clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Ranking the best free agent pitchers the Giants can sign now

New, 937 comments

With several pitchers off the market and Jeff Samardzija on the roster, who should the Giants target now?

Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Giants need another pitcher, and it's the perfect week to go shopping. It's basically November 1 and the Giants are someone walking into Trader Joe's and thinking, "Boy, I could sure go for something pumpkin-flavored right now." They will have more options than they can possible imagine, and it's kind of overwhelming.

Jeff Samardzija is pumpkin-flavored salsa. It wouldn't be something I would choose on my own, but I'll try anything once. Or continually, for five long years.

Now that the Giants have their innings-eater, who are the best pitchers left on the market? Which pitchers can the Giants afford now? We'll ignore the third- and fourth-tier, with pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Kyle Kendrick. Basically everyone named Kyle is out. Here are the possibilities that are left, ranked in ascending order of how well they would fit the Giants.

13. Mat Latos
If he weren't such a butt, he would actually make a lot of sense. Former #1, fallen on hard times, in need of a loving home.

Unfortunately, he is such a butt. So no thanks. And while a portion of the Latos-loathing around here is slightly tongue-in-cheek, I don't think it's a secret that the Giants seem to value clubhouse harmony more than the average club. The Dodgers were so disenchanted by Latos's personality after the trade deadline last year, that they pushed him off the team plane when they were going over the Rocky Mountains. Metaphorically.

There's just no way the Giants are interested, he wrote, looking around nervously.

12. Ian Kennedy
You can read the reasoning here, but at this point, I'm running my anti-Kennedy crusade into the ground. Too expensive, not good enough, and he costs a draft pick. Even if it would be a second-round pick now, those are still valuable. The Giants won the World Series in 2012 and 2014 because they drafted Tommy Joseph in the second round. Just, uh, in a roundabout way.

11. Henderson Alvarez
The Marlins released him because of his shoulder, and wonky shoulders are the James Joyce novels of the body. You can take a chance on a guy like this with four proven starters around him, but the Giants can't afford to get him into camp and realize his shoulder is still a mess.

10. Mike Minor
Exactly the same as the above. Makes sense in the right situation, but that's not the situation the Giants are in.

9. Cliff Lee
It seems like it was an unpopular opinion to express support to Lee, with some of y'all running away, screaming "NOPE NOPE NOPE," when his name was brought up. To be fair, the Giants could do just that after watching just one of his throwing sessions. But if he's anything like the pitcher he was before the injury, this would make a lot of sense.

Pretty sure I'm not jazzed about finding out if he's a bounceback candidate at the same time the Giants are finding out about Samardzija and Matt Cain, though.

8. Bartolo Colon
He is so, so jolly. And surprisingly effective! Again, I would have rather had Petit, but the Giants obviously didn't feel the same. Colon would have made sense if the Giants had signed Zack Greinke, but he falls into that risky category that we talked about with Lee up there.

If you guarantee me 180 average innings from Cain, there are a lot of folks on this list who would make sense. You cannot guarantee that. You should feel bad about yourself because you cannot guarantee that. It would make a lot of us very happy, you know.

7. Doug Fister
This is the one pitcher in the second tier I'd prefer over Petit, and I'd love it if the Giants signed him. I'd rather have Fister/Samardzija/left fielder than just Leake/Samardzija, for example.

Maybe I just remember him getting hit in the head in the 2012 World Series and I'm overrating him because of it. But if he's good enough to be a double-checkmark pitcher, he's good enough to pitch behind the rest of the Giants starters. The best part is he probably wants a one-year deal to hit the market next year.

6. Johnny Cueto
He's been excellent. Fantastic. One of the best starters in baseball over the last several years. But I don't expect him to be that kind of pitcher in two years, much less six. Could be wrong, but I don't want to spend $150 million to find out.

