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Friday, November 22, 2013

Assessing the Giants' remaining needs

With the signing of Tim Hudson and the re-upping of Javier Lopez, the Giants have tackled two very key obstacles of their offseason over the last week. However, even with the two signings, the Giants are still in the market for at least two more additions; a fifth starter and hopefully another outfielder.

Although the Giants front-four of their rotation is set with the return of Tim Lincecum and arrival of Hudson, they still need to round it out with a fifth man. More than likely, they'll hammer something out with Ryan Vogelsong and bring him back on a deal that would guarantee him a much smaller base salary than the $6.5M he was set to receive, though packed with incentives that make that number reachable. I personally would like to see them aim higher though. I was partial to Josh Johnson, who identified the Giants as one of 3 or 4 teams he wanted to pitch for before signing with San Diego Wednesday. I'm well aware of the injury risk attached there, but he's just 29 and a true ace when his arm isn't broken. Anyway, time to move on to the next best, realistic target, who I believe is Dan Haren. Of course, Haren won't come cheaply either, but since the Giants are prioritizing their rotation, they could decide to throw another big, short-term deal at a starting pitcher and he'd seem like the most logical candidate to to that with now. I don't know about you, but given Haren's finish to last year and his history of success in this division, I'd certainly be content with a Cain-Bumgarner-Lincecum-Hudson-Haren rotation for the next season. A one-year, $10M deal with incentives and maybe an option year would be reasonable one the Giants side. I have no idea what he'll actually end up getting though after seeing Jason Vargas just get the deal he got.

The thing is, the Giants need to figure out how they'd like to spend their remaining free agent dollars. At this point with the way the market is shaping up, I think it makes more sense for them to stock up on pitching and that's the path it looks like they're taking. Outside of the top free agent outfielders who were offered qualifying deals by their teams and/or will get $50M+ deals, there just aren't any names that excite you or would provide a definitive everyday upgrade over Blanco.

I didn't mind the idea of bringing in Chris Young and having a speed/defensive platoon in left between he and Blanco, but not at the price he ended up signing for. Grant over at McCovey Chronicles mentions Franklin Gutierrez as a cheaper alternative to Chris Young . He was actually much more impressive than Young in '13, slugging .509 with 10 jacks in just 140 at-bats in Seattle last season. I'd probably lean towards him over his 2013 teammate Michael Morse, especially since he'd be cheaper. While Morse could give the Giants big right-handed power they need if he tapped back into his 2010-12 form, based on his 2013 season, they'd be better off letting Brett Pill share left with Blanco (if nothing else, he'd probably provide better defense than Morse). Still, Morse remains one of the few free agents out there I'd consider on one-year, prove yourself deal just because of the Giants' need for pop. Though based on what Young just got from the Mets (1 year/$7.25M) he's likely going to end up getting more than he should and in no way should they overpay for Michael Morse. He probably wouldn't want to come here to try and rebuild his offensive value anyway. Rajai Davis is out there too, and could give them a right-handed version of Gregor Blanco to platoon with the left-handed version. That combo wouldn't give you power, but the speed/defense aspect of it is at least intriguing.

A big reason for last seasons failures was because they lacked depth all over the place, and they must keep that in mind the rest of this offseason. They had a piss-poor bench in 2013 and it cost them when the likes of Pagan, Scutaro and Sandoval each missed periods of time. In addition to adding an outfielder, they really should aim to add another bat for some infield depth. A name that's intriguing for that role is Kevin Youkilis. He was basically obsolete in 2013 with injuries, but should be a go for 2014 at a huge discount. He's a guy who rakes left-handed pitching and can play both corner infield spots which would leave Arias to focus on the middle.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Giants sign Tim Hudson to two-year deal

If you've been following the hot-stove rumors the last couple of days, your no stranger to the fact that the Giants were very interested in Tim Hudson, and interested in getting something done quickly with him. It looks like they succeeded in both facets.

