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At least the Giants didn’t whiff on their expensive starting pitchers last offseason

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The Giants had a lot of options last offseason, and they could have done something extraordinarily silly. Everything worked out.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, Jeff Samardzija pitched one of his finest games as a Giant, mowing through the Padres and keeping his team close enough to win late. He’s been on a roll lately, with a 2.40 ERA over his last nine starts. He’s been worth about three wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference, and FanGraphs has him just over two WAR.

In other words, the Giants have gotten what they were expecting. This is what they paid for.

Johnny Cueto probably isn’t going to get any first-place Cy Young votes, but he will get some down-ballot love. According to both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, he’s been the third-most valuable pitcher in the National League this season. The Giants’ biggest dream and fear looks like it will come true: Cueto has been so good that he’s likely to opt out of his contract next season. Which is great! And sad. And great! And sad. Mostly great that he’s pitching so well, though.

So while the Giants are making you bald because of their bullpen and lineup, let’s have a brief pitstop and recharge with some happy thoughts. Because as sad as this season might end up, it could have been a whole lot sadder. And it would have affected next season, too.

At least the Giants didn’t whiff on their big money starting pitchers.

The Giants had one shot at this, really. They couldn’t mess it up. They had one shot with Barry Zito, and it messed them up in the offseason for years. The problem was that even though the Giants had money to spend, there were just so many options. They had to choose wisely or get lucky. I would have talked myself into just about any two pitchers on the market.

It turns out one of the better possible answers was Cueto with Samardzija.

I wouldn’t have guessed! Here’s me looking like a dingbat and ranking Cueto under Yovani Freaking Gallardo on a list of free agent pitchers. That’s how worried I was about Cueto’s health.

And look at that. Missing his next start with an injury. Maybe I’m good at this analyzing baseball stuff after all.

There were so, so many starting pitchers available last offseason. The Giants had their pick, and they went after several of them. They came away with just about the best possible combination, bu . A look back at some of the other pitchers the Giants could have signed:

Jordan Zimmermann
Hurt and ineffective. I would have preferred him to Johnny Cueto, and how. Zimmermann seemed underrated to me, and his early contract with the Tigers looked like a steal when the offseason was over, especially in comparison to Samardzija.

As is, I’m pretty glad the Giants avoided this particular bear trap.

Chris Young
He was really impressive last season, especially in the postseason. He’s been ghastly this year for the Royals though. Good work never being interested, Giants.

Cliff Lee
Included just for the "Ohhhhh yeah" factor. His return was an actual rumor in the offseason!

Mike Leake
He’s currently helping the Giants as I write this, giving up a bunch of runs to the Cubs at the expense of the Cardinals. So he can’t be all bad. Still, I remember thinking that I would have rather had Leake than Samardzija. Bad take!

John Lackey
Ugh, I guess this would have worked out fine, but then we would have had to look at him all the time. I’ll take Cueto at four times the price, thank you, just because he’s much more fun to look at.

Ian Kennedy
He’s actually been excellent this year! Excellent in a mercurial Samardzija kind of way, at least. But his FIP portends doom next year, and he falls into that Lackey category of pitchers I don’t particularly care to watch.

Scott Kazmir
He’s been erratic and hurt, which is what he was for about a decade before he disappeared. He’s probably better than this.

He’ll probably opt out of his contract after the season, too, so if you’re really bummed the Giants missed out ...

Hisashi Iwakuma
He’s been okay. Don’t forget that the Dodgers almost signed him as a part of Operation Ouchie Acquire, but he was too hurt even for them. He should just crack 200 innings this year, though.

Yovani Gallardo
Goodness, what a mess. He appealed to me because he was cheaper than Leake but just about as effective. He’s been hurt and awful, though.

Doug Fister
Good start. Bad finish.

Marco Estrada
Was awesome in the first half, but back problems got to him in the second half.

J.A. Happ
Ah, he was apparently the best answer for just about every team. Throws harder than you think, and he can apparently command the strike zone now.

Bartolo Colon
One of mankind’s greatest gifts, Colon is having his best season in years. I still regret this one. But, again, the Giants have a second chance this winter.

Rich Hill
Okay, maybe it’s a stretch to call the Giants lucky that they signed Cueto and Samardzija for a combined $220 million, considering they could have had Hill and Happ and an extra $190 million to mess around with. I mean, they could have spent the savings on Jason Heyward or Justin Upton!

Those particular dodged bullets are probably another column for another time.

Wei-Yin Chen
Hurt and ineffective. I was sooooo into this idea. I thought he would be a perfect fit for the ballpark. Instead, he lost his fastball and went on the DL after 20 yicky starts.

David Price
Better than he looked in the first month of the season, that’s for sure. But I’d rather have Cueto and Samardzija for the same ... price. It was a lot of money to put in a single basket, and I’m glad at the diversification

Zack Greinke
[comically exaggerating GLUNK sound when swallowing]

Can you imagine?

Oh, man.

We would be ...

The panic and frustrating ...

I can’t ...

The thing ...

It’s like ...

Good gravy, man, pull yourself together.

Kenta Maeda
Well, if the Giants knew his agent was someone whom he hired with an ad on Craigslist the day before he signed his contract, maybe they would have been more interested. As is, it looks like Maeda will be one of the Dodgers’ best investments for the next decade. Even if he gets hurt, it’s still a great deal that’s almost paid for itself already.

Tally it up and we get Happ, Hill, Colon, Maeda, and, ugh, Lackey as the pitchers who would have been better investments than Samardzija, at least. Price would have made the team worse, and not just because of the drop off from him to Cueto this season. But because they wouldn’t have had a lot of money for that final starter.

And Zimmermann, Leake, Kazmir, Gallardo, and, especially, Greinke would have made us all inordinately sad. Though maybe Greinke would have bunted for a single against the Cardinals in the 2020 NLCS. That would have been something.

All told, the Giants did pretty okay with their pitcher spending spree over the offseason. It could have been better, but it could have been much, much worse. That’s kind of the motto of the 2016 Giants, really.