San Francisco Giants: Guide to the 2013 Free-Agent Pitching Market
The task now falls to GM Brian Sabean to rebuild and retool the roster. The Giants have already begun the process by signing outfielder Hunter Pence to a five-year, $90 million contract.
Sabean will look for another quality outfielder, but his main focus right now is the pitching staff. Currently, the Giants have only Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain for their starting rotation and must fill three more starting jobs.
Tim Lincecum is a free agent, and it remains to be seen if the Giants can sign him. The Giants will also pay Barry Zito his $7 million buyout and allow him to move on.
The case of Ryan Vogelsong is a bit more cloudy. The Giants can opt to exercise his option and pay him $6.5 million for 2014. Alternatively, they can give him $300,000 and allow him to become a free agent.
It appears as though the Giants would like to keep Vogelsong but for a price tag well below the $6.5 million. However, by letting him test the open market, it is possible that Vogelsong will sign elsewhere if he gets a better offer than what the Giants are willing to pay.
The Giants also have a couple of major needs in the bullpen, as they need one lefty for sure and maybe two. They would also like to add one more quality middle reliever from the right side, in addition to a long reliever.
Retaining free-agent lefty relief specialist Javier Lopez would go a long way to ensuring the Giants bullpen is solid in 2014. Lopez and Sergio Romo were the Giants' two most effective pitchers out of the bullpen this past season.
Since Sabean's top priority is with the starting rotation, we will focus on the options he has there.
Let's take a closer look at which starters are available on the free-agent market and assess how they might fit in with the Giants.
Honorable Mention: Starting Pitchers
The following group of pitchers are all free agents and will be considered. However, none of these pitchers is a top candidate to fill an open job in the Giants' starting rotation.
A.J. Burnett also sits atop our list of pitchers worthy of mention. He had an excellent season, throwing 191 innings. He allowed only 165 hits and 67 walks, while striking out 209. Burnett's ERA was a very strong 3.30 to go along with a WHIP of 1.215.
The main drawback with Burnett is his age. He will be 37 years old by the time the 2014 season begins. He also made $16.5 million this past season and based on the year he had, will be very expensive. He is too old and too costly for the Giants.
Josh Johnson is also high on the list of Honorable Mention pitchers. He had a very poor season, as injuries once again took their toll on Johnson. In 81.1 innings of work, Johnson allowed 105 hits and 30 walks, while striking out 83.
Johnson's ERA ballooned to 6.20 and his WHIP was 1.660. Johnson also made $13.75 million in 2013, and unless he is willing to come down substantially from that number, he is not a good fit for the Giants.
Jason Marquis will hit the free-agent market and will be very reasonably priced. He threw 117.2 innings and allowed 111 hits and 68 walks, while striking out 72. He had an ERA of 4.05 and WHIP of 1.521.
Marquis made $3 million this past season in San Diego. He would be a potential fit for the Giants' fifth starter role but at the age of 35, should not be considered for anything above that.
Jason Vargas had a decent year for the Angels and will be 31 years of age when the 2014 season begins. Vargas threw 150 innings, allowed 162 hits and 46 bases-on-balls, while striking out 109. His ERA was 4.02 and he had a WHIP of 1.387.
Vargas would be a consideration for a fourth or fifth starter job. He made $8.5 million in 2013 and should not be above the $10 million mark on an annual basis.
Dan Haren had a tough season in 2013, as he finished the year with a 4.67 ERA and 1.238 WHIP. He also made $13 million dollars, but he still has some gas left in the tank.
Haren had an excellent strikeout to walk ratio of nearly five-to-one. He struck out 151 hitters over 169.2 innings and walked only 31. If the Giants can acquire him at a reasonable cost, say $8-10 million, a change of scenery back to the NL West could be a good move for both Haren and the team.
Bruce Chen was very effective for the Kansas City Royals this past season. He threw only 121 innings but allowed just 107 hits and 36 walks. Chen is a control pitcher and does not strike out that many, as his total of 78 indicates.
Chen finished the year with an ERA of 3.27 and WHIP of 1.182, both very strong numbers. His contract was very reasonable at only $4.5 million, so the Giants should be able to get him for roughly an $8 million salary. Chen would most likely slot in as a fourth or fifth starter.
Bartolo Colon was a bargain for the Oakland A's this year at only $3 million. He had a fine season, winning 18 games and losing only six. His ERA was a stellar 2.65 to go along with a very good WHIP of 1.166.
Colon worked 190.1 innings for the A's, allowing 193 hits and 29 walks, while striking out 117. One major question surrounding Colon is whether, at age 40, he can still pitch effectively next year. The other concern is if Colon can remain this strong without the benefit of PEDs.
Other free-agent candidates include Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jeff Karstens, Colby Lewis, Jason Hammel, Phil Hughes, Scott Kazmir, Gavin Floyd, Paul Maholm, Aaron Harang, Scott Baker and Jeff Francis.
The Giants will also see what the market will bear with Ryan Vogelsong. If they can sign him for closer to $3.5 million, he would be an optimal fifth starter.