Reports have just started to break that the Giants and the 38 year-old right-hander have come to terms on a two-year deal worth $23 million, landing the Giants an arm they targeted early in the offseason. The move has not yet been made official at the time of writing this, and I'm sure Huddy will have to pass some sort of physical, but it's looking like 4/5 of the Giants rotation is now secure. Hudson is coming off an injury shortened year in which he started 21 games, went 8-7 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. That ERA was inflated by two bad starts in May, which if you take away has his ERA down around 3.15. Nonetheless, the main concern for him is how he'll rebound after he went down in July with the broken ankle. Going by his recent track record though, all signs point to the Giants getting quality value. In his previous 3 years before 2013, he went 49-26 with a 3.19 ERA and 1.17 WHIP while leading a very good Braves staff. Huddy will likely come into San Francisco and become the 3rd or 4th guy, which makes him even more valuable. There are just a lot of things to like about this move. Had he finished out the season pitching the way he was, he'd probably have finished off with 15+ wins again, and would be seeking a contract significantly north of what he signed for.

Again, this deal certainly comes with some risk. On top of the broken ankle rehab, there's really no telling on when a 38 year-old pitcher with Hudson's mileage will start breaking down. Also, you could point to the fact that the Braves just let him walk without much of a fight after he's been such a stalwart for them the last decade. That may raise some flags. All in all though, I think the Giants did their homework and made a good decisions here. In addition to getting a quality mid-rotation starter, there's the mentor factor as well. Huddy should provide a stable sounding board for the younger guys on this staff. I could especially see him being beneficial being around Lincecum, who's having to learn how to pitch without that 95 MPH fastball he won his Cy Young's with, something Hudson has experience doing with success.

Double thumbs up to Sabes for getting this done so soon. Solid number 3 starter with the ability to start a big playoff game as well as a great clubhouse guy and leader for this young staff! So long as he avoids any freak accidents, he should be a solid bet for 190+ innings, a sub-4 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP with solid peripherals.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Targeting an outfielder via trade?

We know the Giants' first and foremost priority this winter is to fill out their two remaining rotation spots with arms that will help significantly improve upon last season's starting five, which posted a combined ERA north of 4.50. They still, however, must improve their offense, which also ranked amongst the league's lowest in run production.

Now, we've talked extensively about some starting pitchers the Giants should, are and may be pursuing in the coming days/weeks, but we haven't really discussed some of the offensive options yet. Jacoby Ellsbury would be exciting, Nelson Cruz and Curtis Granderson would bring tons of power, and Carlos Beltran would really be the ideal fit, but none of those guys are realistic for the Giants with their pitching needs. There are some second-tier right-handed bats that would pose serviceable fall-back options as platoon partners for Blanco if the Giants run out of money, but they really should be aiming higher. Since they aren't really in the market for one of those top outfielders though, their best bet would be scour the trade market. As much as I agree with prioritizing the rotation, they simply cannot forget about the outfield this time around cause we all saw how the Andres Torres/Blanco/Peguero/Francoeur platoon worked last year. However, if it comes down to that, and the Giants' only viable option is to sign an outfielder to a short-term deal, I think Chris Young should be near the top of the 2nd-tiere outfielder list. At 30 years of age, he's a good candidate to rebound, and is a guy who can hit for power, provide speed, take some walks and absolutely dominate the outfield defensively. If he hits over .250 with all those tools, he'll end up being one of the steals of the offseason.

Corey Hart is another guy who's intriguing just because of his monster power and expected low price tag, but of course he comes with major risks seeing as he's had both knees operated on in the last 12 months. His outfield days may be behind him, but if the Giants feel he can handle first base on a daily basis, his 30-HR potential may drive them to move Brandon Belt out into left field.

The more you examine the outfield situation with the Giants, the more sense it would make to upgrade via the trade market. Not a huge blockbuster deal, but maybe one along the lines of the Angel Pagan deal they made two years ago, or when they swapped Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera that offseason. At the time, both were impact moves, but none that shook up the farm system and cost the Giants a bunch of top prospects. Guys coming off down or injury-plagued years (who are good bets to rebound) or arbitration eligible players do for raises would seem like the Giants' market. I don't really know which players will be available yet, but a couple of guys who may be out there are Drew Stubbs, B.J. Upton, Josh Willingham and Alejandro De Aza. The outfielder who's seemingly always on the market and one I've always liked is Dexter Fowler. I don't know if the Rockies are willing to deal him inner-division, and I know a lot of his damage has been done at Coors, but this guy's got some legit talent and could really be a superstar-caliber player if he just stays healthy for 150 games.

