In the Giants’ end-of-the-year postmortem press conference, GM Bobby Evans suggested that the Giants were "better off" this offseason than they were last offseason, with fewer holes to fill.
Well, we will just have to see about the veracity of that claim. The Giants were going to be in the market for starting pitching, and that was obvious long before the season ended. Luckily for the Giants, the market was rotten with starting pitchers, all shapes and sizes, and even more fortuitously, they snagged two of the available pitchers who should contribute in 2017, too.
This year’s offseason is just as obvious. The Giants will get a reliever or two, and maybe an outfielder. It’s basically the last offseason, just with relievers instead of starters. The downside is that there are fewer options when it comes to the elite closers, which means there will be more competition. While you would think the Giants would be elbowing the rest of the world out of the way for one of Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon, what happens if they don’t want to come here?
We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we get there.
But until then, let’s have a little chat about what the Giants can do this offseason and see if it’s a better situation than they were in last season.
Point: The Giants were in a better spot last year
For a very simple reason: inventory. Pitchers, pitchers, pitchers, come get your starting pitchers, big pitchers, little pitchers, left-handed pitchers, young pitchers, old pitchers, buy one pitcher, get the second pitcher at full price, come on down to pitcher town and buy yourself some pitchers.
The Giants chose a discounted ace and a solid #3/4 type. It wasn’t cheap, but both pitchers are far, far better than anything they could have wrangled this offseason.
And it wasn’t just the pitchers, either. The Giants were looking for an outfielder, and, well, I’m not going to do that commercial thing again, but I could sure rework it for outfielders. Outfielders, outfielders, outfielders. Come get your, okay, you get the idea.
The difference there were there were a lot of duds on the market. Would you rather have Cueto right now, or ... Jason Heyward? Maybe Justin Upton? Yeeps. Turns out the correct answers were Dexter Fowler and Yoenis Cespedes. As is, the Giants got Denard Span, who was swell enough. But their options were varied, and they had the budget to explore various options.
I miss last offseason. We were all so young and innocent back then.
Counterpoint: Being a closer short of a full roster isn’t that intimidating, and there aren't as many holes
There are fewer elite closers this year than there were #1 pitchers on the market last year. This is true. However, it should be easier for a single-track team to overpay one of these closers against their better judgment.
Think of the Giants as a very rich man. Pierré duTronc, famous content baron. And Monsieur duTronc collects thimbles. Renowned thimble collector. Has one of the greatest private thimble collections in the world. And at Christie’s today, there’s a thimble that was owned by Betsy Ross. It was unearthed recently, and it’s the talk of the thimble world. It might be the most famous thimble ever to go up for auction.
Monsieur duTronc is going home with that thimble. He might pay more than it’s worth. He might pay far more than it’s worth. But he’s going home with it.
It’s the same with the Giants, except there are at least three Betsy Ross thimbles, and also we’re talking about human beings, not thimbles. Anyway, the point is that it’s easier to do that with a closer than a starting pitcher, considering that starters can get more than $200 million dollars. It’s a lot harder for teams to bully their way into one of those.
Apart from the closer problem, the Giants might want another outfielder. They have Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, who were helpful last year, but they might have designs on something more. Yoenis Cespedes should be available again. Matt Holliday, bad man, could probably do a pretty good Pat Burrell impression for 300 reasonably priced at-bats, while allowing Parker to get some ABs. Fowler probably won’t exercise his option. And even though Jose Bautista is old and declining, there are dingers to consider. His right-handed power would do just fine at AT&T.
But these are names to discuss separately another day. For now, the question at hand is if the Giants are better off than they were last year at this time. The best way to do that is with a table:
|C||Buster Posey||Buster Posey|
|1B||Brandon Belt||Brandon Belt (with ext.)|
|2B||Joe Panik||Joe Panik|
|3B||Matt Duffy||Eduardo Nunez|
|SS||Brandon Crawford||Brandon Crawford (with ext.)|
|OF||Gregor Blanco||Jarrett Parker/Mac Williamson|
|OF||Angel Pagan||Denard Span|
|OF||Hunter Pence||Hunter Pence|
|SP||Madison Bumgarner||Madison Bumgarner|
|SP||Matt Cain||Johnny Cueto|
|SP||Jake Peavy||Matt Moore|
|SP||Chris Heston||Jeff Samardzija|
|SP||Clayton Blackburn||Ty Blach|
|CL||Santiago Casilla||Derek Law|
|RP||Sergio Romo||Hunter Strickland|
|RP||Javier Lopez||Will Smith|
|RP||Hunter Strickland||Steven Okert|
|RP||George Kontos||George Kontos|
|RP||Josh Osich||Cory Gearrin|
The unspoken problem with that table is that Posey, Span, and Pence will be a year older. Everyone else will be, too, but those are the three who worry me the most when it comes to age-related concerns. On the other hand, the Giants feel just a little more comfortable knowing that Crawford and Belt are locked up. And there’s no way to overstate just how important Moore is to this offseason. They’d be completely hosed without him.
Add it up, and I’m taking this offseason, too. I’m weirded out by the lack of power in a rabbit-ball season, and I’m still not sure if/how the Giants can fix it. But it’s far easier to be optimistic about the group on the right than the one on the left. The rotation is four deep. The lineup is just as strong. And considering we know how the bullpen on the left turned out, there’s room for optimism with the current core, as well as the free agents who will complement them.
The McCovey Chronicles Hot-Stove Fact-o-Meter rates Bobby Evans’ claim as mostly true. We’ll get into just how much the Giants have to spend this offseason later (hint: less than you think), but for now it looks like their hot stove doesn’t have to be filled with desperation and impossible tasks. They’re probably in a better spot than they were last year at this time.