Chad Gaudin is another potential free-agent option, and he proved his worth to the Giants this past season as a swing-man, going from long relief into the starting role when injuries hit the Giants' rotation.
Yusmeiro Petit also threw the ball well when given the opportunity to start. He is in the mix for the fifth starter job or the long relief spot, if he does not make the rotation.
10. Edinson Volquez
The past five seasons have been tough on Edinson Volquez. He battled arm injuries and control problems, but at times, he still flashed the brilliance that made him one of the game's top young pitchers a few years ago.
At only 30 years of age, Volquez still has some upside. In 2013, Volquez began the season with the Padres and then was traded to the Dodgers. He threw a total of 170.1 innings, allowing 193 hits and 77 walks, while striking out 142. Volquez had an ERA of 5.71 and WHIP of 1.585.
Volquez made $5.725 million in 2013 and should be around that for 2014. He is not the No. 3 starter that Giants' GM Brian Sabean is looking for but is worth consideration as a fifth guy.
Based on his recent track record, there are better options than Volquez for the Giants.
9. Bronson Arroyo
Bronson Arroyo had an excellent year for the Cincinnati Reds. Arroyo, who will be 37 years of age when the 2014 season begins, will hit the free-agent market in the hopes of landing what will likely be his last big payday.
In 2013, Arroyo made over $16.4 million. Based on his success this year, Arroyo will command a salary at that same level or higher and will be looking for a multi-year deal.
Arroyo threw 202 innings, allowing 199 hits and 34 walks while striking out 124 opposing batters. His ERA of 3.79 and WHIP of 1.153 were very good, considering he pitches half of his games in Cincinnati, one of the best hitters parks in the National League.
Arroyo is not a hard thrower and relies on control, changing speeds and hitting his spots. Arroyo is a master at keeping hitters off balance. If his command is off, even a little, he is susceptible to being hit very hard, as his velocity will not scare anyone.
At his age and very high salary level, Arroyo is not an ideal option for the Giants.
8. Scott Feldman
Scott Feldman was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Baltimore Orioles prior to the trade deadline this past season. His cumulative totals were 181.2 innings pitched, 159 hits allowed and 56 walks. He struck out 132 and compiled an ERA of 3.86 and WHIP of 1.183.
Feldman, who will be 31 years of age when the 2014 season begins, is from the San Francisco Bay Area and might welcome a return. His 2013 salary of $6 million was a bargain and that will increase. However, if Sabean can sign Feldman to a three-year deal in the $36 million range, it will be a good investment.
Sabean has indicated that he is actively pursuing a No. 3 starter, and Feldman would fit into that spot very nicely.
Pitching at AT&T Park in San Francisco will also benefit Feldman. His numbers were largely built in Wrigley Field and Camden Yards, both hitters ballparks.
7. Ricky Nolasco
There was speculation that the Giants were interested in Ricky Nolasco prior to the trade deadline, but their fading record was an issue. As the Giants fell further behind in the NL West race, GM Brian Sabean opted not to part with any of his young talent.
Nolasco ultimately was traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers and helped Los Angeles to the NL West crown.
On the season, Nolasco threw a combined 199.1 innings and allowed 195 hits and 46 walks while striking out 165. His ERA of 3.70 and WHIP of 1.209 were solid.
Nolasco made $11.5 million in 2013 and will get a raise in the inflated market for pitchers. He will be 31 years old when the 2014 season begins.
A three-year deal in the range of $45-48 million would be in the realm of possibility for the Giants.
6. Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda is a very interesting case. On the one hand, he will be 39 years old when the 2014 season begins. On the other, Kuroda has pitched in the US for six seasons and never had an ERA over 3.76.
In 2013, Kuroda was arguably the Yankees' best starting pitcher. He threw 201.1 innings, allowing 191 hits and 43 walks while striking out 150. Kuroda's ERA was the best among Yankees' starters at 3.31, and his WHIP was also very good, at 1.162.
Kuroda has taken good care of his body and has shown no signs of slowing down. However, if the Yankees are in the mix, the price tag just ballooned. He made $15 million in 2013 and will be at least that much moving forward.
The Yankees are likely to out-bid the Giants for Kuroda's services, but he would look good in the orange and black. Due to his age, it would be foolish for the Giants to give Kuroda more than a two-year deal, but that's something the Yankees might be willing to do.
If the Yankees sign young Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, they might be willing to let Kuroda leave. If so, and Brian Sabean can get Kuroda on a two-year deal in the $32 million range, it would be a good move for the Giants.
5. Tim Lincecum
If the past two seasons were the main determining factor, the Giants would probably let Tim Lincecum depart. However, the decision is clouded because Lincecum means more to the Giants and their fans than he would to any other franchise.
Lincecum began his career in phenomenal fashion, winning the Cy Young Award in his first two full seasons with the Giants. He captured the hearts of Giants fans with his youthful exuberance, long hair and slight build. He quickly became one of those beloved "face-of-the-franchise" players.
Lincecum, however, has struggled in the past two seasons, although 2012 was much worse than 2013. He no longer has the velocity on his fastball to blow hitters away and is trying to remake himself from a thrower into a pitcher.
