Ryan Vogelsong Spring TrainingIf the report from the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman is true – and there’s no reason to believe it’s not – the San Francisco Giants will pay Ryan Vogelsong around $5 million during the 2014 season. That number might go up to or even past $6.5 million if certain incentives are reached.

The Giants paid Vogelsong $300K to decline his $6.5 million option for next year after the 2013 season ended, and Bobby Evans stated how Vogelsong was going to explore opportunities elsewhere and the Giants were going to leave their options open.

In the end, both parties agreed to work together once more. After a month apart, the Giants saved a maximum of $1.2 million for Vogelsong’s services. It seems odd, but it’s a statement on this crazy market, inflated by TV money and fewer frugal owners than ever before.

Also, teams are realizing that pitching trumps all in the playoffs. And in just one October Vogelsong built a postseason pedigree as strong as anyone available.

What’s a shade over a million dollars when Tim Lincecum got $35 million over two years? Lincecum still packs a marketing punch even if his fastball is more middleweight than heavyweight these days, and the potential public relations harm if he went elsewhere and thrived was too much for the Giants brass to bear.

Depending on who is doing the evaluating, $23 million for 38-year-old Tim Hudson is either lunacy or a fantastic steal for Brian Sabean. Considering Hudson hasn’t experienced arm trouble for quite some time and is sure to instill the team with Madison Bumgarner’s fire combined with a veteran’s wisdom, the Giants certainly feel like that was a signing where poking this crazy market with a stick paid off.

With one spot left to fill, the Giants probably hoped they’d have more options than they did. But Arroyo wanted Lincecum money over a longer period of time, Dan Haren received $10 million and a chance to pitch near his hometown from the Dodgers, and Ricky Nolasco got $49 million over four years from the Twins. Other free agent starters were apparently deemed waaaayyyy too expensive (Masahiro Tanaka and the qualifying offer guys) or too risky (guys like Roy Halladay and Phil Hughes).

So the Giants went back to Vogelsong, a popular player both in the clubhouse and in the stands who proclaimed he’d be a better pitcher in 2014 no matter where he landed. Is that possible at age 36?

In Vogey’s favor:

  • Pitching in the World Baseball Classic was, in hindsight, a poor plan.
  • He took a pitch off his pitching hand minutes after it looked like he was “back.”
  • Two fantastic years for the Giants capped by a phenomenal 2012 postseason.
  • His walk rate stayed the same in 2013.
  • He only allowed four home runs in the 11 starts after his injury.
  • He is beyond motivated (pissed is more like it) and gets a full offseason to prepare.

Reasons to worry:

  • Unlike Hudson, the track record is spotty.
  • Vogelsong’s velocity and strikeouts dropped noticeably in 2013.
  • He allowed more line drives in 2013 than in 2011-12.
  • He gave up 11 home runs over a seven-start span prior to injury.

So the positives outnumber the negatives 6-4. Great news, except the negatives are all facts and the positives contain more in the way of “hopes” and “feelings.”

Another positive of sorts: Vogelsong goes into 2014 as the clear fifth starter. That’s a far cry from last season, when he started the Giants’ fifth game of the season but was expected to perform like a No. 3. As a fifth starter, he could blow the doors off all expectations anyone could possibly have. Or we could be looking at Yusmeiro Petit more often than Bruce Bochy would probably like, both in relief of Vogelsong or as his eventual replacement in the rotation.

Same team?

With the rotation presumably nailed down, the Giants have to make some more moves to sort out left field and find better Marco Scutaro insurance than the oft-injured Tony Abreu. Whether or not they agree with this notion is anyone’s guess, but swapping Barry Zito for Hudson and leaving the rest of the team intact (save for a few peripheral departures at the end of the roster) is a recipe for more of the same listless play we saw throughout most of 2013.

Assuming Blanco gets most of the time in left field, the Giants will feature 2013’s starting lineup, 80% of the same rotation and essentially the same bullpen. This is an organization that prizes loyalty for reasons both on the field and in the AT&T Park stands, but hoping for better health and luck is no cure for complacency.