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Sunday, December 1, 2013

2014 Rotation Appears Set

So it looks like the Giants have sewed up their rotation by re-signing Ryan Vogelsong to a one year deal for 5 million.  I don't love it, I don't hate it.  If the Giants were not going to seriously upgrade that spot in the rotation, then why not gamble on a Vogey comeback?  Like I mentioned previously, I'd rather have an incentivized and angry Vogey for one year than an Arroyo or Nolasco or Phil Hughes for 3 years.  And given that Hughes received 3 years and Nolasco received 4 years, both from Minnesota, it's a good bet Arroyo will get his 3 years.  The Giants seem to have a plan for their rotation and that is to wait for Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar and maybe a couple of the other guys that had breakthrough 2013 minor league seasons to augment Bumgarner and Cain in the near future.  In the meantime, they're getting capable place holders (Lincecum, Hudson, and Vogelsong) on short term deals to keep the spots warm.  I can't argue with the strategy.  The Giants of 2009-2012 were largely successful due to the drafting and developing of their Big Three (Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner). Throw in a random good year from Jonathan Sanchez and a couple good ones from Vogelsong and we wound up with 2 World Series rings.  It looks like Brian Sabean and company hope to repeat this feat by having Bumgarner and Cain anchor a rotation that eventually could have other solid starters like Crick, Escobar, Blackburn, Mejia, or Blach joining them.

Of course, it wasn't just the starting pitching that helped win the championships in '10 and '12 but it was the Giants identity.  Giants fans can argue that the team is going into 2014 with a rotation full of question marks.  Bumgarner was the only starter that really had a good season last year.  Cain is coming off a down year though he was much better in the 2nd half.  Hudson and Vogelsong are both coming off injuries and are on the wrong side of 30.  And Lincecum is a complete wildcard.  Giants fans could argue it would have been a better bet to get more consistent starters with less question marks.  But the thing is, there isn't really a lot of guys out there that are sure things.  Almost every starting pitcher free agent has some sort of question mark tied to them.  So again, Sabean and company made the decision to go with the player they knew and re-signed Vogelsong for one year.  And unless the Dodgers sign Tanaka or trade for Price, you can argue that their rotation isn't any sturdier than the Giants.  They have their own reclamation project in Dan Haren.  And while Kershaw and Greinke anchor the front of the rotation, Ryu looked imminently hittable last year although he had a good year.  The Dodgers probably don't even know what to expect from Josh Beckett or Chad Billingsley.

So it appears the rotation is set.  Barring any surprises, the Giants will open the 2014 season with a rotation of Cain, Bumgarner, Hudson, Lincecum, and Vogelsong.  They will have Petit and Surkamp as starting pitching depth with Edwin Escobar likely being counted on to be ready by mid-season if needed.  Are Giants fans thrilled with this?  From what I can tell, they're not totally thrilled.  But they also don't have major complaints.  The common complaint seems to be that most fans would have preferred Arroyo to Vogelsong but again, I don't understand this given the years Arroyo is asking for and the fact that he really doesn't have very good stuff.  He could lose it quickly.  Yes, if Vogelsong proves that 2013 was a trend and not an outlier than the Giants will again need to scramble to fill out the rotation.  And if more than one of their starters slump or underperform, then the Giants will be in trouble like they were in 2013.  That being said, it seems like the Giants are at least trying to provide some depth in case this situation occurs.  In other words, don't expect to see Mike Kickham in the rotation again anytime soon.

However, because the Giants did not splurge on their rotation, settling to bring back Vogelsong on a (slightly) cheaper contract then the pressure is on them now to upgrade the outfield.  Although the cast of characters that caused 2013 to be a downer were essentially the same guys that won the championship in 2012, Larry Baer et al need to show the fans they really do intend to compete with Los Angeles.  Adding Tim Hudson as the only significant new addition won't be enough for a fan base that has become rabid.  They absolutely cannot go into April with Blanco as a main component in left field.

Now that they've filled out the rotation, it's time to see what they do to further improve the team.  That means bringing in new outside talent.  We'll see what happens at the Winter Meetings.