Ever since he made his way back to the big leagues in 2011, Ryan Vogelsong has been one of the San Francisco Giants‘ most popular players. Even though he played a huge role in the team’s 2012 World Series victory, Vogelsong’s status after the season will need to be re-evaluated due to his inconsistent performance this year.
Vogelsong, who turned 36 in July, has a $6.5 million-dollar option for next year, which can be bought out for just $300,000. With the uncertainty that’s come from Tim Lincecum and the Giants’ fifth starter spot this year, it had been widely assumed that the team would pick up Vogelsong’s option no matter what he did this year.
But as the team is trying to bring back Lincecum, Hunter Pence and Javier Lopez, and with Vogelsong having a 7.40 ERA over four September starts, it’s looking more and more likely that they will end up letting him test the free agent market.
Though Vogelsong pitched very well in August, delivering four quality starts in his first five appearances following his return from the disabled list, he’s struggled overall this season. Before his untimely hand injury on May 20, Vogelsong had put up a 7.19 ERA and given up 62 hits, 18 walks and 11 home runs over his first 46.1 innings. In fairness to Vogelsong, his performance may have been negatively affected by the heavy spring workload he received while pitching in the World Baseball Classic.
That being said, are the Giants willing to take a $6.5 million-dollar gamble that he’ll be able to recover from those issues next year, possibly at the risk of losing several key players?
The team showed last year with Brian Wilson that they are willing to risk losing good players who have had rough seasons if it means saving money. It’s possible that even if they declined the option, they could bring back Vogelsong on a cheaper deal, though Wilson’s case is proof that cutting a player loose is not the best way to convince them to come back and take a pay cut.
The Giants probably will already free up some salary by letting left-handers Barry Zito and Jose Mijares go, but as they try to maintain their own free agents and upgrade from the outside, it would be wise for them to free up as much money as they can.
If the Giants should lose Vogelsong, they may end up having to fill as many as three rotation spots. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are the only full-time starters who are locked up for next year. Yusmeiro Petit has made a strong case for a rotation spot next year as well, but he is by no means guaranteed a slot at this point. Chad Gaudin has expressed interest in returning, though he could end up returning to the bullpen next year. And the Giants are said to be very intrigued by several international starters. They’ll likely check out the big-league free agent market as well.
It’s unfortunate to think that the Giants would get rid of a player who’s been as effective over the past couple years as Vogelsong has, especially with his uplifting story. However, it’s essential that they have enough money to bring back Pence, and re-signing Lopez would provide a huge boost to their bullpen. If they can take a risk and possibly save some money on a pitcher who has been very inconsistent in 2013 and is getting up there in years, they have to do it.
Hopefully they can bring Vogelsong back at a lower salary, but ultimately the most important thing is that they have the money available to upgrade their club as necessary for next season.