Whether it be a slight upgrade via free agency, or something they do through the trade market, I fully expect them to address left field with more urgency than last year. They felt like they could skate by getting solid defense and minimal offense in left because they won a World Series with a Blanco-Pagan-Pence outfield. I guess they failed to realize they had a .350 hitting Melky Cabrera that helped get them to the playoffs there for most the season though. Hopefully they don't make the same mistake this time around.

Rumor Segment: If you've been on twitter, listened to KNBR or checked up on any of the Giants websites Saturday, then you know the Giants are reportedly one of the teams in on Ricky Nolasco. If that's true, I certainly hope they aren't one of the teams offering him one of the four supposed 4-year deals he's got on the table. Again, I like Nolasco, he's a nice 3 and very good 4 should Lincecum regain form, but again, I go no more than 3 years and $12M/per.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, November 15, 2013

Giants Should Target Haren, Johnson

Although there hasn't been any notable free agency signings to date, things are certain to pick up before Thanksgiving, and it may be in the Giants' best interest to strike early in their attempt to fill the void in their rotation.

The reason I believe it would be wise for San Francisco to strike early, especially in the starting pitching market is because all it will take is one of the top 6-7 pitchers to sign to set the market, and the numbers I'm hearing for some guys are pretty steep. This thought was validated earlier Friday when reports broke that Ricky Nolasco has multiple 4-year offers on the table at the moment, said to be worth between $13-$15M per year annually (I really hope the Giants are not on that list). Although it could just be posturing by his agent, it's very likely this will be the case. I listed our top-10 free agent starters last post and thought a 3-year, $36 million deal would be about as far as I'd go with Nolasco, but if he ends up getting 4 years and $60M, it's going to hamper what the Giants are able to do with other starting targets. I mean, $15M a year for a guy who's been a career-long number four is pretty ridiculous and if that's what the going rate has become for a slightly above-average pitcher, then the Giants may have tough sledding ahead. It's looking more and more likely there best bet will be to get a couple of guys on short-term, prove yourself deals, which is kind of what I was expecting all along.

The three names that keep popping up under those terms are Tim Hudson, Dan Haren and of course, Bronson Arroyo. I would take Hudson and Haren over Arroyo any day, and Arroyo is the most likely of the 3 to get 2+ years in a deal, so hopefully that prices him out of the Giants range. Huddy, on the other hand, could become a real possibility, and the rumors regarding him leaving Atlanta and possibly heading West have become more rampant over the last week. Haren is the guy I like best of the three though, and wouldn't be opposed to a one-year, $12M deal with some incentives built in and a mutual option on a 2nd. The other guy I still like, although he hasn't really been linked to the Giants at all yet, is Josh Johnson. If the Giants had to take two guys on one-year, incentive laden deals I'd like it to be Johnson and Haren. The reason being is because both are potential 1-2 starters when on and I still think both have plenty left in the tank. Johnson would be highly motivated to bounce back, and AT&T Park could be just the place for him to do it. I mean, if he's  healthy for 32 starts pitching at AT&T for the Giants, I could easily see him posting career-type numbers, which could lead to an epic deal next offseason. He had a horrible year in a switch to a new league in the hitters paradise that is the Rogers Centre, but had he been coming off any other season of his career (even his other injury-shortened ones), he'd be getting $100M+. There's certainly risk there, but the potential reward is well worth it.

