With the struggles that the San Francisco Giants‘ starting pitchers have endured, particularly through the first two months of the season, the common belief is that a reliable starter is atop general manager Brian Sabean‘s wish list as he begins pondering trade options.
That being said, some of the names that are being thrown around would be terrible targets for the team that has won two of the last three World Series.
Perhaps the most alarming name that has been tossed around thus far is Josh Johnson. ESPN’s Jayson Stark suggested earlier this week that the Giants could be pursuing the Toronto Blue Jays right-hander. Based on his track record, this would be a high-risk, low-reward proposition for San Francisco, as Johnson is one of the most injury-prone pitchers in baseball.
The nine-year veteran, who was limited early on by triceps inflammation, is now dealing with a troublesome blister and has been limited to just six starts this year. In addition to his durability issues, Johnson provides the worst of both worlds financially, as he is a free agent after the season who is making $13.75 million this year, the remainder of which would almost certainly be dumped on the Giants.
With a team that has been limited financially in recent years and that definitely will need to spend more next year on players such as Hunter Pence, the Giants really are not in a position to be taking risks of that magnitude.
To top it all off, there is no assurance that Johnson will want to return to San Francisco next year. Under the rules of the new MLB CBA, the Giants are ineligible to receive any compensatory picks if he signs elsewhere, so if he goes, they will have nothing to show for the player they give up, who will likely have to be a starting pitcher considering the Giants are starved for position-playing prospects.
With the team needing to fill as many as three starting pitching vacancies, the last thing they need to do is to give up a legitimate starting prospect and not receive any benefit. Ultimately, he has a 5.40 ERA this year, and with his health concerns, it’s a debate whether he would even be an upgrade.
Though other names such as Ricky Nolasco, Scott Feldman, and Bud Norris have been thrown around, the most logical option would be for San Francisco to wait to see how Ryan Vogelsong progresses before making a move. While he may not be back before August 1, the team should determine if he can be trusted before pursuing other pitchers.
It would be a shame to see the team give up on a pitcher who has been, for the most part, their most consistent starter over the past two years. But if he returns and a starter is acquired, a pitching logjam would occur.
With Matt Cain having regained his effectiveness, Madison Bumgarner being dominant and Barry Zito having matched his road struggles by being fantastic at home, Tim Lincecum would be destined for a move to the bullpen if Vogelsong and another starter join the rotation.
Assuming health across the staff, this could weaken the relief corps. Someone would be marginalized among Lincecum, Chad Gaudin, Santiago Casilla, Jean Machi and Sergio Romo. With Lincecum being guaranteed a spot on the team, he may be hurting the Giants down the stretch as he is the biggest unknown among these righthanders.
Things would certainly be easier for the Giants if their starters would continue on the track back to reliability, thus not forcing the team to trade for another starter near the deadline. While they must act while the crop is still plentiful, it’s best for them to wait it out a bit and see if issues resolve themselves before they jeopardize their budget and farm system to gamble on a rental starter.