Now that the World Series fog and the Winter Meetings underway in Orlando, we get a clearer picture of the Giants options in Free Agency, and with the exception of today’s bogus report on Twitter that the Giants had signed Jacoby Ellsbury, it is pretty much what we thought it’d be. Vanilla. With names like Bronson Arroyo, Tim Hudson (a 37 year old Tim Hudson coming off a major ankle injury) and everyone’s favorite starting pitcher Jason Hammel being thrown around, once shouldn’t expect that big splash that the Giants ever so need to make. Not in Free Agency any way. The Giants have stated, that barring any exception, they will NOT be going after players who’ve received type A qualifying offers, meaning that if the player receiving the one year 14 million dollar qualifying offer signs with a different team, it is that team that must surrender its first round pick. The Giants are in no position to give up that pick as they are focusing on rebuilding their farm system. That means you can count out Shin Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Hiroki Kuroda, Carlos Beltran and Mike Napoli. With those names off the board, and with Japanese sensation Masaharo Tanaka estimated to require a 60 million dollar posting fee, not even counting what a team would have to pay him, the Giants Free Agent prospects are quite slim in the areas of need for them.
Of the names mentioned, I think Arroyo is the best fit. Its been reported that he is already engaging the Giants in contract negotiations and they should be the favorites to ink him. Arroyo’s stuff would translate well at AT&T, he’s not the hardest thrower in the world but everything he throws has crazy movement and he tends to keep the ball down. What the Giants like most however is Arroyo’s durability. He is an innings eater, posting over 200 innings every year since 2005, and rarely does he go on the DL, something the Giants had problems with last season. He’s coming off two years in a row with a sub 4 ERA, in Cincinnati mind you, a big time hitters park, and posts what I think is his most important stat 1.5 BB/9, meaning for you non baseball nuts that he doesn’t walk guys, another problem the Giants had last season. Arroyo would probably require only a two year deal with a vesting option for a third year, something the Giants are probably willing to give him since there is mutual interest. Arroyo should work nicely a the third or fourth starter in the Giants rotation, but he has a sweet name, and hopefully with a little egging on, would go back to this look.
Another name being floated around is former Rangers, Cubs and Orioles Pitcher Scott Feldman. Feldman is a local guy out of Burlingame High School and College of San Mateo, and has been quoted in his desire to play for his hometown team(s). Like Arroyo this guy isn’t going to win any Cy Youngs, or throw particularly hard, but he does do one of the more important things a pitcher can do, which is keep the ball down. He had a ground ball percentage of 50 this season, which is a little above average from the rest of the league. Feldman comes as a cheaper alternative to Arroyo and Hudson, and has experience out of the bullpen in his days with Texas and Chicago and can be used that way too if needed. And, he’s a member of the Tribe! Which for a guy like me is always a plus!
Tim Hudson and Dan Haren
Those are the two big names getting attention around Giants camp. Some reporters are even saying that its a foregone conclusion that Dan Haren will sign with the Giants, but in the words of the once great Lee Corso “Not so fast my friend!” Haren and Hudson have had the most success throughout their careers out of all of these names, however Haren did not have a good year in Washington this year (by the way, how many knew he was on Washington and not The Angels, yeah, that’s the kind of year he had.) and is coming off of a back injury. He’s probably the least durable out of all four of these pitchers, and while he is still only 32 and has strike out stuff, he’s gone two years in a row with a plus four era and has given up 28 home runs back to back years, something Giants pitchers had a hard time with last season. Haren managed to get opposing hitters to hit the ball on the ground only 36% of the time, and his lack of durability is another concern for the Giants. I don’t think he is the right fit.
Hudson, however has proven throughout his career to be a solid option as your third starter. He’s pitched over 200 innings every year except ’08 where he suffered an injury that lasted into the ’09 season, in which he missed the majority of the season, but came back in 2010 and 2011 to pitch over 200 innings both years. We all witnessed him hurt his ankle this year, and are probably all wondering how he is going to rehab from that gruesome injury, but Hudson represents toughness and durability and I am sure will be ready to go for the season opener. Hudson is also a guy the Giants like a he (as per the theme of this article) keeps the ball down, and even better, doesn’t give up home runs. He’s a veteran guy who knows a thing or two about being a fireballer then having to adapt to losing some stuff. He’d be a great mentor, if that’s the right word, for Tim Lincecum. Hudson just turned down a two year 9 million dollar offer from Atlanta, and I could see him signing in the two year 12-14 million dollar range. It seems like a lot but the market is just so inflated this year that, that is what its going to have to be.
Another interesting, but expensive name to consider is Matt Garza. He didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Rangers, as per the rules of baseball state that players who are traded during a contract year cannot garner a qualifying offer from the team which he was traded to. Garza is by far the best pitcher of the ones who didn’t get qualifying offers, and while he will be expensive, he at least won’t cost a first round pick. Garza has nasty stuff, and his numbers don’t speak for how good a pitcher he really is. He’d be someone who’d really benefit from pitching at AT&T as he’s spent his career either pitching against the Red Sox and Yankees, or with the Cubs at Wrigley field when the wind is blowing out. He also spent half this season with the Texas Rangers, who play in a band box yard as well. I don’t really see Garza signing any time soon though. I can see him waiting for the market to develop and except the best offer from whatever team will pay. He’s going to let Ricky Nolasco (another guy the Giants COULD be targeting, but I think may be too expensive for their tastes) and Ervin Santana sign first and see where his value is.
The Giants are usually a team that keep their cards very close to their chests, and I would pick and choose what reports to read (not this one though!). Its not sounding great in terms of Free Agency, but Sabean and Bobby Evans and the crew are usually very creative when it comes to trades and reclamation project Free Agents a la Ryan Vogelsong and Chad Gaudin. Its looking like OF help isn’t going to come by way of Free Agency, and the Giants will try to swing a trade. A name to look out for is Twin OFer Josh Willingham. He’s been a guy the Giants have liked for years now.