Extras: As far as the Giants' own free agents, there hasn't been any more progress to report on with Javier Lopez and Ryan Vogelsong. Of the two, I would expect Lopez to have the better shot at returning. I could see Vogey coming back as well, but only if the Giants landed one of the bigger fish like Matt Garza to really upgrade the rotation the way they should be... Also, the Giants are apparently serious about bringing Brian Wilson back to town, though I was under the impression the two parted on sub-par terms. That aside, he'd be a great addition to the pen, and could possibly put Romo back into his 8th inning role, where I think he was the best in baseball in '11 and '12. Then again, the Giants have more pressing concerns at the moment and Weezy's probably gonna want a guaranteed closers role. Francisco Rodriguez may not be a bad, lower-budget option as insurance for Romo though after an impressive '13.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, November 07, 2013

A glance at the free-agent outfielders

On Monday, we listed the top starting pitchers that are on the open market this winter, which is going to be a key area seeing as the Giants have two rotation spots to fill. Although their need in the outfield isn't quite as drastic, it's an area that must be upgraded if they're serious about making another run in 2014.

Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are aware of this though. They themselves have stated they'd like to upgrade the outfield, at least in the form of a right-handed hitting left-fielder to at least platoon with Gregor Blanco. Ideally, they can bring in someone well-rounded enough to allow Blanco to be the fourth outfielder. Last season, rolling with Blanco and Torres in left field did not work out well at all and it really shouldn't have surprised anyone. The problem is, there just aren't a lot of outfield options that pose obvious upgrades outside of the top-five free agents. Of course, those guys likely are out of the Giants' price range. They may be better off trading for an outfielder like they did with Pagan and Cabrera in 2011, despite their bare minor league system. Regardless, below are the top outfield options on this years market, a less than inspiring list that nose-dives after the top-five:

1) Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston: He would be a good fit for any team looking to win, but he's the top outfielder on the market and will command upwards of $120M. With two starting pitchers also needed, that puts him well out of the Giants' range.

2) Curtis Granderson, New York: Grandy is interesting because he's got intriguing left-handed power. He's coming off a down year, so he'll be on a slight discount. He's also a very good outfielder and no slouch on the base-paths. I'd have no qualms if the Giants pursued him, mainly cause he's one of the few legit power bats on the market. Though I don't think they can afford to give him the $80M+ he'll likely get and lose their 14th overall draft pick in the process.

3) Shin Soo-Choo, Cincinnati: The multi-talented outfielder isn't a star, but he's a very solid player. He may get $100M+ and even though he's a very good player, I don't think he's worth it. I take Pence over him, just to give you an idea where he would have graded out on the open market.

4) Nelson Cruz, Texas: Cruz obviously comes with some baggage do to his recent suspension and ties with PED's. However, put that aside and you have the most explosive right-handed outfielder on the market. I don't think the Giants will get involved, both because his PED history as well as the price tag being too big, but you can't help but think of what a perfect fit he would be in left field and hitting fifth behind Pence and Posey.

5) Carlos Beltran, St. Louis: He too would be a great fit on a one, maybe two-year deal, but he's had his run in San Francisco and is highly unlikely to return. That being said, take away that 2011 trade and he would have made too much sense for the Giants not to pursue, especially since he will take a short-term deal.

6) Marlon Byrd, Pittsburgh: Talk about a significant fall-off after the top-5! Byrd too has some ties to PED use and is coming off a career year at age 35 which makes you wonder. However, on a short-term, reasonable deal, he may be just the right-handed guy the Giants will be looking at this winter. His .291/24/88 line likely won't be repeated, but he's a viable candidate to hit 15-20 jacks, bat around .280 while playing solid defense as a full-timer. On a 2 year deal in the $8-10M/year range, he may not be a bad option, but you better do your homework to make sure this guy is clean and be certain he'll avoid suspension on your watch.

7) Corey Hart, Milwaukee: Talk about a roll-of-the-dice. Hart will almost certainly sign a one-year, make well deal after missing all of 2013, and he may not even be able to play the outfield everyday at this point. However, if the Giants think he can handle some left, and maybe some first base, they may take a long look at him seeing as his right-handed bat would play well in their park.

8) Chris Young, Oakland: Young struggled mightily this past season in Oakland, to the tune of a .204 average and .659 OPS while also seeing his defense take a bit of a hit. Hitting for average has never been his strong suit, (.246 career before his disastrous '13), but I can only see him improving next year. He's just 30 years old and still very much in his prime. He may be worth a look seeing as he'll likely be pretty cheap and comes with the potential to hit 20+ jacks, steal 25+ bases and play gold-glove caliber defense in the outfield, even if it comes with a .250'ish average. If not, he's a more than capable 4th outfielder.

