Now that the San Francisco Giants have finished their season and the players have gone off to their respective winter destinations, it’s time to begin speculating about how the team can change their fortunes next year. Though it may seem a little ridiculous to already be projecting pitching staffs and lineups for the 2014 season while the 2013 season is still going on, it never hurts to do a little bit of advanced planning.
The first area we’ll look at is the Giants’ starting pitching. To briefly summarize, the Giants’ starting pitching was catastrophic for most of 2013. The team ended up using 10 different starters, and the rotation had a collective 4.37 ERA. The only really consistent member of the bunch was Madison Bumgarner, who really came into his own and had a 2.77 /1.03 ERA/WHIP over 201.1 innings.
After experiencing a high level of success last year, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong each had terrible stretches, while Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum experienced the same amount of inconsistency that they’ve had in the recent past. Chad Gaudin and Yusmeiro Petit both stepped into the rotation and had some great outings, though both of them also struggled at times.
Guillermo Moscoso, Michael Kickham, and Eric Surkamp all made spot starts and struggled mightily in those appearances.
My initial projection of next year’s starting rotation consists of Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Vogelsong and current Cincinnati Reds veteran Bronson Arroyo.
GM Brian Sabean has come out and said that the Giants’ rotation needs to be improved next season, so it would be a surprise to see no new pitchers added to the mix. Arroyo would be a perfect fit for the Giants’ situation. He’s exceptionally durable, having started at least 32 games in every year since 2004. He doesn’t have great stuff and is never going to dominate hitters, but he is nevertheless effective.
Over 32 starts this year, Arroyo had a 3.79 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, his best showing in that category since 2003. In addition, Arroyo talked earlier this year about how much he loves the vibe of San Francisco.
Due to the factors surrounding Arroyo’s free agency, he fits the Giants’ plans to a T. He’s 36-years old, so he likely won’t demand a long-term deal, but he wants to get paid, and the Giants are in position to offer him the money he wants. Arroyo can effectively plug a hole in the rotation until the Giants’ elite starting prospects like Kyle Crick and Chris Stratton are ready to take over big-league spots.
With that said, it’s also likely that most of the pitchers who started in San Francisco this year will be back next year. Now that Hunter Pence has been re-signed, the Giants have reportedly made it their first priority to bring back Lincecum, and there would seem to be a good chance that he ends up returning.
The pitcher who seems to be most at risk is Vogelsong, who is scheduled to make $6.5 million unless the Giants exercise his $300,000 buyout. With all the free agency spending they plan to do, it’s seeming more likely that the Giants will end up letting Vogelsong loose, though it still remains a likely possibility that they will try to bring him back for a more financially-friendly salary.
The most notable omission from this list is Petit, who was one out away from completing a perfect game last month. Petit had a nice run to end the season, but ultimately that probably won’t be enough to win him a starting spot unless Lincecum leaves as a free agent. Petit should at least be able to secure a role as a long reliever, however, and he’ll probably be the first man the Giants go to should one of their first five go down.