The names change, as do the dollar figures and repertoires. But when it comes to filling out their rotation, the Giants keep leaning on the same theme.
Anthony DeSclafani became the latest to sign a one-year contract to join the rotation, yet again providing the hope of a breakthrough, but also the possibility that the Giants will remain on the prowl for help at the top. They hit on Kevin Gausman, but Drew Pomeranz proved to be a better fit in the bullpen. Drew Smyly pitched like an ace, but he didn't pitch much, which is part of why he was available on a one-year deal in the first place.
The Giants feel DeSclafani might have a ceiling that hasn't been hit yet, but it's hard to make that call on Dec. 17 when the right-hander is coming off a difficult season. He gives the Giants another piece for their rotation, but it's still a group lacking in star power. On Wednesday, a few hours after announcing the DeSclafani deal, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the Giants aren't done.
"I think we're going to continue to look for starting pitching," he said. "It could come in the form of maybe a versatile swingman who could go back and forth, but I actually think that we have room to add another guy we could rely on every fifth day. Just knowing that you need seven, eight, nine, 10 pitchers to get through a full season, and coming off a shortened season where guys didn't log a lot of innings, that may be even more important."
The Giants technically have four right now. Gausman, Johnny Cueto, DeSclafani and Logan Webb are in place, with Tyler Beede likely back from Tommy John surgery sometime around the start of May. Zaidi and Scott Harris could round out the shopping with another familiar type, adding the 2021 version of Trevor Cahill or Tyler Anderson (they remain in touch with the left-hander's representatives after non-tendering him), but Zaidi said he won't rule out adding a bigger name.
"We're continuing to have conversations kind of in all segments of the market," Zaidi said.
That brings us to the name most Giants fans have as the offseason's No. 1 target. On a half-hour call with local reporters, Zaidi was asked a couple of times about Trevor Bauer, or generally about a pitcher who will command that type of salary. He wouldn't tip his hand, repeating something he said earlier this offseason.
"I think we'll continue to sort of say generally that I'm in touch with ownership and our board and they continue to be supportive of us making smart baseball decisions, and when there's an opportunity that makes sense for a multi-year deal for a free agent we'll certainly discuss that," Zaidi said. "Beyond that, our operating charge continues to be to just make smart baseball decisions."
Most front offices generally feel these days that committing five or six years and $100 million-plus to a starter is not the smartest baseball decision. It's unclear exactly what Bauer might be seeking, and he previously has flirted with the idea of doing a one-year deal. If the bidding is more traditional, though, the Giants don't figure to be at the forefront. Zaidi has handed out just one multi-year deal since coming to San Francisco in November of 2018 and it wasn't to a pitcher. Previously, in Los Angeles, the method was similar.
The Giants have preferred to patch things together, finding bargains in January and early February. It has worked remarkably well for the lineup, but not so much in the rotation. It's a group that still needs help, even after two veteran right-handers signed one-year deals over the first six weeks of free agency. Zaidi said the starting pitching segment of the market has been as active as any, and he noted that the trade market is also full of conversations.
The Giants have a bit more breathing room after Wednesday's addition, but if they want to be competitive in 2021, there's work to be done. Their rotation didn't hold up over 60 games, and now they must plan for 162.
"After a year where even guys starting every fifth day maybe threw 70 innings, it's going to be more important than ever to have really good starting pitching depth," Zaidi said.