9) Michael Morse, Baltimore: Morse is another guy, like Young, I could see the Giants entertaining on the cheap. They could take a look at his first two months of last season when he was getting regular playing time (.258, 11 HR, 21 RBI in April and May) and then at the previous 3 seasons in which he put up above-average numbers and think last seasons fall-off was an aberration and injury-related.

10) Jason Kubel, Arizona: Like Young and Morse had a forgettable 2013 campaign and will be looking to sign a make-good short-term deal. He did, after all, go 30/90 for Arizona just one season ago. Ideally, I wouldn't mind taking both Kubel and Young, and letting them platoon in left while letting Blanco be the fifth outfielder. At least one of them is bound to return to form, and my guess is both improve drastically on last seasons misfortunes. It might make sense for the Giants to bring in two guys coming off bad years on the cheap, like Morse and Kubel, or Young and Kubel, in hopes that one regains form. It's either that, spring for one of the top-5 names or trade for somebody even though the farm system is extremely thin at the moment.

Best of the Rest: Nate McLouth, Baltimore; David Murphy, Texas; Delmon Young, Tampa Bay; Tyler Colvin, Colorado, Kelly Johnson, Tampa Bay
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Monday, November 04, 2013

A glance at the starting pitching market

Monday marked the deadline in which teams could offer free agents a qualifying deal for 2014, and it's a day that very much will dictate the way the Giants go about this offseason.

The Giants didn't have any significant free agents who they had to consider giving the offer to, seeing as they already got Lincecum and Pence done long before the deadline. They did, however, come to an official
decision regarding Ryan Vogelsong's 2014 option of $6.5M. As expected, the Giants declined the option, though they've made it clear they'd like to bring Vogey back at a reduced price. With that news though, the Giants now officially have two open rotation spots, and if they're really planning on upgrading from 2013's sub-par performance, they're likely going to have to bring in some new blood. I wouldn't mind seeing Vogey back, but maybe as a long reliever/emergency starter, in much of the same role Chad Gaudin carried in 2013. The only way I take Vogey back as a sure fire #5 is if the Giants can land a legit #3 in free agency, thus making Lincecum the #4. Only 3 starting pitchers were extended qualifying offers, so the Giants will have some options out there without needing to part with a one of their top draft picks.

Here is the list I've compiled of the top-10 free agent starters. Most likely, the top 4-5 guys on the list will be out of the Giants price range, either because of draft pick compensation, monetary demands or both.

#1 Masahiro Tanaka, RHP Japan: The 25 year-old went 24-0 in Japan last season with a 1.27 ERA and will be the most intriguing free agent starter on the market this winter. Though he's definitely a roll-of-the-dice like any free agent coming in from another country, he's got top of the rotation ability and will likely be significantly out of the Giants price range. I've been hearing he could get 5 years in the $15M/per range and will take at least a $55M+ posting fee. He's clearly talented, but that's a huge gamble for a guy who's never pitched an inning in the big leagues.

#2 Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP Cleveland: Jimenez is really the guy I was hoping wouldn't get the offer, but unfortunately he did. He had a 1.83 ERA and 100 K's after the all-star break last year, and has regained the form that made him an ace in Colorado. He could decide to accept the $14.1M offer from Cleveland in hopes of building off last seasons re-found success and really cashing in next winter. If he explores the market, he could get upwards of $80-90 million over 5 seasons.

#3 Ervin Santana, RHP Kansas City: Santana likely had no chance of ever really signing in San Francisco. He's been an AL pitcher his whole career and now is really out of the picture as he was offered a contract by KC anyway. He's got talent and when he's on, he's a legit 2, but he likely stays in the AL.

#4 Matt Garza, RHP Texas: Garza is the best starter that didn't get a qualifying offer, due to his mid-season trade. He didn't overly impress with Texas after the trade from Chicago, so he may not have been offered it even had he been eligible, but he is a legit #3 with the ability to carry a staff when he's on (just look at that stretch he had with Chicago before his trade last season). The market for that type of arm in his age-range (30 years old) is about $17-18 million per year. He's going to be high on a lot of teams list because he won't cost a pick, and won't likely fall into the Giants' plans, but he's definitely a guy to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. I'd be perfectly content with a three years at that price, possibly even four, but chances are some team will go five and it won't be the Giants.

