Back in 2013, before the World Series ended, I wrote a post titled "The Giants and inevitable free agents." The premise was that we were supposed to look through the mess of free agent players and pick the one who was going to come to the Giants, whether we liked it or not.
The URL ended with giants-signing-mike-morse-inevitable. This was the conclusion:
Yeah, it's Morse. It's not just me who thinks this. He'll play left, Pagan will play center, and Pence will play right. It will be the greatest outfield collection of crazy eyes since the pre-Pittsburgh-trial teams of the '70s and '80s.
It was so obvious, the site's tagline for a while was "Welcome, Michael Morse and Bronson Arroyo." Just ignore the Bronson Arroyo part.
Last year, we didn't do the same thing in October. There were other things going on. But let's make this an odd-year tradition, picking the obvious future Giants player. This is the player who fits our preconceived notions of how the Giants build their rosters, even if they've proven time and time again that they're much smarter than us.
You can find the full list of free agents here, but I'll cull through and pick out the top contenders. Note that Mike Leake counts for this exercise.
He counts for this exercise! If he were never traded to the Giants, he would be near the top of the list. The Giants aren't overly enamored of pitchers who miss bats -- they'll take them, like with Jason Schmidt or Tim Lincecum at his peak, but they're fine with the average fellows like late-model Jake Peavy or Ryan Vogelsong. Their closer is Santiago Casilla, after all. Give them a pitcher who can hit spots, and they'll figure out the rest.
Leake is most certainly one of those pitchers. The idea for the try-before-you-buy trade was that Leake + Giants defense + spacious ballpark was going to be a magical, obvious fit. Instead Leake was kind of a dud, and he had some forearm tightness toward the end of the year. That's notable because the forearm bone is connected to the elbow bone, and forearm tightness is often synonymous with ruh roh.
He could still be back, but he isn't the no-brainer he once was.
Obvious because he fits the Leake model of a pitcher who hits his spots. Obvious because he fits the Mark Portugal model of a pitcher who should be on the team just because he destroys the Giants. As a pitcher, he makes savvy Sabean sense.
But do we know if he makes Evans sense? I'm not sure we know what Evans sense is yet, which makes this exercise difficult. Kennedy's adjusted ERA over the last three years:
That's comfortably below average. And he allowed 31 dingers last year, which is abominable. I can't see the Padres giving him the qualifying offer, so the price might be right, but even if the Giants are looking to spread their money around the rotation, they're probably not going to dig for a sketchy reclamation project first.
These are all the same person, just at different stages of their life, like the astronaut at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stop it.
Went to Stanford, you know. Grew up in Ashland, which is just six hours up the road. Not sayin', just sayin'.
i told you to stop it, these are all the same guy
Now, this is an interesting one. He's just 32, so it's not like it makes complete sense that he self-destructed. He pitched solidly out of the bullpen after he was demoted, and he fits the part up there about the Giants not caring about strikeouts so much.
I do enjoy the idea of Fister on a bargain contract, but I'm sure that every other team does, too. The template is probably something like Brett Anderson's one-year, $10 million if he wants to hit free agency again after a rebound season, but just a touch more expensive.
Not all Giants-y players are bad ideas.
The Giants could sign Gallardo and Leake, pair them with Bumgarner, and get 15 dingers out of their pitchers next year. That would be awesome. It would also be really, really expensive for a couple of pitchers who probably aren't going to be very good in the near future.
Gallardo stopped striking people out, and his FIP suggests that his Texas numbers were something of a mirage. He's been consistently above-average in his career, so maybe? He seems like a very Giants pitcher, so he makes the shortlist, but someone will overpay him, and it's hard to see the Giants being that team on a long-term deal.
Oh, baby. Imagine the even-year-bullshit potential of this one. He didn't retire; he just broke. And he might want to hang out with a veteran team in a nice, big ballpark for the last two years of his career.
I'm tempted to write that this hypothetical move doesn't have that Giants sheen on it, but it seems like a spiritual cousin to the Randy Johnson signing. Just with more pronated flexor strains.
It's far more likely that if the Giants are going to take an injury flier on a formerly great pitcher, that they'd do it with Tim Lincecum, though.
Zimmermann fits the Portugal paradigm, too, except he's actually good. He had a rugged start to 2015, and a pair of six-run outings in September probably cost him some money, but if he's half the price of Zack Greinke, the Giants would consider him. They might favor him above all options already.
He's going to be 30, though, and he still might get nine figures or close to it. It's not a contract without risk. While I'm goofy for the David Price/Greinke wild scenarios, this might be the smartest play. I mean, as long as we're clear that just about any free agent pitcher is going to flush the Giants' money down the toilet eventually. It's about getting those first two or three years.
This would be my pick, if not for ...
Oh, so obvious, just like Morse. He's coming off a bad year, so his price will be down (appealing to the Giants), the last time he pitched in a big ballpark, he did well (also appealing), and he's a wily veteran now (definitely appealing).
He's just not very good, though. He has the raw, unmistakable stuff that makes you think he's excellent, but he already has solid command and control, so it's not like he has a ton of room to improve. What you see is probably what you get, and it's probably best to expect his average season, which is apparently a pitcher worth between one and two wins.
Think Ryan Vogelsong at a Renaissance Faire, and you have a pretty good idea of what Samardzija should be like. Some ups, some downs. Nothing too special, but often useful.
The Giants are going to be all over that. There will be no section for Price or Greinke here. Just a few names on a list that ends with the eventual Giants #2 starter, Jeff Samardzija, whose name I'm going to type over and over until I get it right.
Welcome, Jeff Samardzija. Do what you did in 2014, and we'll all get along fine.
Just accept it now, and you won't be so surprised at the news when it happens.