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Offseason Primer Part II: Pitching

AT&T Park is a pitcher’s paradise, but will there be enough carryover from 2018 to generate a successful 2019, or should the Giants consider adding new arms to the mix?

Texas Rangers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

In the previous primer, I looked at the bats the Giants had on the roster and in the organization. Now let’s focus on the Giants’ one true strength: pitching. This will by no means be a comprehensive guide — as they headline says, this is a primer, and it would be counterproductive for us to chew through this examination before free agency has even begun — but it will be a quick and dirty analysis to give you a clear view of the situation as the team tries to remake itself once more.

If you don’t want to read it all, just know that the situation doesn’t seem all that bad, but the reality might actually be a little bit worse.

Free agents

Derek Holland

Arbitration eligible / options available

Madison Bumgarner (option available)
Sam Dyson
Casey Kelly
Josh Osich
Will Smith
Hunter Strickland

Under contract for 2019

Johnny Cueto
Jeff Samardzija
Mark Melancon
Tony Watson
Ty Blach
Ray Black
Tyler Beede
Tyler Herb
Chase Johnson
Pierce Johnson
Derek Law
Steven Okert
Dereck Rodriguez
Andrew Suarez
Chris Stratton
Roberto Gomez
Julian Fernandez

Projected starting rotation & bullpen

SP - Madison Bumgarner
SP - Dereck Rodriguez
SP - Chris Stratton
SP - Andrew Suarez
SP - Jeff Samardzija

The Giants didn’t exercise Bumgarner’s 2018 option until November 2017, so there’s nothing to be read into them holding off on exercising their 2019 option, and it would seem highly unlikely they wouldn’t exercise it when November comes around again, whether or not they plan to move him. So, I penciled him in.

CL - Mark Melancon*
RP - Tony Watson
RP - Reyes Moronta
RP - Ray Black
RP - Julian Fernandez
RP - Steven Okert
RP - Ty Blach

As in the previous primer, I omitted the players who are arbitration eligible because the only certainty about their status with the team is that they’re arbitration eligible. That doesn’t mean Will Smith would be a bad player to have next season, and maybe even Sam Dyson at the right price — it just means they’re not under contract as we head into the offseason.

Also, I think even if/when they bring back Will Smith, they’ll be looking to give Mark Melancon one last shot to reclaim the closer role. They’ve invested too much money in him and he’s invested too much time rehabbing to simply move on from the reason why he’s on the team in the first place.

* - It should be noted that Mark Melancon has both an opt-out after this season and a full no-trade clause for the length of his contract.

Top prospects

Shaun Anderson (RHP)
Sean Hjelle (RHP)
Tyler Beede (RHP)

Now, that’s just based on MLB Pipeline’s rankings, which are by no means binding or the industry consensus. They’ve also got good, interesting arms in Triple-A reliever Tyler Rogers and Double-A starter Logan Webb who might be included on this list or make a case for themselves in the winter and Spring Training (provided they’re not dealt for a 30+-year old hitter).

Tentative trade value

Madison Bumgarner

Position: Starting Pitcher

Trade limitations: Face of the franchise. Consistent innings eater and quality arm against top of the league talent.

Trade value: Would fetch top prospects of many teams around the league. Shed competitive balance tax figure of $12 million, would allow Giants to potentially add surplus value and higher ceiling players rather than lose a player to free agency and gain nothing (outside of a qualifying offer draft pick).

Trade loss: Most consistent starting pitcher, face of the franchise, postseason hero… would be a morale hit and create a bit more uncertainty than would trading many other players. Lose the anchor, the hoss, and someone who embodies the franchise’s desired attitude from a would-be ace.

Is a trade even possible? Teams around the league have more information than we do, but just based on what we have, it’s clear that Madison Bumgarner is not the same pitcher he was in 2014 and whatever transition he’s undergoing as an adjustment has yet to be completed, so he carries with him a bit of a question mark.

Also, the Giants would very likely make him available for an asking price that would be commensurate with an ace pitcher with multiple years of control rather than a single year, even if that 1-year deal is well below his market rate and wouldn’t prevent a team from making other big additions.

Still, Madison Bumgarner is still a really good pitcher, and a team would gain an “aura” that the Giants would lose. Maybe the algorithms don’t factor that in and a lot of teams would scoff at such an idea, but purely from a marketing / season ticket sale standpoint, adding a nationally recognizable postseason hero would be huge and worth the “gamble” of dealing precious prospects whose value is unknown.

The rest of the Giants’ pitching staff is under their control or make too much money to have any tentative trade value, and as stated before, I excluded arbitration players just because they’re not guaranteed — but they do have trade value, it’s just hard to figure without the certainty of their dollar amounts.

They’ve got some interesting talent, but without Johnny Cueto around for 2019, it doesn’t look quite as formidable as you might think.