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The Giants have had excellent timing with their offseason needs

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The Giants need a reliever, and there are several on the open market. This doesn’t always have to happen like that.

MLB: NLDS-San Francisco Giants at Chicago Cubs Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

You already know that it’s a good thing the Giants aren’t looking for a starting pitcher right now. Doug wrote about it here, and you don’t need to be a baseball nerd to look at the list of available pitchers and realize they’re all a bunch of Tomkos.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth one more reminder of just how fortuitous the Giants have been on two fronts with their offseasons needs. We’ll start with last year.

2015
The Giants needed starting pitching. It was incredibly obvious, even months earlier. And what was the market filthy with? Starting pitchers. Oh, how there were different permutations, from Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Leake to Rich Hill and Bartolo Colon.

Turns out that last one would have been the best value by a bunch, but we can’t complain because the Giants navigated the minefield quite well. They came away with two starting pitchers who should contribute next season, which isn’t what every team can expect. They didn’t just buy a postseason spot for last season (and a few good memories along the way), but they built a better roster for a future season, too.

There were ways they could have messed it up, but not as many as there are this year. And when there was a little money left over, they used it on an outfielder. The market was rotten with outfielders, too.

2016
SAY, HAVE YOU NOTICED THE GIANTS NEED A RELIEVER OR TWO? I noticed this when my eyes started bleeding in the ninth inning of Game 4, and the puddle of blood became an ocean and I started floating out of my house and down the street, bobbing up and down in the blood, shrieking into a night sky without stars and lamenting the nature of existence. Right when Willson Contreras singled, I think. It became somewhat clear that the Giants might be interested in bullpen help.

And what’s the market filthy with? Relievers. At least, the kind worth paying. But there are lower-cost options, too, from Brad Ziegler to the scuffed-up Greg Holland. The Giants can find a closer if they want, and they don’t have a more pressing need.

Their timing has something to do with the roster they had cobbled together in both scenarios. As Bryan said in the latest McC podcast, the Giants have good bones, and that’s why they were/are able to zero in on their needs with such precision. It’s lucky that the Giants entered the offseason with an acute need for starting pitching and found a market filled with just that, but it’s not luck that they didn’t go into the offseason looking for starting pitching, third base help, four outfielders, and a couple infielders.

In retrospect, maybe they needed another reliever after all. Will continue bobbing up and down on the unending blood ocean and contemplate that idea.

If this seems obvious to you, perhaps you haven’t contemplated the alternate timeline.

Fake 2015
I don’t know, pretend Matt Cain was healthy and effective. Tim Lincecum was good. For whatever reason, the 2015 season ended, and you were satisfied with the rotation. But you were just worried as all heck about the bullpen.

Who would have been available?

  • Joakim Soria
  • Ryan Madson
  • Darren O’Day
  • Tony Sipp
  • Mark Lowe

Some of those pitchers are pretty good! But there’s no guarantee the Giants could have ended up with any of them. They would have spent their offseason budget on Tyler Clippard in a mad panic, and they would still be uneasy with their bullpen today.

Fake 2016
And after that ‘15 season with the strong rotation, whoa, what happened? Looks like Cain isn’t a pitcher you can trust, and Lincecum, goodness, no idea what happened to that guy. So now that means the Giants need a starting pitcher. Two, probably.

Who would have been available?

  • Brett Tomko
  • Brett Tomko
  • Brett Tomko
  • Brett Tomko
  • Brett Tomko

He assumes different forms and has many names. But that’s who would have been available for the Giants in the free agent market, which would have pushed them toward a trade. Except the Giants don’t have a ton of desirable prospects to trade, which is going to be a problem when competing with 28 other teams in every possible trade scenario.

Long story short: If the Giants’ needs were reversed, they could have ended up with Tony Sipp, Mark Lowe, Andrew Cashner, and Jason Hammel instead of Mark Melancon, Jeff Samardzija, and Johnny Cueto.

I would prefer that second bunch, if we’re being quite honest.

They still need to make the right decision this offseason and pick the closer without hydrochloric acid in his shoulder, which isn’t something we can know without the benefit of hindsight. But it’s far, far, far more preferable for a team to have been looking for starting pitchers last year and relievers this year than the other way around.

The Giants have finished below their Pythagorean record for two years in a row, and they’ve been woefully unlucky according to Baseball Prospectus’ first-, second-, and third-order standings. But it was probably just as important to be lucky here, too. The Giants have entered the offseason with clearly defined needs in each of the last two years. There have been clearly defined solutions to those needs both times. It doesn’t always have to be like that.

You have to appreciate the small victories or you’ll drive yourself batty. Here’s one. Appreciate it.