The San Francisco Giants have a starting rotation problem, and it’s a big one.
Madison Bumgarner is the ace, but he’s coming off of a season and postseason that saw him throw 270 innings. Matt Cain had two major surgeries and there’s no telling how he’ll perform. Tim Hudson will be 40 years old in 2015 and faded badly down the stretch this season. And Tim Lincecum is about as big of a question mark as you can get.
That’s why it makes sense that the Giants are apparently serious suitors for Jon Lester, the best free agent starting pitcher on the market. In a year where offensive difference makers are going to be tough to find, loading up on pitching may be the best plan of attack.
It’s tempting to think about a Giants rotation that starts with Bumgarner and Lester, two of the best left handed pitchers in the game. It would give them a 1-2 punch that would rival any other team’s in the league and would go a long way in getting the Giants over the odd year hump. Lester is the kind of pitcher who instantly makes a team better, an ace with a long postseason resume who would likely thrive at AT&T Park.
The Giants would be smart to throw money at Lester considering there aren’t many position players available who’d warrant the same consideration. For instance, there’s no third baseman on the market who can replace Pablo Sandoval, so offering a huge contract to, say, Chase Headley would be more of a desperation move than anything. Giving a huge contract to a pitcher who would make their rotation better and is an obvious upgrade over what they have now would be the opposite of a desperation move; instead, it would be the Giants recognizing where they can get better and spending their money wisely.
If any team would be hesitant to give a long term, big money contract to a left handed starter who last pitched for the A’s, it would be the Giants. But Lester isn’t Barry Zito: his stuff isn’t degrading, he hasn’t seen his production drop off the past few seasons, and he’s still a top of the rotation starter. A 6 year, $150 million contract wouldn’t be out of the question for someone with Lester’s pedigree. And he seems like the kind of pitcher who might age well, considering he’s not a power guy and has a wide repertoire of pitches at his disposal.
The Giants face stiff competition for Lester, with the Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers all said to have interest in him. But if the Giants are serious about contending again next year and ultimately defending their world championship, they should do everything they can to outbid the field and make their rotation that much better. Lester is this year’s free agent difference maker and the Giants can’t afford to let him get away.
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