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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Hot Stove Heating Up: Starters a Premiuim

With the first two big offseason signings in the books and the Winter Meetings just around the corner, things are about to really start heating up on the baseball hot stove front.

That first big signing of the winter involved a guy the Giants had firmly on their radar, and a guy they sorely could have used to help head their rotation with Madison Bumgarner. Instead of heading out west though, power-righty Jordan Zimmermann choose to ink a five-year deal with the Detroit Tigers as they attempt to fill the void they never were able to after Max Scherzer left. Zimmerman was a guy I really had hoped they'd target because I knew he would be significantly cheaper than David Price and Zach Grienke but not to the extent we're seeing. David Price just inked a ridiculous 7/$217M deal with the Red Sox as they try and right their ship after a very disappointing 2015 campaign. Now I like David Price and lefties like him don't come around too often but he's not even the best left-handed starter in the game and the dude is set to rake in 30+ big ones per summer. Now it should be mighty interesting to see what Zach Grienke, a guy who is as much on the Giants radar as any team in baseball's, ends up fetching in light of the massive Price deal. I was thinking after seeing Zimmerman's deal, Price would maybe max out at 7 year/$175M at highest but I didn't expect to see him crack the $200M mark.

So, the thing most people reading this article are concerned about at this point is what this all means for the Giants and their chances of landing one of those last two "aces" remaining on the free agent market. Well, first off all, as much as I like Grienke and think he'd be brilliant lined up with MadBum atop the Giants rotation, I just don't see the Giants giving the guy over $200 million after they've gone 0-3 with their last multi-year, big dollar deals for starting pitches (Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain) and it hasn't even been close. Now, I'm not saying that I wouldn't be ecstatic to bring Grienke in, it's not my money and I think he alone, even if they didn't make another single significant addition (outside of filling in left) would be enough to make this team World Series contenders heading in. Shoot, he and Clayton Kershaw basically themselves we almost enough to carry the Dodgers all the way the last couple of years but in the end, the Dodgers just find ways to lose big games, but Grienke did more than enough on his end. I see exactly why he's appealing and I'm right with the people that want him in the orange in black. Problem is, every team in baseball wants him on their team and most other teams don't have a Madison Bumgarner and NEED a number one and may very well end up giving Grienke up around $300 million, so I think the Price deal may have priced him out of the Giants range.

So, that being said, while I'm keeping tabs on Grienke, I would also be moving some focus over on a guy who I've always really enjoyed watching throw when he's healthy and while he may not quite be on Grienke's level, he's about as good as they come from the right side when all things are clicking. I'm sure that if your familiar with the free-agent arms out there you already know where I'm going here and that is to Mr. Johnny Cueto. His health issues and past do certainly raise major red flags, however, the 29 year-old has sported a 2.71 ERA over the last 5 seasons while pitching the majority of his games at Great American Ballpark and the bandboxes spread throughout the NL Central. He's the guy who can go on a streak and go 14-2 to start a year and sport a crazy 1.25 ERA or something like that and has the ability to be a true ace when on. If they could maybe get him under a similar deal as the Tigers got Zimmerman (5/$110) I would definitely roll with that. Keep in mind that the Giants have Pagan's $10M  along with Peavy's $12M both coming off next year and also Cainer's deal expiring after the 2017 season which will be a huge reprieve as well. So, while the Giants do and/or will have some big money invested in guys like Posey, Pence, Bum and raises for Belt, Crawford and Duffy on the horizon, they'll still have plenty freeing up as well.

Of course, with Cueto's history of injury, the Giants would have to run all sorts of test on him, maybe even having a few different doctors give him psychical examinations and not just their own team doctors. The one thing that does worry me about Cueto is that I remember a couple years back in the NLDS when he made a start at AT&T and apparently the cold whether caused his back to tighten up which ousted him from the game and allowed the Giants to end up winning a game in which Cueto was nails when he was in there. So, I'm not sure how he'd handle pitching those breezy, chilly nights on the bay but I'd bet that spacious AT&T Park would alleviate any weather concerns. He was kinda Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with KC last year as he really was miserable after the trade (13 S, 4-7, 4.76 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 56 K in 81 IP). However, he turned it on in October, sans one terrible outing vs. Toronto, only to follow it up with a complete game 2-hitter vs. the Mets to really help put the dagger in them.

All in all, I'd definitely take Cueto back in the NL and in a spacious yard like AT&T and I'd even give him a little more than Zimmerman just got. However, I only do that if, like he said, he passes like 5 different doctors physicals and the Giants are assured he's 100% heading into spring. Ideally, I'd try and get him to byte one something in the four-year range but your probably looking close to the 5yr/$125M range if I had to guess. Somewhere in that neighborhood at least. I mean, once Grienke signs, it's gonna be all eyes on Cueto, so if he's smart he's gonna wait for just that. I know it's a long shot, but I'd be thrilled with a MadBum/Cueto 1-2 punch.

Now, of course, even if the Giants did get a Cueto or somehow finagled a Grinke out of the grasps of the Dodgers, Tigers, Cubbies or any other team with big revenues and could make a play at any given time, they still don't have anyone penciled into left field and only have Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Chris Heston as guys who are locks for the 2016 rotation. In other words, their work would be far from finished even with a big signing like that just cause they have 3 other pressing needs. If they are able to get a big dollar guy like Grienke or Cueto then I would look for that second starter to be a lower-tiere guy to slot into the fifth spot behind Heston. Sabean and the brass all said they were making rebuilding the rotation a priority this season which is why I'm really hoping they can get either Greinke or Cueto but there are still a nice amount of 2nd-tiere arms that would probably fit great towards the back-end of the rotation and wouldn't cost an arm and a leg.

