If you’re a Giants fan, and you’re looking forward to a huge splurge this offseason on a starting pitcher like David Price or Zack Greinke, or even Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto, prepare for a disappointing winter.
I already alluded to this, in a story about Kelby Tomlinson’s role in 2016:
The Giants’ pitching staff needs some retooling between November and March. At the very least, they’ll need to either re-sign Mike Leake or go after another starter. Perhaps they’ll pursue someone even more expensive than Leake, like David Price, Zack Greinke, Jordan Zimmerman or Johnny Cueto. (Note: they’re totally going to re-sign Leake.)
I get the optimism, or at least the perceived sense of urgency.
- The Giants’ rotation problems plagued them throughout this injury-marred season, as their decision to go with Madison Bumgarner, several No. 4 and 5 starter-types, and lots and lots of hope, contributed to the win/loss record we’re seeing now in September.
- They’ve got money. Oh, they’ve got money. If you think the Giants are rich now, just wait until their ambitious Mission Rock project really starts humming.
- Yes, 2016 would appear to be an even year.
Grant Brisbee went through the Giants’ estimated 2016 payroll, and with raises to some of the arbitration guys and assuming the Giants pick up Nori Aoki’s option and Marlon Byrd’s option vests (which looks like a near-lock unless they find some way to bench him over the next few weeks), their current obligations add up to about $156 million. By his calculations, that would give the Giants somewhere close to $34 million to spend on starting pitching if they raised their payroll by 10% from this year’s figure (a little over $172 million), and over $42 million if they raise it by 15%.
Price and Greinke are going to get $25 million per year, perhaps more. Price is 30, Greinke is 32. Zimmermann, 30, will probably reach $20M/year or close to it, and we can probably assume the same for Cueto (who’s 30 as well). In fact, since Leake is one of the few 28-year-olds set to hit the market (the others are Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Mat Latos), he might get higher offers than most would predict, to the point where the Giants might re-sign Leake, add a fifth/sixth starter type (Vogey?) for depth, bring in a bench piece or a reliever via free agency, and call it an offseason.
Along with all of that, here’s why I don’t see the Giants offering up some crazy-huge deal for Price or the others.
— Larry Baer wasn’t too keen on the Giants pursuing Jon Lester. He doesn’t think giving long, expensive contracts to starters in their 30s makes sense. Maybe that’s why the Giants offered a backloaded deal to Lester, which probably made his decision to sign with an old friend, Theo Epstein, that much easier.
— The Giants have to feel like they dodged some bullets. Lester hasn’t pitched like an ace this year, Max Scherzer’s second half ERA is 5.12, and the Padres would love for someone to take James Shields off their hands.
— The Giants would rather not pay luxury tax penalties.
— Barry Zito’s contract.
— Matt Cain’s contract.
— The Giants will give Cain every opportunity to win comeback player of the year next season. So the rotation will be Madison Bumgarner, Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston, and someone else. Clayton Blackburn won the ERA title in the Pacific Coast League, so one has to wonder how long they’ll let him stay down there. Either way, only one spot is truly available unless Cain or Peavy incur a serious injury and/or they completely lose faith in Heston.
To summarize, the only way the Giants go after a true No. 1 is if they don’t re-sign Leake, and they’ve already made it clear that they very much want to re-sign Leake. That’s not just based on what Bruce Bochy and Bobby Evans have said, either. The Giants spoke with their actions when they sent a pretty good pitching prospect to the Reds at the deadline. Even if they do feel comfortable spending $42.5 million in 2016 (I’m skeptical, but it could happen), on top of what they’re already obligated to pay, that probably wouldn’t allow them to sign Leake AND one of the top four starters available. Also, would the Giants dare ink two pitchers to lucrative five-year contracts in the same offseason, with Cain still owed $49.5 million over the next two seasons?
Prediction: The Giants sign Leake to a five-year, $85 million contract while doing their best to boost the price (OK, pun probably intended) other teams will need to pay to land the big names. That’s what they did during the trade deadline, and with three titles in five years and nightly sellouts in their future, it’s hard to envision what might influence them to change course this winter.
Note: If the Giants do break the bank for a starter in his 30s, I will delete this post. So make sure to get screenshots while you can!