If the Giants can’t sign their top target, Jon Lester, due to a bidding war that gets out of control or something else (like Lester’s Oakland stint souring him on the Bay Area), they might be forced to add a right-handed starter to bolster their rotation. Yes, even though that would give them just one lefty starter, Madison Bumgarner, for the second consecutive season. If you’re looking for baseball’s version of #FirstWorldProblems, there you go.
The obvious Plans B and C if Lester lands elsewhere would be to sign Max Scherzer or James Shields, the top two right-handed starters on the market. Either option makes sense. Scherzer finished first and fifth in the Cy Young voting in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Shields may have an unfortunate nickname, but he’s one of the great innings consumers in the game — over 200 in each of the past eight seasons.
But that’s too easy, and possibly too expensive if the Giants feel like Lester is by far the best option due to his skills and left-handedness. There are plenty of righty free agents, however, and here’s a short list of starters I’d target if I was someone Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans trusted, instead of some #hack blogger who can’t even play baseball video games all that well.
Just to make this as clear as I possibly can: this is MY list. The Giants might be more interested in Scherzer, Shields, Justin Masterson, Aaron Harang or Chris Young, but these are the players (1) I think they’d be interested in that (2) I wouldn’t mind watching 28-32 times in 2015.
Twitter’s choice: Brandon McCarthy
McCarthy had an interesting season. He lost 10 of his first 11 decisions with Arizona, then won his last two starts with the D-Backs before getting traded to the Yankees, who encouraged him to stop being so “sinker happy” and throw his cutter more often. The results: A 2.89 ERA, an even lower FIP of 3.22 (McCarthy’s fielding-independent stats have always been strong), and one of hell of a contract drive.
Pros: Already a fan favorite among “Giants Twitter” as a witty, outspoken progressive athlete (think: Chris Kluwe with a sense of humor and without the giant chip on his shoulder); familiar with the Bay Area; career 1.13 ERA at AT&T (not the largest sample size — just eight innings); revenge factor if/when facing D-Backs.
Cons: Fairly injury-prone — 200 innings in his contract year after falling well short in his previous two seasons; would need to purchase cowboys boots to be accepted as a full-time member of the Giants rotation (hey, maybe that’s been Tim Lincecum’s problem all along).
To hear Vogelsong tell it, he suffered through more than his fair share of bad luck in 2014 after simply being bad in 2013. I’d tend to agree. There were several outings in which Vogelsong was rolling along and a couple seeing-eye base hits ended his night prematurely. His FIP numbers: 3.67 (2011), 3.70 (2012), 4.91 (2013), 3.85 (2014). However, Vogelsong’s results in 2014 (4.00 ERA) speak to the margin for error he’s working with at this stage of his career (hint: it’s very, very slim, as we saw in his last three postseason starts).
Pros: Beloved by fans and teammates (I’m pretty sure he and Madison Bumgarner embraced for at least three straight minutes during the NLDS clubhouse celebration); durability (didn’t miss a start in 2014; only missed time due to one freak injury during his second stint with the Giants); would prefer to stay in San Francisco.
Cons: Turns 38 next season; pretty extreme home (3.06 ERA in 2014) and road (5.10 ERA) splits; very streaky.
Jon Lester’s choice: Jake Peavy
Peavy saved the Giants’ season. He did a great Matt Cain impression (and then some) over the last two months of the regular season, when he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He added energy to a tired clubhouse, and the yelling was a lot more endearing than a lot of us probably would’ve assumed before the Giants acquired him.
Pros: Seems perfectly suited for the NL and AT&T Park; spoke highly of Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner, both of whom helped him get back on track after a rough first half in Boston; fits in really well as a self-described “redneck”; #GodBlessIt.
Cons: A lot of mileage (2,147.2 innings); sounds like he’s looking to follow Lester, which is a strange reason for a 33-year-old to make a career decision; 7.98 ERA in nine postseason starts; looked awfully glum during the World Series parade (small sample size alert: I saw him for a grand total of 30 seconds as his bus passed by).
The Giants have reportedly been the runners-up for two Cuban sluggers, Jose Abreu and Yasmany Tomas. Cuban power is great, but I’m looking for some Japanese pitching, dammit. I was on the Masahiro Tanaka bandwagon with both feet, but it’s tough to compete with the Yankees. Then again, Tanaka cost $175 million and has a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, which means he’s staving off what appears to be inevitable Tommy John surgery.
Anyhoo, Maeda doesn’t have dominant stuff like Tanaka or Yu Darvish … but he’d probably come cheaper, his control is outstanding, and he has like 200 different pitching deliveries with weird and deceptive delay tactics packed into several of them.
Just one minor detail: the Hiroshima Toyo Carp haven’t posted him yet. A lot of experts seemed to expect that they would, but there’s been barely a peep about Maeda in recent weeks. It’d be difficult for the Giants to sign him if he isn’t made available, wrote the Clown Prince of Analysis.
Pros: Similar to Tim Lincecum in that he’s about 6′ 0″, 160 and is known as a superior athlete; different from Lincecum in that he knows where the ball is going; it’d be fun for the Giants to sign a productive Japanese player for once; only 26 years old (turns 27 in April); 2.44 ERA and just 1.9 BB/9 in seven seasons with the Carp; recently allowed just two hits (to Robinson Cano and Dexter Fowler) over five innings to lead Japan to a win over a team of “Major League All-Stars.”
Cons: Projects to be more of a No. 3/4 starter than an ace; adding Maeda would make AT&T Park’s press box a lot more crowded (and the Giants don’t save me a seat, not that anyone reading this would/should care); Carp could go the greedy route and keep him for themselves.