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An early look at fifth starter options...

I’m not opposed to Madison Bumgarner being in the rotation at the start of the season, just as I’m not opposed to him starting the season in AAA. If he shows up to camp throwing hard with clean mechanics, he’d give the Giants a better chance to win than any of the in-house alternatives.

If Bumgarner comes to camp and throws 89 MPH, looking like a quality pitcher but not a world-beater, there’s no sense in putting him through the rigors of a full season in the majors. Put him in Fresno, limit his workload, and call him up if he dominates.

Simple…except the Giants aren’t going to know until spring training, at which point any free agent options are likely to be off the market. And this is the perfect offseason to look for back-end starters on one-year deals. Heck, I wish there were a clever all-offense, no-pitching team with money at the beginning of the offseason, just so we could have watched a rotation of Pedro Martinez, Erik Bedard, John Smoltz, Ben Sheets, and Rich Harden. That would’ve been a high-risk, crazy-high-reward gamble for a single season. It would have been a fascinating experiment.

The Randy Johnson gambit from last season might have been a marketing success, but it was on-field bust. That’s a shame, because it was a fantastic idea. Not only was Johnson a marketable player, but his peripheral statistics indicated that he was still likely to be effective if he remained healthy. High-risk, high-reward. The Giants ended up with a leaky sack full of fermented risk for their money.

The Giants say that they’re probably done making moves for the offseason. Okay, fine. But I’ve been surprised by enough Giants-related news to know that the team says a lot of things that they don’t necessarily mean. I’m hoping that they’re at least having internal discussions about any of the following:

  • Pedro Martinez
  • John Smoltz
  • Erik Bedard

Oh, they’ll need to do due diligence on the pitchers’ health, and they’ll need to kick several tires at the end of the day, but if healthy, all three pitchers could be bargains. It’s kind of a false dichotomy when we yap about the Giants needing more hitters – it’s true, but it’s more accurate to say that the Giants need to improve the team. If adding John Smoltz for $5M, say, might give the Giants an extra couple of wins over what they can expect from Bumgarner, Joe Martinez, Kevin Pucetas, or Steve Johnson, it’s an idea worth thinking about. The on-field improvements are the main selling point, but it also helps that Bumgarner can be stretched out in a five-man rotation, held to five or six innings at a time when needed, and eligible for arbitration later than he would have.

If the fragile vet breaks down like Randy Johnson did, Bumgarner is the likely replacement anyways. Nothing lost but money…which is exactly why the Giants probably aren’t going to do this. They’ve spent their money for the offseason. This is the part that I grumble about Bengie Molina, except I think I’ll pick on Juan Uribe this time. Utility infielders for $3M are luxury items, and the Giants aren’t a luxury kind of team. I would have rather seen Pedro Martinez try to stay healthy in a Giants uniform. Not at goofy Ben Sheets prices, mind you, so maybe that's the catch to this whole thing.

I’m not as rabidly anti-Bumgarner-starting-in-the-majors as some of y’all, but if there were ever a season in which a team didn’t have to rush up a prospect to be a fifth starter, this is it. Here’s hoping the Giants weren’t scared away from a good idea just because it didn’t work last year.