The Giants are probably going to acquire Gerardo Parra, or someone similarly sensible and boring. All this fluff, all this handwringing ... we're all just wasting our lives, you know?
However! There are rumblings that the Giants are interested in a starting pitcher. Specifically, one of the top names on the market to slot behind Madison Bumgarner in a possible postseason rotation. There are problems, though. The Giants don't have a "good farm system," or "a lot of prospects other teams would want."
The Giants prefer to be very quiet about their prospects, hiding their natural talents with some sort of cloaking device before inserting them in the lineup and rotation. Matt Duffy, Chris Heston, and Joe Panik never made a top-100 list -- and only Panik might have made a top-500 list -- and they never had substantial trade value as prospects. Bobby Evans is probably saying things like, "Oh, this prospect is totally the next Matt Duffy and/or Chris Heston," while winking a lot, but so far it hasn't been successful.
In a vacuum, the Giants could probably make a trade for David Price or Cole Hamels. In reality, they're fighting with teams that have a lot more to offer. That leads to this:
#sfgiants prioritize No. 2 SP behind Bumgarner, but can't find match. 1 club asked for SS Lucius Fox, signed earlier this month (cont)— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 27, 2015
in intl mkt, cost #Sfgiants $10M-plus in salary/penalties. That was obvious no-go. For now, SF still has hope Cain can be No. 2 again— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 27, 2015
The worst part about having three or four obvious prospects is that every team asks for them. As such, it's exceptionally unlikely that the Giants land Price or Hamels.
There are other options, however. If the idea is to get a pitcher who is clearly an upgrade on Tim Hudson, they exist on the second tier. For example ...
Iwakuma was hurt for most of the season, and he's also having a down year (10 dingers allowed in 42 innings). When healthy, however, the 34-year-old is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball. He struck out 154 batters last year in 179 innings, walking just 21. I'm all for the control mavens, and Iwakuma's contract (owed about $3 million for the rest of the season) would appeal to the Giants.
He still looks like someone who owns every Dream Theater record on vinyl, and he's been something of a disappointment for the White Sox this year, but he's been on a very strong run, lately. He's thrown at least seven innings in his last nine starts, and he's done it in 15 out of his 20 starts this year. Hudson has pitched seven or more innings in just five starts out of his 17, so you can see how the Giants would want to take the pressure off the bullpen.
He's a free agent after this year and not an ace, exactly, so the price shouldn't be too high. At least, in that vacuum we've already talked about. In reality ...
Honest question: If you were a GM, and the Padres offered you Shields for Joaquin Arias, just looking for a straight salary dump, would you take it? That would be a three year, $65 million gamble that his dinger-itis was a blip, and that he's the same old pitcher again.
I don't think I would. For something close to that $21 million annual price, the Giants could pick and choose their ace this offseason, and those pitchers would ostensibly be coming off excellent seasons. Shields looks the same, and his stats indicate that he's been unlucky (or that the Padres defense is that wretched), but there are too many maybes and what-ifs with his current season.
First, the Padres most certainly would deal with the Giants. They traded for Matt Kemp, after all.
Would they trade someone so young and cheap to the Giants? Harder to see. I'd reckon that Ross would cost more than Hamels or Price, easy, and that there would be all sorts of competition for him. And he's good, but he also leads the NL in walks. He's isn't a clear co-ace with Bumgarner, but he would cost as much as the co-aces would because of his team control (two more seasons after 2015).
Probably not hurt. Much. He would give the Giants more upside than a Mike Leake type, but have you noticed his peripheral stats from the last three seasons? For a guy who throws a million miles per hour, he doesn't strike anyone out, at least not more than the average pitcher. Not saying that makes him bad, just ... weird.
He's a free agent after 2016, so he would cost a little more than the Samardzijas of the world.
There's probably no way the Padres would trade their ace, so ...
The Giants would have the best-hitting rotation in the league, which is fun, if nothing. While Gallardo is having his best season in years when it comes to ERA, his FIP is holding steady. He's a pretty okay pitcher, and he's a free agent after the season.
Pretty okay would be pretty okay, really. Maybe we're taking this ace stuff too seriously. If the choice is Gallardo or Hudson, it's not much of a choice.
Fine. I'll consider it. He's the Jeff Suppan of his generation, never screwing up completely and losing his spot, never going on an extended run of outstanding pitching. His career ERA+ is 100. It will always be 100, from now until the end of time.
That's probably better than what Hudson or Ryan Vogelsong would offer the Giants, though. It's also possible that Great American Ballpark has messed with him in a way that AT&T Park wouldn't.
Lincecum with better command. He's having his best season since 2011 by ERA, but the FIP is worse than ever. He's a time bomb, and he's the start of the third tier.
If the Giants could get Iwakuma for players who aren't Andrew Susac, Christian Arroyo, and Tyler Beede, that's probably my preference. Samardzija would be next, followed by Gallardo. While Ross is interesting in theory, I could see him costing Susac, Arroyo, and Beede, which would hose the Giants in future trade talks.
David Price is still my white whale -- sweet, sweet David Price -- so I'm foolishly and secretly hoping for a surprise whopper of a deal. Still, the above pitchers mostly have their merits. They're also all more likely to be acquired by the Giants.
Note, though, that the most likely scenario is that they do nothing to the rotation and come away with Gerardo Parra. Wait for it. Waaaaaaait for it ...