When the Giants season ended last Thursday night, Duane Kuiper couldn't get out of Oracle Park fast enough. The team's broadcasters had done a four-man booth for Game 5 of the National League Division Series and then stayed on KNBR for the postgame wrap, but none were too eager to stick around any longer as the Los Angeles Dodgers and a few hundred fans celebrated near the visiting dugout.
Kuiper said he's proud of all the Giants accomplished in 2021, though, and on this week's "Giants Talk Podcast," he explained why it's going to be "a fun offseason to watch."
The first order of business should be clear, he said.
"The first thing you've got to do is you've got to figure out what your rotation is going to be. They've got the guy now that's going to lead the rotation in Logan Webb, but what are you going to do after that?" Kuiper said. "I think signing (Kevin) Gausman is huge, and I think Alex Wood, it would be great to have him back. (Anthony) DeSclafani would be fine if you got him back, too.
"But I really believe one of those three guys are not going to be back. There's a good chance that two of those three could be back, and then you're going to have to still sign some people."
Kuiper brought up how president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi went into the 2021 season thinking he needed to load up on starting options. The Giants brought in so many free agents that Webb actually was supposed to start their season out of the rotation, but injuries made him a mainstay and he had a breakout season.
The Giants ended up having 13 different players start a game, although five of them were openers. They actually stayed relatively healthy, but they did need five starts out of Sammy Long, four from Scott Kazmir, and multiple bullpen games in September. Aaron Sanchez, the last one to join the original rotation, made seven starts early in the year.
"With injuries and guys missing a start here and there, they did need as many as they could," Kuiper said. "I think you're going to see this front office sign a lot of different people and all of those people are going to have the ability to start, and then mix and match in spring training and see what you've got for a five-man rotation."
Zaidi said earlier this week that he expects the starting pitching market to be extremely competitive. Gausman, in particular, should cash out, and Wood and DeSclafani will do much better than the incentive-filled one-year deals they signed last offseason. The Giants will need to be in on all three, though, and just about everyone else.
Their only prospects who are even close to the big leagues are Long, Tyler Beede (who finished the year on the IL) and Sean Hjelle. A former second-round pick, Hjelle struggled in 10 Triple-A starts but had a 4.31 ERA across two levels in 2021. He should be in the mix at some point in 2022.
"I'd like to see him get a shot at it," Kuiper said, "Because what's better than seeing a 7-footer out on the mound."