When the Giants signed Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly in the span of five weeks last offseason, it was easy to view it as a Drew Pomeranz 2.0 situation. They could rehabilitate a pair of pitchers with great potential, hope to contend, but more likely deal them by July 31 for players like Mauricio Dubon who can be a big part of the future.
The first part of the plan worked to perfection. The Giants were right about the pitchers' talent, and they were able to unlock something new in both. As they were doing that, though, the baseball world changed.
There was no pre-deadline flurry around MLB in a shortened season, and the expanded postseason field allowed the Giants to attempt to contend, with Gausman and Smyly trying to get them in on the final day and also lining up as their best two starting options heading into October.
The partnership took on a whole different feel, and it's one both sides have shown an interest in continuing. Gausman and Smyly spoke glowingly of playing for the Giants, and in his end-of-season Zoom press conference, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the team definitely has interest in reunions.
"It's obviously their prerogative to play out the market, but we certainly have interest in bringing both of those guys back," he said. "I think if you look at our team, we have some starting pitching that we're excited about. We're obviously hoping to get Tyler Beede back next year, but I think it's fair to say we're going to be shopping for some starting pitching this offseason. Having guys who have been here, are excited to be here, have an interest in coming back, you would imagine that would be at the top of our list."
There was one more thing that happened along the way that the Giants could not have seen coming. The minor league season was canceled, and Logan Webb ended up being the only young Giants starter to get meaningful work. The Giants are hopeful they can accelerate the development of top prospects in 2021, but that is more likely on the position player side. Guys like Sean Hjelle, Seth Corry and Kai-Wei Teng -- a sleeper in the system -- missed a full year of innings and might be further away than first anticipated.
Regardless of how that plays out, there are plenty of holes to fill. Beede had Tommy John surgery in March and is doing well in his rehab, but next Opening Day would be an aggressive timetable. That leaves Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb as the only returning starters, with Tyler Anderson likely back as a swingman. Among the 81 pitchers who threw at least 50 innings, Cueto (5.40) and Webb (5.47) ranked 71st and 72nd in ERA.
The advanced metrics liked both -- particularly Webb -- a bit better than that, but it's still easy to see why the Giants will be shopping for starters this winter. Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman are the big names on the market, but after that it's a flood of guys similar to Gausman and Smyly, pitchers with good stuff and the potential to be bargains in the right situation.
If you're going to go for those types, why not go with the ones you know? As Zaidi mentioned, both players will have the opportunity to test the market, and they should do better than they did after 2019. Gausman signed for $9 million but should be in line for a multi-year deal this time around. Smyly signed for just $4 million and plenty of incentives, although he hit just one of them.
The market is expected to be slow with teams coming off a year without fans and uncertain about 2021 ticket sales, but both pitchers should find more suitors than the last time around. The Giants will be there at the front of the line, reminding Gausman and Smyly of how much they enjoyed a weird 2020 season.
"I honestly truly loved it here," he said. "I think it's a great place to pitch, it's a great city to be in, the weather, the teammates, the guys, the culture. I loved everything about playing here and being a Giant."