brian Sabean plucks two starters from the free-agent morass, Brad Hennessey is a fallback option to feel comfortable with. I like him as the fifth starter, but love him as the can opener in the bomb shelter. But if things get too expensive, I'd hope Sabean doesn't pay someone with questionable talent to block Hennessey. It can't be assumed that there will be two free agent starters signed. With Hennessey in the rotation, and two of the five starters out, the fallback options would seem to be:

  1. Kevin Correia
  2. Jeff Fassero
  3. Brian Burres?
  4. Pat Misch? Merkin Valdez?
  5. Minor-league free agents worse than Brian Cooper?
  6. Ye gods. This is terrible.
  7. Lance Niekro
With pitchers, worrying about worst-case scenarios isn't ridiculous. One of the five starters could injure himself, and another could be unacceptably awful. Two of the starters could get hurt. Two could be unacceptably awful. It's an outcome common enough to render historical examples useless. This isn't, "Remember the '74 Braves?"; this is, "Remember about seven teams every single freaking season?" The depth in the minors has become depth in the majors, and it wasn't replaced. There isn't a magic solution, either. The Giants can't be expected to sign average major leaguers to be emergency plans in Fresno.

There's no thesis or conclusion to this essay. It's more of an observation that the Giants don't have the same minor league depth they have enjoyed in the past. There isn't a A-ball stud who could sail through AA, forcing his way into an emergency role. There isn't a mediocre prospect, performing okay in AAA, but blocked by superior talent for a couple of years. Doomsday proclamations are premature, as either Burres and Misch could surprise with mediocrity in the bigs like Hennessey did, a young player could make an unexpected leap in development, or the starters could stay healthy. The whole thing makes me nervous, though.