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A host of scary scenarios...

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Like the first golden leaf hitting the ground to announce the return of autumn, the Giants offseason has officially started with the casual mention they aren't going to be pursuing any premium free agents. This is fine offseason to have that philosophy, though, as there aren't any Vlad Guerreros, Alex Rodriguezes, or, ahem, Carlos Beltrans to tie a franchise to for the better part of a decade. The fellows who will walk away from the free agent derby with sacks of cash aren't necessarily people who the Giants should be throwing sacks of cash at.

Brian Sabean told the Chronicle here he was more concerned with starting pitching than finding a position player. I'm not in complete agreement, but both areas obviously need an upgrade. The question with the pitching, though, is who could help this team? Sorting the free-agent pitchers into categories:

Too expensive, too much risk going along with that expense

A.J. Burnett
Jeff Weaver
Jarrod Washburn
Matt Morris

Too expensive, but it wouldn't break hearts in the short-term if the Giants overpaid them

Kevin Millwood
Kenny Rogers

Maybe, just maybe, both desirable and relatively affordable

Esteban Loaiza
Paul Byrd
Jaime Moyer

Old and probably busted, but not automatically bad ideas

Kevin Brown
Al Leiter

Old, busted, and automatically bad ideas

Aaron Sele
Pedro Astacio
Jose Lima
Ismael Valdez
Scott Erickson
Hideo Nomo
James Baldwin
Kirk Rueter

Somewhere between slightly offensive and terrible

John Halama
Joe Mays
Jason Johnson
Brian Anderson
Brian Moehler
Jamey Wright
Elmer Dessens

I wouldn't be happy about it, but I suppose I could live with it

Scott Elarton
Brett Tomko
Tony Armas, Jr.

Has been hogtied in the back of a police car before, not that I'm judging him

Robert Person

Has been hogtied and then put in the back of a police car, though it wasn't the police that hogtied him, rather it was something he paid good money for, and, yes, I'm judging him

Denny Neagle

Shawn Estes

Shawn Estes

That's not an inspiring list. There are few choices for the Giants in the free-agent market:

  1. Overpay a pitcher of dubious quality.
  2. Get someone who is a good bet to be worse than Brett Tomko.
  3. Take a chance on a toothless, grizzled former talent to have a respectable year.
  4. Sign some broken down pitcher who hasn't pitched in a year or two, like Miguel Asencio, and hope he eats the leftover spinach from Chris Carpenter's can. Wait, that didn't come out right....
The Giants aren't the only ones looking for pitchers, obviously, so the above categories are what a lot of teams are having to root through. That's why it's a small chance Loaiza, Byrd, or Moyer will even come close to being worth the contract they eventually receive. Loaiza is rumored to be looking for 3 yrs./$21M. My first thought after reading that was Mark Portugal meets Edgardo Alfonzo.

Sabean described this year's class of free-agent starter as not being as "sexy or as deep" as the class of last year. Well, last year wasn't exactly Albert Camus in a mini-skirt either. Jaret Wright, Kris Benson, Carl Pavano, and Russ Ortiz all left the organizations that acquired them feeling as if a problem were solved, and only Benson even came close to acceptable. I love Burnett the theory, but hate, hate, hate Burnett the contract. Millwood and Morris are both fine pitchers who will parlay good results and sketchy injury histories into great money.

Here's your post-Halloween horror show moment: The same Chronicle article, as well as Martin's diary here, mentions Sabean has targeted roughly 20 pitchers from the above list as possibilites. I can get to, oh, about nine before I start sucking my thumb. The reprieve, however, is that there are other ways to skin this cat. There are pitchers coming up for arbitration, teams that might have a surplus, and other trade ideas. At least, there better be, because committing to this list as the answer to the Giants problems is a frightening solution.

Most of the free agent information, and a rumor or two, can be found at MLB4U.com.