#5 Ricky Nolasco, RHP Los Angeles: Now we're starting to get into the class in which the Giants may be players. Nolasco was on their radar before he was dealt to LA, but he'll likely be one of the guys the Giants inquire about. He's an above-average starter with good stuff though not a top of the rotation talent. He gives you consistent innings, has stayed relatively healthy and has been a winning pitcher throughout his career (89-75), despite pitching for some bad Marlins teams. I wouldn't go more than 3 years and $36M with the 31 year-old right-hander.

#6 A.J. Burnett/Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Pittsburgh/New York: I clump these two together because both are almost certain to stay put. The 37 year-old Burnett is coming off a great year in Pittsburgh, but he's getting up there in age and has stated he'd rather retire than pitch for an organization other than Pittsburgh at this time. He'd be worth a 1-2 year gamble if they could convince him to come out West, but it makes too much sense for both parties for him to stick in Pittsburgh. Same can be said for Kuroda and the Yankees, though he has a better chance at leaving than Burnett. Neither are options for the Giants, as Kuroda was extended an offer from New York anyway.


#7 Tim Hudson, RHP Atlanta: You can almost put Huddy in the category with Burnett and Kuroda, as he's unlikely to leave Atlanta. That being said, if he does, the Giants would appear to be a nice fit on a short-term deal. Hudson was hurt and missed the end of last season, but he should be healthy for 2014. On a one-year deal with incentives, I'd take him, but chances are he stays in ATL.

#8 Bronson Arroyo, RHP Cincinnati: Arroyo has been linked to the Giants since early in the season when he had nothing but glowing remarks about the city of San Francisco and how it would be among his top destinations should he leave Cinci. I personally hope the Giants go another route, as I think Arroyo is really more of a back-end of the rotation starter than a front-end one, though he's likely to get paid closer to a #2 than a 4 or 5. That being said, I think of these top-10 starters, he's the most likely to wind up in the Bay Area. His 2013 season was impressive and it's going to earn him more than a 37 year-old pitcher who's been just a hair above-average throughout his career should to get. I think the Giants can do better than Arroyo,and I wouldn't offer more than 2 years at $10-12M per if they can't.

#9 Dan Haren, RHP Washington: Haren is interesting because he's had so much success in the past, but is coming off such a roller coaster couple of seasons. He'd definitely be worth a one-year deal with plenty of incentives and is a candidate to bounce back in 2014 in the right environment. He is just 2 years removed from a 16-10, 3.17 ERA, 238-inning season in 2011, though he was a bit off in 2012 and the first part of '13. My guess is he gets back to his 15-win form and posts an ERA in the high 3's rather than 4's in 2014, and should be on the Giants radar as a potential 4th or 5th man. A one-year, $10M deal with incentives built in and maybe even an option on a 2nd year would be completely reasonable on both sides.

#10 Josh Johnson, RHP Toronto: Rounding out the top-10 is a guy who has the ability to lead this list if healthy. Josh Johnson was not extended an offer from Toronto, and in turn should be near the top of the list for the Giants if they decide to roll the dice on a pitcher bouncing back in '14. Despite coming off an injury-riddled down year, he's shown the ability to be a true ace when he's on the field and healthy, plus he's still just 29 years old. Problem is, he's rarely on the field and healthy. Of all the guys on this list though, he's the highest potential risk/reward signing of the bunch and may just be a risk worth taking in the Giants' case. He's another guy worth a 1-year gamble at $10M with big incentives, like starts and innings, built in that are very reachable should he just stay healthy for 25+ starts.

Injury/Baggage Long Shots: Roy Halladay RHP, Johan Santana LHP, Bartolo Colon RHP

Best of the Rest: Scott Kazmir LHP, Scott Feldman RHP, Jason Vargas LHP, Ryan Vogelsong RHP,  Phil Hughes RHP, Scott Baker RHP, Jason Hammel RHP
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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