According to Ken Rosenthal, the Giants are likely to pursue Jordan Zimmermann this offseason. Considering that they would add a win or two every year just from not having to face him, this makes sense. It's also a completely uncontroversial rumor: Giants seek additional talented starting pitcher. As a rumor, it's about as self-evident as this one, which I just made up:
Giants plan to televise games again in 2016
Remember you read that here, first.
The Zimmermann whisper is more than just a stray rumor, though. It's the blueprint of the offseason. For the first time in ... ever? ... the Giants have a completely clear and unambiguous offseason goal. There are no detours. The possible side tracks are minimal. If it's not Zimmermann, it will be Johnny Cueto. If it's not Cueto, It'll be Zack Greinke. If it's not Greinke, it'll be David Price. If it's not Price, It'll be Scott Kazmir. There's a tier below this, too, and the Giants will be kicking tires and kicking tires and kicking tires on every single starting pitcher.
The fallback is probably something like Ian Kennedy, or something else that would gross you out but wouldn't surprise you. But of all the names up there, Zimmermann straddles the line perfectly between talented/affordable. Expect the Zimmermann rumors to start last week, and expect them to continue through the Winter Meetings.
The reason the offseason strategy is so obvious? There are a lot of them, really. The emergence of Matt Duffy and Joe Panik are a big part of this, as are the continued contributions of Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. The infield is set for a few years, and the outfield has a long-term contributor in Hunter Pence, with a short-term contributor in Norichika Aoki. Angel Pagan has one more year, but so does his eternal safety net, Gregor Blanco. The bullpen will have some free agents, but that's also where the Giants' farm is deepest. If there's help from the farm, it's going to come in the form of nice, surprising, and solid Chris Heston-types, not rotation-toppers.
The offseason is going to be a car missing a tire. The Giants will be a mechanic tasked with fixing the car. They will walk up to it and say, "This car is missing a tire." They will then look for a tire.
Of course, in this scenario, the tires can be jerks with "preferences" and "opinions" about what kind of car they want to be a part of and where they want to live, so it's not quite so simple. The diagnosis will take two seconds, though. And when the Giants sign a pitcher or two, they'll be done.
That's it. That's the offseason.
You'll hear a lot about the money coming off the books, with Tim Hudson, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Lincecum becoming free agents, but that doesn't take into account all of the raises for current players still under contract. Sergio Romo and Jake Peavy both had backloaded contracts, and they'll combine to make $9 million more. Both Brandons will get substantial bumps through arbitration. Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner will each get raises.
If the Giants get a starting pitcher -- one of the better ones from Kazmir to Price -- they'll still probably pass this year's payroll. If they get Zimmermann, they might have enough room for a Mike Leake-type, though they'll have to figure out how to work two expensive pitchers in with the Cain/Peavy/Heston incumbents.
The worry, of course, is that they'll shoot for the premium pitchers and miss, which means they'll have to sift through the unexciting options on the second and third tiers. You might remember this strategy from offseasons like "last offseason." And in retrospect, boy howdy, would Jon Lester have made this team better. It's hard to complain too much because it looks like they got lucky by avoiding a lengthy James Shields commitment (which I was all for), but they've attempted this strategy in the past and missed out.
That was in an offseason with so many moving parts, though, with uncertainty at third base, a determined effort to bring back an expensive homegrown free agent, and an empty left field. In this offseason, the Giants can -- and probably will -- be wholly focused on The Quest for at Least One More Starting Pitcher. The Zimmermann rumor makes sense. More sense than any rumor that we've ever seen. More sense than any rumor we'll ever see. You will probably never follow a team like this, where their offseason strategy is this simple, this obvious in August.
In retrospect, I probably should have put "spoilers" in the headline. Sorry about that. Sorry.