San Francisco Giants: Rotation Questions

When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010 they did so with a rotation comprised of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner. 

Barry Zito, their free agent acquisition from a few years earlier, didn’t even make the postseason roster. 

By 2012, Sanchez had been traded and Lincecum spent most of the postseason pitching out of the bullpen. They were replaced by Zito and Ryan Vogelsong and the Giants managed to beat the powerhouse offense of the Detroit Tigers with a rotation that, while not at it’s 2010 level, was more than up to the task.

Lincecum, the Giants’ ace for their first World Series run was relegated to the bullpen, although he was lights out in that role, for their 2012 Championship, and is a free agent at the end of this season. 

Zito, absent in 2010 but present for 2012, is in the final year of his 7-year $126 million dollar deal and is unlikely to return to San Francisco next year. 

Vogelsong, who has been on the disabled list since May 20 but should return this Friday, struggled mightily before succumbing to injury. The Giants have a team option on the 36-year old at a reasonable $6.5 million, if he can pitch better in the second half.

Cain and Bumgarner are both signed to long-term deals, not reaching free agency until 2018. 

But the Giants face a question: who are their next two starters after Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong in 2014?

The Giants had a prospect waiting in the wings to follow in the footsteps of their recent home-grown starting staff. In the 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, pitcher Zack Wheeler was San Francisco’s number two prospect. 

Later that season, the right-hander was moved to the New York Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran. While his major league debut has been rocky at times, he now figures to join Matt Harvey atop the Mets rotation for years to come.

In Keith Law’s mid-season top 50 prospects released in July, the Giants had just one prospect, right handed pitcher Kyle Crick. Law say that Crick has “huge stuff” with “less than perfect command.” For the immediate future, he’s still a ways away, with the Giants High Class A affiliate in San Jose.

On the free agent market, Ervin Santana, currently enjoying a career revival with the Kansas City Royals may be the the top of the class, although Hiroki Kuroda of the Yankees will be available as well. 

Another Yankees pitcher, Phil Hughes will hit free agency this fall as well and perhaps a move to the NL: and pitcher-friendly AT&T Park can get his career back on track as a low-risk option. 

Current Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon is set to reach free agency as well and would only have to cross the Bay to join the Giants. He does come with a PED question mark, serving a suspension last year and being revealed to have purchased the offending drugs at the Biogenesis clinic.

While the prices would certainly be high, the Giants could turn to a team like the Red Sox, with number of pitching prospects like Allen Webster, Anthony Ranaudo, Henry Owens, Matt Barnes, and Brandon Workman. The Sox also have a stable of veteran arms: Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Ryan Dempster and Clay Buchholz. 

At some point the Sox are likely to hit a staff crunch where someone has to be traded, whether from the young kids coming up or the established starters approaching free agency or simply taking up enough salary that moving them for a smaller return to clear room for a prospect makes sense.

The Giants under General Manager Brian Sabean have built the success around pitching and Buster Posey. 

With Posey signed through 2022, acting as both primer bat and the starting catcher handling the pitching staff, the next goal for the team to to find a new wave of arms, and let them pitch the team back to the playoffs.

Cross posted at The Sports Post

Red Sox & Dan Haren

There’s no way to put it nicely: The Red Sox pitching needs help. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester both improved as the season went on and we saw a breakout year from Felix Doubront, but even with John Lackey penciled in as his 2010 self the rotation is still full of question marks. According to Nick Cafardo, the team is interested in Angels’ starter Dan Haren. It looks like Ben Cherington is actively trying to shore up a major weakness from the past season. Available on a one-year deal, potentially for a small price in trade, Haren may well be the best option for the Red Sox to acquire for 2013.

Why Would the Angels Trade This Guy?

From 2005 to 2011, as a full-time member of the starting rotations in Oakland, Arizona, and Anaheim, Dan Haren was durable and at times, dominant. The right-hander averaged 226 innings per season with nearly 200 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.12. While his 3.49 ERA over that time is not eye-popping, it was good enough to net 101 wins in his 237 starts. Haren is known for his control: in parts of ten big league seasons he has a K:BB of 4.01.

To put it another way, Haren has three balks and seventy-seven wild pitchers in the Majors. The Red Sox staff issued eleven balks and threw forty-two wild pitches this season. Obviously Franklin Morales is unlikely to have five balks called against him ever again, but the Red Sox starters had trouble getting out of their own way at times during the 2012 season.

For the Angels though, it comes down to money. Their spending spree on Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last offseason is not going to be a yearly event. In addition, the team is still saddled with Vernon Wells.

Is It Good for the Red Sox?

The Red Sox are usually among the leaders in team payroll every season and 2013 is likely to be no different. Because the team freed up so much payroll when Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, one-year financial commitments that would normally be a burden of sorts even to a large market team become freebies. And why shouldn’t they? The Red Sox will not be lowering revenue expectations with a lower payroll. Taking on the full $15.5 million obligation for next year is merely spending money that the team can allocate as they choose on short-term deals while looking to the future for the impact pieces to sign long-term, like Will Middlebrooks or even Jacoby Ellsbury.

There is a caveat: Haren is coming off the worst season of his career. His ERA rose to 4.33, his WHIP and walk rate climbed, and he was plagued with back problems which limited him to 176 innings, the only time Haren failed to reach 200 innings while pitching a full season. But a potential number two starter for one season is tempting. If Haren isn’t healthy he’s only signed for one season.

If the Angels are not interested in keeping Haren around for next season, the cost in trade will be minimal, like the recently completed trade of Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals. The return in that case was minor league lefty Brandon Sisk. Sisk is 27 year old relief pitcher who may help out in the bullpen. If multiple teams are bidding on Haren, the cost may be higher in terms of prospects, but don’t expect any of the big names on the farm to head to LA.

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So, the Angels didn’t trade Haren to anyone. But if his medical records look good, the Sox will probably at least knock on his preverbal door.