In 2013, Lincecum threw 197.2 innings and allowed 184 hits and 76 walks while striking out 193. His ERA was 4.37, and he had a WHIP of 1.153.
Lincecum's two biggest problems were his penchant for allowing too many walks and also giving up the big inning. He definitely still has the stuff to compete, but the failure to limit the damage in some of his outings has inflated his ERA.
In order to have success, Lincecum needs to have much better command of his pitches and work from ahead in the count. When he does this, he is still a quality pitcher.
Giants GM Brian Sabean stated in a recent press conference that he considers Lincecum a No. 4 starter in the starting rotation. If that's the case, the question is how much are the Giants willing to pay for a No. 4 starter?
The Giants would like to retain Lincecum, but for the right price. He made $22.25 million in 2013 and will see that number decline. If Lincecum were to agree to a two-year deal in the $32 million range, I believe the Giants will keep him.
The highest the Giants are likely willing to go would be a three-year deal in the $45 million range. If another team offers Lincecum substantially more on an annual basis, or a longer-term contract, it's likely that Lincecum will leave.
The Mariners have expressed interest, and Seattle is Lincecum's hometown. If they come in with a deal that trumps anything the Giants are willing to do, we will have seen Lincecum's last game in a Giants uniform.
4. Ubaldo Jimenez
After an abysmal season in 2012, when he led the league with 17 losses and had an ERA of 5.40, Ubaldo Jimenez turned it around this year.
Jimenez won 13 games for the Indians and pitched 182.2 innings. He allowed 163 hits and walked 80, which is way too high. His strikeout total was impressive at 194, however.
Jimenez had a stellar ERA at 3.30, and his WHIP was 1.33. The real question is whether this is the real Jimenez, or will the 2012 version show up again?
If he's pitching well, Jimenez would slot in nicely as the Giants' No. 3 starter. He will turn 30 years of age prior to the start of the 2014 season, so he should have some good baseball left.
Jimenez was a bargain for Cleveland this past year at only $5.75 million. However, his performance will boost that annual figure significantly. A three-year deal for $32-36 million is in the ballpark.
3. Masahiro Tanaka
One of the most intriguing possibilities for the Giants is Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
Tanaka is currently playing in Japan with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japan Pacific League. He has gone 20-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 0.934 WHIP.
In the regular season in Japan, in 181 innings of work, Tanaka has allowed just 142 hits and 27 walks while striking out 155. Granted, pitching in Japan is not the same as facing major league hitters, but it's at least at the Triple-A level or slightly above.
Including the postseason in Japan, Tanaka is 24-0 with 183 strikeouts in 212 innings. His ERA has remained low at 1.27, with a WHIP of 0.943. Dating back to last year, Tanaka has won his last 28 consecutive decisions.
Several teams have expressed interest in Tanaka. He has major league caliber stuff, featuring a fastball in the low 90s, a slider and an outstanding splitter, which may be his best pitch.
The Japanese player posting system is too complex to go into detail here, but suffice it to say that if Tanaka is posted, in other words made available by his team, he will be a great addition for the Giants. He would fit very nicely into the Giants' No. 3 starter role.
It will not be cheap but could be well worth it. Several Japanese starting pitchers have had success in the United States, including Hideo Nomo, Hiroki Kuroda and most recently Yu Darvish.
The San Francisco Giants were the first team in Major League baseball to have a Japanese national pitch for them. Masanori Murakami, a left-handed reliever, pitched for the Giants in 1964-65.
2. Matt Garza
Matt Garza began the year with the Chicago Cubs but was traded to the Texas Rangers prior to the trade deadline. Garza fared better with the Cubs and was mediocre in Texas.
Garza might welcome the opportunity to move back to the National League. He also grew up in the central valley of California, near Fresno, only a couple of hours from San Francisco. That could also be a selling point for the Giants in their pursuit of Garza.
In 2013, Garza threw a cumulative total of 155.1 innings, allowing 150 hits and 42 walks while striking out 136. His ERA was 3.82, and he posted a 1.236 WHIP.
Garza would benefit from pitching in the spacious confines of AT&T Park.
Garza made $10.25 million this past season and will get a raise, but it shouldn't be excessive. If the Giants can ink him for three years and $45-50 million, Garza would fill the void as the third starter in the Giants rotation.
1. Ervin Santana
Ervin Santana has been very solid in three of his last four seasons. Only in 2012 was there a hiccup, when his ERA ballooned to 5.16.
In 2013, Santana threw the ball extremely well. He worked 211 innings and allowed 190 hits and 67 walks while striking out 161. Santana's ERA of 3.24 was outstanding, and his WHIP of 1.142 was also very good.
Santana has a penchant for giving up home runs. He led the AL, allowing 39 in 2012 and gave up 26 last year. He would benefit greatly from pitching half his games at AT&T Park.
Santana will be 31 years of age when the 2014 season gets underway. He earned $13 million this past year and is in for a raise.
If the Giants can lock him in with a three-year deal in the $48-50 million range, Santana would fill their need for a No. 3 starter.