According to Roster Resource, the Giants' current starting rotation is Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, Chris Heston, and Clayton Blackburn. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton would probably be the first lines of defense in case of injury or ineffectiveness. There's no Mike Leake, no Tim Lincecum. No Tim Hudson, and no Ryan Vogelsong. If the Giants don't sign another starting pitcher or two, the already-thin rotation will become unconscionably thin.
They will sign another starting pitcher or two.
There's an outside chance at some sort of wacky trade, but the simplest solution is the most likely solution. The Giants will spend their money instead of their prospects, and they rotation will look much different than it does right now.
By my count, there are 20 free agent pitchers whom I would rather see in the rotation than Heston. You might have more or fewer, but I'm counting 20 (including Kenta Maeda, who might not come over from Japan). In alphabetical order:
- Brett Anderson
- Wei-Yin Chen
- Bartolo Colon
- Johnny Cueto
- Marco Estrada
- Doug Fister
- Yovani Gallardo
- Zack Greinke
- J.A. Happ
- Hisashi Iwakuma
- Scott Kazmir
- Ian Kennedy
- John Lackey
- Mike Leake
- Cliff Lee
- Kenta Maeda?
- David Price
- Jeff Samardzija
- Chris Young
- Jordan Zimmermann
You could sell me on Rich Hill's four starts of molten magic, or you could convince me that Ian Kennedy is a combination of Heston and setting money on fire. I don't know if Cliff Lee can even move a fork from a plate to his face, much less throw a baseball, but if we're treating Chris Young like he's a totally normal baseball player now, we might as well show some danged respect for Lee. But that's a list of solid-to-great pitchers.
Note that Mat Latos is not on this list, and you should feel bad if you were considering him.
Over the next couple weeks, we'll explore and preview most of these pitchers. This is a preview for the previews, then. And if I can impart one nugget of wisdom about what's about to happen, it's this: You will eventually regret whatever the Giants do.
You will eventually regret whatever the Giants do.
It might be 2020 -- the future! -- with David Price making close to $30 million to pitch like Matt Cain did last season. It might be 2016, with Ian Kennedy pitching like Ian Kennedy, while Price leads the Dodgers to a fourth straight division title. The disappointment will come, though. The odds are historically low that the Giants can sign a pitcher for market prices and be thrilled for the entire contract, at least when it comes to the pitchers worth more than $100 million.
The trick is to get some of that sweet, sweet value up front and take advantage of it.
Take Jon Lester, for example. What would you rather have, a 32-year-old Jon Lester for five years and $135 million, or would you rather have Phil Bickford and that $135 million to play around with this offseason? Lester's kinda cool, but gimme the draft pick and the freedom. I would have already regretted Lester in some capacity, even if he were still projected to pitch well for the Giants in 2016, mostly because he wouldn't have been the difference between the postseason and staying home in 2015. He would have been another year older, and the Giants would be limited to the bargain bin this offseason.
There are some obvious strategies the Giants can employ.
GIMME AN ACE
Yes, indeed. Pay $200 million for Price or Greinke, and scrounge around for a fifth starter or stick with Heston. That's a viable strategy.
SPREAD THE MONEY AROUND
Instead of $200 million for Price or Greinke, why not $60 million to Scott Kazmir, $48 million to Hisashi Iwakuma, and $50 million to Ben Zobrist? I can talk myself into that one.
SCREWING EVERYTHING UP
Hardly ideal, but I think this one involves getting Ryan Voglesong back for a fifth starter battle against Jerome Williams.
In any of those scenarios, though, there will be regret. That's just how free agency and big contracts work. We already regret the Matt Cain deal, just as we regretted the Marco Scutaro deal. The more money the Giants pay, the less likely you are to be happy.
There's a way, though, for the Giants to dive into the pool of free agents and climb out as 2016 World Series winners. Or pennant winners. Heck, I'd be thrilled at the first NL West title since 2012, really. And while I can concoct some scenarios with the names above that would make you groan -- here's Mike Leake and Ian Kennedy, happy offseason! -- it would be pretty hard for the Giants to leave this offseason in worse shape than how they started the 2015 season.
It would be pretty hard for the Giants to leave this offseason in worse shape than how they started the 2015 season. Yeah, I can get behind that. Free agency is here, and so are the stupid rumors. The Giants need pitching, and there's pitching available, from the inning-eaters to the aces. At some point, there will be regret, but hopefully it's several years away.