If recent history is any sign of what is to come, the San Francisco Giants will find themselves in the 2016 MLB Postseason.
But after lefty ace Madison Bumgarner takes the hill in Game 1 of the NLDS who gets the call for Game 2 isn’t such a certainty.
Perhaps it will be 2014 Game 1 starter Jake Peavy. A more hopeful wish for the organization and its fans would be that Matt Cain returns to 2012 form and establishes himself as the clear number two in the rotation.
A more likely option is that the Giants brain trust, like so many times before, will make an offseason move to shore up what has been the team’s greatest strength during its recent run of success.
In a press conference hosted soon after the 2015 season, Giants General Manager Bobby Evans addressed the idea:
“We recognize our needs, starting with out starting pitching.”
As for whom, the Giants, immediately following the onset of free agency, became linked to contract talks with former Los Angeles Dodgers co-ace Zack Greinke.
After leading all of the majors in ERA (1.66) in his 12th season (fourth with the Dodgers) the righty now commands a contract similar to that of the seven-year $210 million pact Max Scherzer — whose 2014 numbers were nowhere near as electric as those of Greinke this year — signed with the Washington Nationals a year ago.
Being two years older than Scherzer was at the time of that signing, however, Greinke may not get the full seven-year offer of his counterpart. The Giants, if they sign the 32-year-old hurler, will set the bar for other top-tier pitchers at a five- to six-year commitment of $140-$180 million dollars.
In going up against the deep pockets of the Dodgers, Evens shared his thoughts:
“We don’t want to keep up with the. We want to pass them”
The question then becomes, is he worth it?
A career 142-93 won-loss record (.604 winning percentage) would suggest an answer to the affirmative, though a career 3.35 ERA is not as impressive.
When it comes to his above average ERA, though, it is important to acknowledge that his 5.80 ERA in 183 innings of his second season, with the Kansas City Royals, slightly inflates that number.
Also, since moving to the NL, after being traded from to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011, he boasts a much more impressive 2.75 ERA.
In that second phase of his career, in the senior circuit, he also holds a 76-24 record (.760), comparatively a huge step up from his AL record 66-69 (.489).
His NL career WHIP of 1.08 is also worth mention as it is even better than that of Bumgarner (1.11) whose greatest strength is the denial of baserunners.
Greinke’s metrics don’t all compare favorably with MadBum though.
In his postseason career, Greinke has taken the mound to start nine games. His 3-3 record and 3.55 ERA are very pedestrian alongside Bumgarner’s historical figures.
If the Orlando, Florida native does trade in his Dodger blue for Giant orange, it will not be to step in front of Bumgarner, however, it will be to stand beside him.
That being the case, the argument is self-evident that his nearly $30-million demand could make him a poor signing for the Giants, as San Francisco’s current ace is currently assured less than $6 million per year.
Other options include Toronto Blue Jay David Price, who will likely fetch a rate comparable to Greinke.
Price, however, does not boast a recent stretch of dominance that Greinke has shown since his move to the NL and, in a park that favors right-handed hitting, backing up lefties at the top of the rotation would force more right-handed bats into the oppositions lineup and could prove dangerous.
Washington Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman is will be waiting for Greinke’s to accept a deal so he can ask for a number slightly less.
Zimmerman, being a single level below Greinke and Price despite the metrics over the past four seasons showing him to be better performer than Price, is likely a secondary option to those teams pursuing the top two pitching targets.
However, the fact that the Giants are tied to a pitcher the caliber of Bumgarner at such a discounted rate and for such an extended period of time (through 2017) make Greinke a must-have, even with his enormous price tag.
Not only has he been at the top of all starting pitchers, his dominance has come in the NL West.
With Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, and Mike Leake among others set to come off the books, the Giants will free likely (as some of the team’s pending free agents could be retained) approximate $60 million on a per-year basis.
With that movement, the Giants could potentially sign Greinke and a middle of the order outfielder with room to strengthen the bench.
And the options are available in a deep free-agent market.