Stephen Strasburg signed a 7-year, $175 million contract extension with the Nationals. You might not think this has anything to do with the Giants, but never underestimate my ability to shove something through a Giants-shaped prism. Of course this has something to do with the Giants! Everything does. I have thoughts about the Maryland General Assembly and Brett Pill that I'll share with you one day.
The Strasburg contract is of interest to Giants fans in two ways: one that lets us look backwards and one that lets us look to the future.
Point #1: Boy, it's sure a good thing the Giants spent money this offseason
It's great to get away. Just get in a car and drive until there's nothing but mountains and/or lakes and/or rivers and/or an ocean. Getting away is just the best. Until you get to the only market within 50 miles, and they're charging $11 for a single bag of chips. Hey, the sherpa who brought it there charged $8, and it's not like you're going to find another bag of chips somewhere, dummy.
That's this offseason. There will be a team that needs pitching, desperately and obviously, and they're going to go into a market where Scott Kazmir might be the best free agent starter. And he'll cost scores of millions. This inflation is why Ian Kennedy got the contract he did. It's why the Cardinals gave so much to Mike Leake, who is widely known for being widely unknown. The Royals and Cardinals knew that Kennedy and Leake would look like perennial All-Stars compared to the free agents in the following offseason.
We knew all this. That still doesn't make this kind of list absolutely stunning. From MLB Trade Rumors, here is a list of every available pitcher after the season:
- Brett Anderson
- Bronson Arroyo
- Brandon Beachy
- Andrew Cashner
- Jhoulys Chacin
- Jesse Chavez
- Bartolo Colon
- John Danks
- Jorge De La Rosa
- R.A. Dickey
- Scott Feldman
- Doug Fister
- Jeremy Guthrie
- Jeremy Hellickson
- Rich Hill
- Edwin Jackson
- Scott Kazmir
- Mat Latos
- Colby Lewis
- Cory Luebke
- Kris Medlen ($10MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout)
- Charlie Morton ($9.5MM mutual option with a $1MM buyout)
- Jon Niese ($10MM club option with a $500K buyout)
- Ivan Nova
- Jake Peavy
- CC Sabathia
- James Shields (can opt-out)
- Alfredo Simon
- Ryan Vogelsong
- Edinson Volquez ($10MM mutual option with a $3MM buyout)
- Jered Weaver
- C.J. Wilson
- Travis Wood
You can find pitchers up there you would entertain for the back of the rotation. Come on down, James Shields, and succeed where Jake Peavy could not. That sort of thing. But if Shields opts out, that means he's expecting more than $63 million and three years, which is terrifying. Andrew Cashner, who probably isn't very good, will be a Gil Meche/Darren Dreifort special. Teams will chase after him, even though he's basically Jeff Samardzija with a shady medical history.
Which is all to say, I appreciate Johnny Cueto and Samardzija on the Giants a little bit more today. They still aren't the pitchers I would have picked, but hot dang, are they fantastic pitchers to have around for next year, at least. I figured the deals were just 2016 things, with diminishing returns after that, but they'll still likely be the best possible deals for next offseason, too.
Point #2: The Giants are probably pretty hosed when it comes to trading for another starter
It's not like they were going to trade for Strasburg, but his absence from the winter scrum means that anyone looking to trade a #2 or better is going to expect a Shelby Miller kind of return. That's true for the offseason, and it's true for now.
The Giants can't compete with those asking prices. Even if they load 10 of their best prospects into the same van, the bad teams will likely choose quality over quantity every time. So they'll have to look into bad contracts (Justin Verlander has just $112 million left over four years, you know) and assorted unexciting veterans. Think
This isn't to say the Giants won't be able to make a trade; just that if you had your sights on a young pitcher who will be cheap for years, that dream moved from unrealistic to impossible. That goes for everyone from Julio Teheran to Sonny Gray. Strasburg isn't the one who did this, but he hammers home the point. It's official. The offseason is going to be barren, frozen tundra. The only heat from the hot stove league will come from a gassy possum, metaphorically speaking. Get yer pitchers now, and bring all of your prospects.
The other teams will show up to the swap meet with all of their prospects, and the Giants will be like ...
There's also the point where I'd rather have Cueto and Samardzija for $40 million more than one Strasburg, but your mileage might vary. Even if you don't agree with that, note that the Giants spent money at the right time. If anything, maybe there was an argument to spend a little more and stay away from the trade market entirely.
It's May 10, and Stephen Strasburg is making me think, "Thank goodness for Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija!" We'll see how that feeling ages over the next three or four long baseball seasons, but it's an easy connection to make right now.