That halfhearted goodbye I wrote to Ryan Vogelsong a few days back was a bit premature, as the Giants reportedly signed the starter to a one-year deal after things fell through with the Astros. It’s for $4 million plus performance bonuses, according to Henry Schulman. I’m not sure what happened in Houston, where Vogelsong supposedly traveled to get a physical, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a last-gasp effort by the Giants proved impossible to resist in the end.
The Astros thing always seemed weird, to the point where I figured they must have offered a two-year deal to entice Vogelsong. Mostly because Brian Sabean was still in pursuit, but also because Vogelsong is used to winning World Series (good luck doing that in Houston) and the Giants are his team. He started here. He had a choice to sign with the Dodgers and Giants before the 2011 season, and according to Vogelsong it was never a choice at all.
This is a clear example of Vogelsong being a member of the Giants family, as families can have disagreements, spats, even periods of separation, but they almost always find ways to resolve those problems and get back together. Remember a year ago, when the Giants bought out Vogelsong’s last year, and he spent weeks on the market before finally signing a one-year pact for 2014? As it turned out, Vogelsong ended up making more money through the incentives on that deal than he would’ve made if the Giants had picked up his option.
Here’s what he told me during media day last February:
“I’m really happy to be back. There’s really nowhere else I wanted to be other than here. It was a little shaky there for a while, and it was upsetting, you know? Not because I was really that mad about what was going on, but there’s just an emotional connection with me and this place because of what I’ve been through and the comeback here. And the fans, the way the fans are with me and the connection I have with them. It was almost like I was breaking up with a girlfriend. It was tough.”
And once again, after another “break,” the Giants and Vogelsong are going out again.
The good news
Vogelsong won’t be confused with an ace-type pitcher like Max Scherzer or James Shields, two pitchers who’ll be making crazy money well into their 30s (and come with the requirement of surrendering a first round draft pick), or Cole Hamels (who everyone wants and would come with the requirement of absolutely gutting the farm system, and the Phillies would probably want a young major leaguer or two as well).
But in watching Vogelsong’s starts closely throughout the season, he was a valuable contributor. He made every start, gave up more than four runs just three times (twice in Colorado), and his numbers didn’t reflect his stuff. And even if you don’t give Vogelsong the benefit of the doubt that he had an inordinate number of things not go his way in 2014, there’s value in a 4.00-ERA pitcher who gives the team 184.2 innings.
The bad news
Either the Giants are proactively seeking depth so they don’t have to make a Jake Peavy-like deal in July (which would be smart), or they’re worried about the future availability of Matt Cain and/or Tim Hudson, who had surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle three weeks ago.
Cain is coming off surgeries to his elbow and ankle. The elbow is more worrisome, but he’s had a long time to recover and removing bone chips isn’t on the same level as a Tommy John procedure. Hudson frequently mentioned the difficulties caused by his previous ankle surgery, in that he was forced to play his way into shape during Spring Training. The hope was that his conditioning would be comparatively better this February, but an eight-week recovery period will actually give him less time to get ready for the regular season.
But hey, now they have five guys who can start other than Cain or Hudson (Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy, Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, Yusmeiro Petit), because the worst course of action would involve rushing either pitcher back. We saw how Hudson flamed out at the end of last year, so starting his season in mid-April or later probably wouldn’t be so terrible.
Plus, it just wouldn’t have been the same without Vogelsong. Two memories from the latest championship run that keep popping up in my head come from the clubhouse scene after the Giants clinched the NLDS. Vogelsong pitched 5.2 strong innings, and afterward Pence asked him to give the team’s “YES! YES! YES!” speech.
A little while later, I saw Vogelsong and the hero of all heroes, Madison Bumgarner, in an embrace. We’re talking about a looooonnnng embrace, at least a minute, chest to chest, gut to gut. This wasn’t a slap-on-the-back “man hug,” this was the embrace of two guys who clearly would fight for one another. We also saw Bumgarner reach out to Vogelsong in the bullpen during Game 7.
Some believe that chemistry is just something people talk about after teams win, but after seeing this stuff up close you can never convince me that this is true. Never ever ever. It’s a big reason why the Warriors are obliterating teams right now, but that’s a basketball digression for a different time.
He punctuated his parade speech with “Vogey out!” Now he’s back in, and both Vogelsong and the Giants will be better for it.