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Old and busted/The new hotness

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The Giants need a pitcher. There isn't too much available on the trade market, but that works out because the Giants don't have much to trade. The Giants don't really want to overpay a pitcher, but all pitchers are going to be overpaid. Solve for "x".

Kevin Brown is a jerk. The only thing nastier than his sinker of yore is his snarl of now. Picture Jeff Kent, but with the jerkishness bubbling under the surface, festering, waiting for the right moment to devolve into a Three Mile Island-type meltdown of liquid jerk. The jerk store called, and they're out of Kevin Brown, but he should know, as he's their all-time best seller. He's about as popular in the clubhouse as cup rash, and has been an ineffective and injury-prone pitcher for the past two seasons.

But....

If the Giants are going to solve for "x", they have to make sacrifices. They aren't going to trade their only major-league ready youngsters for pitching, because their only major-league ready youngsters are pitching. Cain and Lowry are staying put, and you can't just ask teams to help themselves to the A-ball leftovers. Also, the team isn't willing, and rightfully so, to spend insanely to try and lure A.J. Burnett to be a maybe-ace. This all limits the Giants to the options we've hashed out here in the past month: overpay the mediocre, or count on the sub-mediocre.

Brown is sub-mediocre. At least, that's what he has been for the past two seasons. His back, tired of supporting such an jerk, went out for cigarettes and never came back. So it goes. With an ailing back on top of the normal aging concerns, Brown was awful. The Yankees defense didn't help anything, but the numbers went beyond Derek Jeter's tethered shortstop play. Brown pitched like a pitcher that was done.

Given the options above -- overpay the mediocre, or count on the sub-mediocre -- it's worth noting the mediocre will be overpaid for a while, to the point where it is a concern for the budget in following years. But by definition, the sub-mediocre would hurt the team more in the short-term. So there should be a third-category, perhaps, the sub-mediocre with a disclaimer. The pitchers who have pitched poorly, but could have something left in them. You wouldn't believe what people just throw out in this country.

If Brown isn't your cup of poison, that's okay. Al Leiter is another option, Estes-like as his decline phase may be. Both were above-average starters in the recent past, and both were fine pitchers over their careers. After the Leiter/Brown duo, there's a second-tier of pitchers that were never really as good as Leiter or Brown, and have the ugly recent history as well. Players like Pedro Astacio and Sidney Ponson are still out there, but while the risk is similar to Leiter/Brown, the reward isn't comprable.

This all leads to my plan:

  1. Sign one of the overpaid. I'm higher on Matt Morris than most, and I still think he's going to be a mistake by the end of his eventual contract. The Giants don't have much of a choice, though, as this could be the last chance the Giants enjoy the unfair advantage of an ultra-productive Bonds. That, the weak division, and the fickle fanbase are all excellent reasons to dive into the short-term puddle without a rain slicker. The Loaiza contract was a bit of a slap to face, waking me up. If not Morris, then Jarrod Washburn. If not Washburn, then Jeff Weaver. If not Weaver, then Kevin Millwood. If not Millwood, then Jaime Moyer. If not Moyer, then Kenny Rogers. If not Rogers, then forget about the whole thing, hope a good pitcher is non-tendered or traded for squid scraps, avoid signing Ismael Valdez, and wake me up in 2007.
  2. With the overpaid in the rotation, sign either Leiter or Brown to a one-year deal. The risk is that they stink or get hurt, and Hennessey is called up to bail us out. The status quo right now would be expecting Hennessey to bail us out, so there is hardly more risk involved. Asked to slather one pitcher with the tar brush of confidence for just 2006, and limiting the choices to a declining Leiter/Brown or ascending Hennessey, I'd have to go with the former. If I'm wrong, it will be apparent pretty quick, and Hennessey will rush in to do whatever it is he does.
I'll change my mind tomorrow, and perhaps the day after that, but the Giants need a lot of help. They're going to have to spend and get a pitcher or two. Leiter or Brown will come cheap, allow us to stash Hennessey in the freezer, and maybe -- just maybe -- be an above-average pitcher in an above-average rotation. Overpay the mediocre, or count on the sub-mediocre? Yes.