Offseason Targets: Free Agent Pitchers

Fangraphs calculates the price of a win at about $8M. If you factor in a player’s WAR & subtract his salary, you get what I call a net value. The Giants as a team racked up a negative net value this year. That shouldn’t surprise you, but it is a bit shocking that they’re the only team in the NL that can make such a claim.

Despite their four highest earning pitchers (Cueto, Melancon, Samardzija, & Bumgarner) combining for a whopping negative $60M net value, the pitching staff actually managed a positive value overall. So there were some bright spots, with Holland, Rodriguez, Watson, & Smith providing the biggest boost. Can we learn anything from this? Well, for all the talk about interest in Patrick Corbin & Dallas Keuchel, any new hire would have to be out of their mind to look at this roster & think it could use another long-term pitching contract. From where I’m standing, the smart money lies in the shorter deals. Let’s take a look at what’s out there.

Starters

Derek Holland LHP = Ok, when the Giants hire their new head cheese, you just know Sabean is still going to be lurking around some, dropping subtle hints from time to time. He’ll probably talk all about how much he loved having Holland around, how he fit in with the clubhouse, helped mentor younger starters, and took on many roles. Sabes might also mention that Holland was the most valuable player on the entire roster last year ($15M net value)… pretty good for a minor league signing. Everyone says he wants to return to the franchise as well. Will any of this mean anything to a new regime? Hard to tell.

Clay Buchholz RHP = Buchholz had a career renaissance at age 34, but did end the season on the DL with an elbow injury. His FIP was nearly 1.5 runs higher than his ERA, but still very respectable at 3.47. He’s a pretty heavy ground ball guy, and if his elbow proves to be healthy, he’s an interesting option for sure.

Trevor Cahill RHP = The most valuable roster in baseball belonged to the A’s this year. That’s not a huge surprise for a club that wins nearly 100 games on a miniscule payroll. But the most underrated part of that team was its rotation, which was the hottest group in the league at one point during the summer. How in the world were they getting those results from the likes of Cahill, Brett Anderson, & Edwin Jackson? All three are free agents now, and Cahill seems like the best fit for the Giants to me. He’ll be 31 on Opening Day, and pitched for only $1.5M last year. You shouldn’t expect him to log a ton of innings, but I like him as a depth move.

Marco Estrada LHP = Tough year for Estrada. At 35, he might simply be coming to the end of his career. Look a little closer, though, and you see a lefty who’s averaged 30 starts a year since 2015. Maybe he can recover a little value on a 1-year deal?

Tyson Ross RHP = Ross wasn’t initially on my list, but I thought DrB did a nice job profiling him on his blog so I thought I’d link you to it. Former Cal guy, and another one who pitched for less than $2M in 2018.

Charlie Morton RHP = Morton gave the Astros 6 wins and about $35M in net value during his two years with them. Will they return the favor and offer him a qualifying offer this winter? If not, I’m swooping in and making a one year offer with enough money he can’t refuse (he earned $8M this season, so maybe $15M would get it done?). I don’t care how old he is, his fastball averaged 97 this year. If you’re looking at improving your roster (or just keeping it respectable) for one year, Morton’s about as good an option as there is.

JA Happ LHP = Are older starting pitchers the new undervalued asset? It’s pretty impressive what some of these guys are doing into their mid and even late-30’s. Think about what Rich Hill did for the Dodgers. Could the Giants get similar production from Happ, who made 31 starts & struck out nearly 200 batters this year? He’s 36, so you know he’s not signing a deal for more than 2 years. I don’t know, for a roster that’s as far from competing as the Giants are, there might be something to say about nabbing a couple of these guys for 2019.  

Nathan Eovaldi RHP = If there’s one guy I’d be looking at for a longer deal this offseason, it’s not Corbin, and it’s not Keuchel. It’s Eovaldi. October performance can certainly be deceiving, but at age 29 & seemingly beyond his arm troubles, he just looks like someone who’s ready to torch some fools over the next few years. When’s the last time the Giants had a starter with a 99 mph fastball? Have they ever? Honestly, I included him here because I really like him, but I think he opened enough eyes this month to price himself out of the Giants offseason plans.

Relievers

Tyler Clippard RHP = His ERA wasn’t great, but he posted an 11+ K/9 for Toronto this year. He’s durable, and the Giants could use another proven pen arm, especially if they decide to move a couple of their current options this winter.

Kelvin Herrera RHP = Alex Pavlovic listed Zach Britton as a potential Giants target, and I think Herrera falls into the same boat. He’s got great stuff, & they could certainly find a place for him. The only thing is, he’s one of the handful of under-30 players in this class, so the contract demands and competition might be too stiff to match.

Jerry Blevins LHP = Blevins is 35, but could be a fit in the Javy Lopez mold if the new GM decides to bring back some prospects for one of his/her solid bullpen lefties this offseason. Blevins seems like a guy who might still be hanging around in February.

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