Let me take you back to the offseason after the 2004 season. Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon were electrifying the world in Taxi. College students everywhere were signing up for college-only social network The Facebook. And the Giants, having memorably just missed the playoffs because their bullpen was weak and they didn’t really have a shortstop, had work to do.
So off to work they went, plugging the holes of 2004. They got themselves a new shortstop! They got themselves a new closer! They even got themselves a new power hitting outfielder! Things were looking up.
It didn’t work, of course. And it wasn’t just Barry Bonds’s injury that held them back; the Giants scored 200 fewer runs in 2005 than in 2004, and that was with Randy Winn having a September for the ages. Look at the 2004 and 2005 Baseball Reference starters and you’ll see the smallest year to year drop in OPS+ by position was 5, and all the rest of them were worse than that. Now, that doesn’t include Moises Alou, who split time between left and right field, but the point stands: even with Barry Bonds, that would have been a bad team (One that perhaps would have made the playoffs because the division was historically weak, but still a bad team).
The post-2004 Giants fixed the problems of 2004, and then it all fell apart in 2005. They counted on most of the rotation to repeat career years, counted on the good members of the bullpen to stay good, and got an established closer in Armando Benitez (lol) to fix the back end. They were just plugging holes without looking to see where the next holes would be, and it cost them.
But enough about the Yamid Haad Era. Let’s talk about now. Regardless of who wins the fifth starter battle between sweet, beloved Matt Cain and certainly invincible Ty Blach, the Giants don’t figure to be in the market for a starting pitcher this offseason, and that’s a good thing. That’s a very, very good thing, considering the top three starters available are:
- A 37 year old with blister problems who has had exactly one full, healthy season in his major league career, and none since Barry Bonds retired (Rich Hill)
- A pitcher who was not worth $12 million for one season to the Cubs (Jason Hammel)
- Ivan Nova (Ivan Nova)
It doesn’t get better after that, either, as only one other available pitcher on the entire rest of that top 20 list had a WAR better than 1.0 last year, and nine of them were at or below replacement level.
What does this have to do with the Giants? Well, they avoided it back in August! Yes, it cost them Matt Duffy (and two prospects), but this market, right here, is why there was such urgency to get that deal done. And what does this have to do with 2004? This is exactly what they didn’t do 12 years ago.
When they made the Matt Moore deal, the Giants took a look at where the team was, where it was likely to go in the future, and the best way to improve both areas. Yes, there are pitchers in the pipeline, but they’re not sure things and anyway, without Moore you’d just have Bumgarner, Cueto, and Samardzija as sure things in the rotation. Is Samardzija even a sure thing or do you want insurance for him? What if one of them gets hurt? What do you do when Cueto opts out at the end of the year? Tyler Beede had a great year in AA and put himself right back into For Realsies Prospect territory, but everyone else in the system is a big question mark.
The 2016 Giants probably could have patched together a rotation for the last couple months of the year, sidelining either Cain or Jake Peavy and calling up Blach earlier, and still had a good chance to make the playoffs. The 2017 and 2018 Giants would be far, far weaker than they’re currently looking to be. Be happy Matt Moore is around. He’s saving the team from a miserable Tomkoesque future.