Jon Lester, you fool. You could have been caught by Buster Posey, who smells of success and nectarines. You could have played in front of sellout crowds who haven't been bullied by the punk kids of absentee baseball gods. You could have been somebody. You ... could have been a contender. You could have been a contender, literally on the waterfront.
As is, the Giants need to do something else. That's fine, that's cool. Horrixciting was the ™ word I coined, and I'm sticking with it. It would have been horrible in five years. For next season, though? Look, I don't know what a 30-year-old Brandon Belt is going to hit like, but I have a decent idea about what he's going to do next year. That goes for the rest of the roster. For as much sadness-tinged snark that I dish out regarding Angel Pagan's health, there's still a chance he turns in 300, 400, or 500 solid plate appearances. We know things about next year's team. It should be a good team. With some help.
With some help.
Our goal here is to find that help. The Giants have all sorts of different strategies they can pursue. If they were willing to offer $150 million to one player, why, they can sure spread that wealth around. Here's a thumbnail sketch of what the Giants might do:
Stick with the premium pitching
That would be Max Scherzer. Oh, he has an electric arm. And he's smart and interesting -- a good player to root for. He's also LOOKING FOR $200 MILLION AHHHHHH.
Max Scherzer is seeking a guarantee of more than $200 million, which only one pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) has achieved in MLB history.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 10, 2014
He might get it! He probably won't get it. If Lester gets $160 million, and Scherzer asks for $200 million, well, the odds are that there's some sort of compromise in the middle.
Still, Scherzer gives me the jibblies. What I wrote on the mothership:
He won the Cy Young (in 2013) and came fairly close this past season. Scherzer will make his next team much, much better, but it's worth remembering that we're about 30 months and 70 starts into the idea that Scherzer is this excellent.
It wasn't that long ago -- back when Melky Cabrera was the All-Star Game MVP -- that Scherzer was still a complete enigma. A strikeout pitcher who couldn't prevent runs. We're here, now, and we've seen how good Scherzer can be.
If it costs you $200 million smackers, though, I can't abide. That's an extra $7 million every year, an extra setup man, an extra starting outfielder over what Lester was going to get. And Lester was already going to mess the budget up, and how.
I'm for other options.
Someone a little cheaper than Lester, with additional support at 3B and/or LF
A little cheaper means James Shields, more or less. I'm cuckoo for Kenta Maeda, but he might not get posted. We'll assume it's Shields or bust at this tier.
First thing to forget: The 2014 postseason. He was so danged good before that. Five starts do not a scouting report make. He's really, really good. Healthy. Consistent. And markedly cheaper than Lester.
If Shields is asking for $100 million (just a guess) and Chase Headley would take $50 million ... isn't that much better than one lousy ol' Lester? Yeah. Nuts to that guy. When you put it like that, I'm on Team Shields/Headley. That makes the Giants much better next year, and it might leave money for a Chris Denorfia type to help out in left.
Mid-level starter, fancy offensive addition(s)
Here be good ideas (Brandon McCarthy) and bad (Ervin Santana). With the extra cash, the Giants can explore the wild world of Melky Cabrera and/or Chase Headley. McCarthy/Cabrera/Headley is far, far preferable to one lousy Lester. The Giants are winning the offseason, don't you see?
Stupid Lester and his "life-altering decisions" and "consideration for his family." We'll remember this.
Seriously, though, this isn't a bad market for this strategy. It's not the best market, but there are some options. The Justin Upton/Chris Johnson package that's already been pooh-poohed makes sense, here. Heck, take the pail of misery that is B.J. Upton to get his brother without giving up a dynamite prospect, I don't know. If the Giants have money but not a ton of places to spend it, maybe a bad contract packed with a win-now player isn't the worst idea.
Johnson is kind of miserable -- can't field well, hacks, strikeout rate going up up up, owed $23.5 million over the next three years -- but I would take a chance on him being an extra win above replacement at that price if it meant a year of Justin Upton. Hey, maybe Upton might even sign a big exte ...
@walkinthewalk I hate going to SF. The ball travels like crap there— Justin Upton (@JUP_8TL) December 23, 2011
Or maybe it would be for just the one year.
Cheap in 2015, wait for (David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Mat Latos, Tim Lincecum)
In this scenario, the Giants pocket the Sandoval savings, apply some of it to a starter (ugh, Santana) or outfielder (Melky!), but save the rest for the danged even year. There are good pitchers in that even year. The last two up there were a goof, but I'm very excited about Doug Fister. He gets hit in the face in World Series games and keeps pitching. He's so good.
In this zone, you have Jake Peavy. Maybe even Headley, still. That's a double-Padres-trolling extravaganza, and you get to pick your spots next year.
YEAH, YOU WEREN'T SO HOT, LESTER. YOU WEREN'T ALL THAT. sniff
Yoan Moncada and others
Here's something I could get behind. Pick up some pitching scraps (Edinson Volquez? idk) and get a cheap platoon outfielder ...
Something like that. Then invest the rest in Yoan Moncada, who is getting Bryce Harper-levels of hype, even though there's so much we don't know about him.
I'm the biggest bird-in-the-hand guy around, and I'm all about Giants punting 2020 if it means an extended run this year. But I love the idea of a guy like Moncada. Young, projectable, potentially franchise-changing. I'd be a fan. And, jeez, it's not like the Giants are seriously going to win the World Series next year.
I mean, that would be ridiculous.
Man, I want that so much.
Greed is such an incredible endorphin-releaser.
For now, all we know is that Jon Lester isn't a Giant. Fine. Good. WHATEVER. Here are some things they might do. Somehow, they all seem preferable. Sour grapes release endorphins, too. It's the dangedest thing.