The San Francisco Giants will enter the 2014 season with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum in their starting rotation. The other two spots however, could fall to a number of different pitchers; several of whom are free agents. Bronson Arroyo for example, has pitched lights out in San Francisco and is rumored to have shown interest in joining Giants. The problem with Arroyo is that he is 36 years old, and although he has pitched great in San Francisco over the years, he won’t be able to pitch against the Giants if he’s playing for them! Another free agent who could fill a roster spot for the Giants is Ricky Nolasco. He is only 30 years old and had a solid season in 2013, posting a 3.70 ERA with 13 wins and 11 losses. Nolasco however, finished the year by allowing 22 runs in 17 innings over his final five starts. This could be due to fatigue, but for a team like the Giants that expects to be playing meaningful games late in the year, their starters arms cannot fall off in September. Other free agent starters include: Tim Hudson, who is recovering from a gruesome ankle injury, A.J. Burnett, who is mulling retirement, and Bartolo Colon, who is in the later stages of his career and has a history with performance enhancing drugs. The good news for the Giants is that they don’t even have to look at these free agents if they can lock up certain starters who pitched in San Francisco last year.
Although the Giants recently declined the $6.5 million option on Ryan Vogelsong’s contract, it would be smart to resign the veteran right-hander. Vogelsong had a bad year in 2013, but don’t forget that he pitched deep into the 2012 post season and started for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. Vogelsong will not make an excuse for his 5.73 ERA, so I will—he was tired! Plain and simple, he experienced fatigue which caused him to lose velocity and location. This year he will be rested, and based off of 2011 and 2012, a rested Ryan Vogelsong is a dominant pitcher. He recorded ERAs of 2.71 and 3.37 in those years, and in the 2012 playoffs registered three wins with no losses and a 1.09 ERA. The Giants will regret cutting ties with Vogelsong based on one poor year, especially since they could resign him for around $4 million, which is about a quarter of the annual amount they signed Lincecum for.
Another 2013 Giant who has gone way under the radar in the free agent market is Chad Gaudin. It is bewildering why more teams have not shown interest in Gaudin. He posted a 3.06 ERA for the Giants last season and for a two month stretch was the team’s best starter. Before his injury, Gaudin was throwing 94 mph and was doing so on the corners of the plate. None of the free agents I mentioned can do that consistently, let alone for the small price that Gaudin will cost. Yusmeiro Petit is another pitcher who should not be forgotten. He isn’t a flame thrower, but last year he showed that he can dominate major league lineups. Petit recorded four wins in only seven starts, with a 3.56 ERA, and of course came within one strike of throwing a perfect game. For a guy who makes practically nothing, has a huge upside, and is only 28, Petit should be given a great shot to win a starting job in the spring.
If the Giants resign Gaudin and Vogelsong, and give Petit a shot at starting, they will have six pitchers competing for five spots. That is a potential issue for the pitchers, but a benefit for the Giants. It gives them the ability to rest a fatigued or injured starter and not have to worry about losing every fifth day. Not a lot of teams, including the heavy spending Los Angeles Dodgers, will have this ability, and it could pay off down the stretch.