That written, if he slips through the cracks -- and the Dodgers going with Hisashi Iwakuma seems to indicate they're out, at least, as are the Diamondbacks after Greinke -- there is some measure of risk/reward that makes sense. A Bumgarner/Cueto/Samardzija/Peavy/Cain rotation isn't exactly foolproof, but each one of those pitchers makes sense in their role. Cueto is this low because I'm assuming there's a team willing to give him that $150 million. Slide the money down, and watch Cueto slide up these rankings commensurately.

5. Yovani Gallardo
There was something to the dream of a Bumgarner/Gallardo/Leake rotation, which would have added two wins just from the bats alone. Alas, Samardzija isn't much of a hitter. But Gallardo is probably underrated by this point, considering he never turned into the ace the Brewers were expecting. The only reason he's not much higher is that his strikeout rate has fallen down a well.

Still, he's a valuable, solid pitcher. He's never pitched in a pitcher's wonderland, too, so maybe he would be an asset in the NL West. The biggest concern with him is that he might want one of these five-year deals that teams are handing out. If that's the case, combined with the loss of a second-rounder, forget about it. On a reasonable three-year deal, though, he's easy to overlook and easy to appreciate.

4. Mike Leake
Ugh, so boring. But effective enough! Just boring. Wouldn't cost a pick, but he's steady, not compelling. I thought we were going to get David Price or something, but no, instead here's Mike Leake, sleepily competent, ready to start Game 4 of a postseason series for $18 million a year, if needed.

If there's a way for the Giants to get him for four seasons, with a $15 million salary or so, they should pounce. But it's silly season, so the Giants should probably just back away.

3. Scott Kazmir
We're starting into the cautiously curious area. Kazmir wouldn't cost a pick, and he's been effective for two years, now. I'm a fan of him as a pitcher, and I'm a fan of him as a story. If the Giants could get him, Samardzija, and a solid left fielder, I'd still consider the offseason pitching search a success, even without Price or Greinke.

While reserving the right to yearn for Price or Greinke next August, that is.

2. Wei-Yin Chen
I'm probably higher on Chen than most, but if you want to know why, read August Fagerstrom's profile on him at FanGraphs. Mike Krukow would say, "He knows how to pitch" 483 times next season if the Giants got Chen, probably because he knows how to pitch. He's a speed-changer, and he'd benefit greatly from AT&T Park and the Giants' defense.

Camden Yards is notoriously unfriendly to pitchers, and the rest of the AL East can be rough, too, but he's been mostly excellent over the last three seasons. He would cost a good chunk of money and a pick, but I'm a fan. If the Giants could afford him and Ben Zobrist (or Yoenis Cespedes, or Justin Upton, or Alex Gordon) at the same time, I would be all for it, even if it wouldn't be the flashiest move.

1. Kenta Maeda
My new white whale. The Giants will almost certainly be one of the teams that will offer the $20 million posting fee to the Carp just to negotiate with him. There will be a lot of deep-pocketed competition, from New York to Los Angeles, so he would affect the Giants' ability to swipe a premium left fielder. Still, of all the free agents, I think Maeda has an upside that only Cueto can surpass.

There are concerns, as there are with all of these pitchers. Just because other Japanese pitchers could make the transition from a once-per-week schedule into a traditional five-man rotation, that doesn't mean it's going to be easy for Maeda. Still, he'll be just 28 next year -- younger than Leake -- so a four- or five-year deal wouldn't be ludicrous. The real trick would be folding him into the payroll and still having enough left over to chase Zobrist or Dexter Fowler.

If there's a way to get Maeda and Zobrist, that's my favorite permutation of the remaining offseason. If the Giants want to shoot for more power with Cespedes or make some sort of trade that we aren't expecting and shoot for a less expensive pitcher, Chen would be the preferred alternative.

My guess is that the Giants are going to trade for Julio Teheran and sign one of the expensive outfielders. That's only a guess, though, and I've made a career out of looking stupid. Hopefully the Giants will figure out a way to look smart.