A few of the guys I like and would love in the 3rd, 4th or 5th spot (taking into account a solid number 2 were added as well) are Jeff Samadjiza and Yovani Gallardo. Samardzija has that lights out stuff when on and would be a nice dice roll for on a one-year make good deal, or something along those lines. Gallardo, though, has turned into a little more of a finesse guy these last two seasons and straight dealt in Texas in 2015. He's only 29 himself and based on his history and his durability he's a guy that would appear to be a safe bet, but his K rate has dropped dramatically each of the last 5 seasons and that usually is a sign of a decrease in stuff. Scott Kazmir, Wie-Yen Chen, Ian Kennedy and of course, Mike Leake pretty much round out the group of the 2nd-tiere guys along with some of the highly anticipated imports led by 27 year-old Yu Darvish/Masahiro Tanaka protege, Kenta Maeda. However, the Giants haven't gone big in the international market and if they ever do I believe it will be a hitter they pursue.

Now, of course, we're just hit the very tip of the ice berg in terms of free agent/hot stove discussion. I know the Giants are heavy in the Zach Grienke sweepstakes at the moment and things will probably start picking up and falling into place a lot more once he finds a home, especially on the pitching front. As excited as the idea of Grienke leaving LA for SF, I just wouldn't hold my breath on that happening, but I also wouldn't be surprised. The Giants came into this offseason saying they intended on spending money if the right opportunities presented themselves and that tells me they indeed have some plans on making some splashes. Also, do remember that if Grinke does re-sign with LA tomorrow and Johnny Cueto lands with someone else too like Texas or Toronto and they aren't able to find their number two arm via free agency, they very well could delve into the trade market where they don't necessarily have a ton of ammo to use, but they have some depth in a few areas and have enough to package together quality to get an arm that could help them. James Shields and Andrew Cashner from San Diego, Jose Quintana and Chris Sale from the ChiSox then Carlos Carrasco, just to name a few.Shields and Cashner would proabably be most attainable although they are inner-division guys so that could be tricky.

It's a fun time of year, certainly one of my favorite. Its the building block stages of putting together squads for the upcoming season and things are about to really start heating up. And just to show how trending the starting pitching market it, we've put together a bit of a longer column than we usually post and didn't even touch on any of the positional of bullpen guys the Giants could pursue over the next few weeks. They don't need much on the positional front, but need a left-fielder (and preferably one that plays everyday, none of that platoon stuff, it's for losing team). We'll talk some of those names in our next post probably sometime this weekend at some point, unless of course something big happens and draws me back sooner.

Roster Notes: The Giants did not tender deals for 2016 to couple players who played significant reserve roles with the club the last few years, including one that was instrumental in their World Series victor in 2014. RHP Yusmiero Petit, who went 3-0 in the 2014 postseason when the Giants were struggling to get anything from their starters outside of MadBum, and the Giants have parted ways. Also, C Hector Sanchez were both DFA'd Wednesday which isn't a huge surprise. Andrew Sussac has flown by him on the depth chart and Aramis Garcia is also inching closer toward forcing his way into the mix.

NEW: Also, we're going to add a new little feature to this years offseason posts. In each post, we'll update the remaining free agents/trade targets that we here at The Giants Baseball Blog would target if we were Sabean/Evans and Co., so here's what it will look like and it will always be posted at the end of posts.

*Updated Giants Free-Agent Wish List (The Giants Baseball Blog Edition)* 
1. SP Zach Greinke
2. SP Johnny Cueto
3. OF Justin Upton
4. OF Jayson Heyward
5. OF Yeonis Cespedes
6. SP Jeff Samardzia
7. OF Ben Zobrist
8. SP Scott Kazmir
9. OF Alex Gordon
10. OF Dexter Fowler
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 4:52 AM, Anonymous WhatsGoodSF said…

    Cueto! Right now Sabes, do it!!! then sign someone like Buerhle to be the five to a 1 year and then bring in either Justin Upton or Heyward and thats how were gonna get back to the playoffs and get number 4.

  • At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Dude Cueto looses like 4 games a year tops before last year. I hear questions about his workload and shoulder but of course they'd have to check that out. I'd feel confortable for 3 years/$75M maybe but not 5r/125.. I just fear he'd fall into Cain's trap a year or two in and just fall off just cuz his workload is so similar to Mattys at their age.

  • At 12:13 AM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    You know what's kinda interesting. I was comparing Johnny Cueto's 2016 projections to Zach Grienke and they are nearly identical. Obviously Grienke has the slight edge in ERA but both expeected around 200 IP, 12-15 wins and similar WHIPS. If Cueto's coming for 5/100 or something along those lines, that I think I byte if I'm Sabean.

  • At 12:15 AM, Blogger Trevor Cole said…

    Not to mention Cueto is 3 years younger which is significant when talking a multi-year deal. Cueto'd still be pitching for another contract whereas this is probbaly gonna be Grienke's last big payday.

  • At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why is Chris Davis not on the Giants top-10 board? Put him at first and Belt in left. Or can't he play left field too? I mean damn, him in between Buster and Pence would be epic. Finally give us a guy who can hit em in the bay again.


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