Giants

Giants vs. Brewers lineups: Season-long winning streak on the line

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Giants vs. Brewers lineups: Season-long winning streak on the line

The Giants can sweep their second straight series and pick up their season-high fifth straight win if they beat the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday at Oracle Park. 

Jeff Samardzija takes the mound for San Francisco, and has been solid at home all season. In 32 innings at Oracle Park in 2019, Samardzija owns a 1.16 WHIP and has struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings. On the road, he has a 1.26 WHIP and averages 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings. 

The Brewers, sitting in first place in the NL Central, will trot out a lefty-heavy lineup in order to best "The Shark." Milwaukee will only start three right-handed hitters -- and one-switch hitter -- Sunday, which is surprising considering right-handed hitters have hit much better against Samardzija (.263 batting average) than lefties (.203) this season. 

First pitch for Brewers vs. Giants is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PT with pregame coverage beginning at noon. You can follow all the action on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming online and on the MyTeams app.

San Francisco Giants (30-38)
Joe Panik, 2B
Mike Yastrzemski, LF
Buster Posey, C
Brandon Belt, 1B
Evan Longoria, 3B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Kevin Pillar, RF
Steven Duggar, CF
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (3-5, 3.72 ERA)

[RELATED: Giants-Twins trade chatter reportedly 'premature']

Milwaukee Brewers (39-31)
Ben Gamel, CF
Christian Yelich, RF
Ryan Braun, LF
Mike Moustakas, 2B
Yasmani Grandal, C
Eric Thames, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Orlando Arcia, SS
Chase Anderson, RHP (3-1, 3.80 ERA)

Analysis: Would Gerrit Cole be the right fit for the Giants?

Analysis: Would Gerrit Cole be the right fit for the Giants?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants have used Buster Posey as a recruiter in recent years, but if they go after the best pitcher on the market this offseason, they'd be better off turning to another longtime member of the team's core. 

As you have surely heard by now, Brandon Crawford is Gerrit Cole's brother-in-law, a connection that is enough to have many fans dreaming of bringing Cole, a runner-up in the Cy Young balloting this year, back to California. But there's another Cole connection that's more meaningful this time of year.

The right-hander is represented by Scott Boras -- he wore a Boras cap after Game 7 of the World Series -- and thus is expected to walk into spring training next season as the owner of the largest contract ever given out to a pitcher. 

As a Boras client, Cole likely will not sign until early in 2020. The Giants went through this a year ago when they chased Bryce Harper and met repeatedly with Boras, and at some point this offseason you can bet that they'll kick the tires on Boras' many top-tier options. 

Cole is as good as it gets, but would he make sense for the Giants? Let's run down the pros and cons ... 

Pros

Cole might be better positioned than any pitcher who has ever hit free agency. Boras is famous for coming up with binders that hype his free agents, and he could literally hand an owner a 700-page book about Cole and be confident that no holes could be poked in his argument. 

Cole hits free agency as a 29-year-old who has pitched 200 innings in four of his past five seasons and has no injury concerns -- other than being a pitcher, of course. His fastball has averaged 97 mph in all but two months of the past two seasons, and it was a robust 96 during those two stretches. He holds that velocity well beyond the 100-pitch mark in starts and puts hitters away with a devastating slider. 

Cole's walk year was one for the ages. He posted a 2.50 ERA, 2.64 FIP and 0.89 WHIP, and led the league with an astounding 326 strikeouts and 185 ERA+.

Want a postseason performer? He has a 2.60 ERA in 10 playoff starts, including a 1.72 ERA in the 2019 run to Game 7. Cole struck out 47 batters in 36 2/3 innings last month. 

Cole's career took off when he was traded from the Pirates to the Astros, and he put up those video game numbers while pitching in a park that is often punishing for starters. Imagine what he could do spending half his time at forgiving Oracle Park, which happens to be in his home state. 

Cole, who grew up in Orange County and went to UCLA (where he met Amy Crawford), reportedly wants to return to California. That has made the Angels the heavy industry favorite to lock him up, with Dodgers fans also clamoring for their front office to make the leap. A deal with the Giants would bring him closer to home and get his wife back to the Bay Area where she grew up.

It would also fill a massive hole for the Giants. They might lose Madison Bumgarner and could use someone to take pressure off their young starters and inexperienced bullpen. Cole pitched at least seven innings in 15 of his 33 starts last season. The 2019 Giants had a starter complete seven innings just 20 times.

Cons

The reasons for pessimism have much more to do with the Giants than Cole. Simply put, he's the right player but at the wrong time. 

Cole is expected to shatter the previous record for a pitcher contract (David Price's $217 million) and should have the highest average annual value, too, topping Zack Greinke's $34 million per year. This is the time of the offseason when the numbers thrown out there sound silly, but the estimates for Cole's contract generally come down somewhere around $280 million.

Some in the game believe he will push for an eight-year deal. Some believe the contract will total more than $300 million. 

The Giants offered Harper $310 million nine months ago and have even more wiggle room this offseason, but they were sold in part on Harper's age (26 at the time) and ability to transform their soft-hitting lineup on an everyday basis. They also felt strongly that Harper would greatly increase their ticket sales, and it's hard for any pitcher -- even someone as good as Cole -- to do that when you might start just once on most homestands.

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a limited history as the top decision-maker, but he kept contracts for starters to the $50 million range in Los Angeles and spent less than $10 million last offseason on Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz. 

The contract wouldn't make sense for an organization that is just starting to dig out of CBT hell and still has two years left on some massive deals, and the timetable doesn't match up either. Realistically, the earliest the Giants should truly contend is 2021. Cole is a win-now piece who could put a team like the Yankees or Dodgers over the top, but he would be on the wrong side of 30 when most of the next Giants core is in place. 

[RELATED: Top 10 pitchers available this offseason]

Zaidi is opportunistic. He got into the Harper chase when he realized the rest of the market was holding back, and he pushed the Giants relatively close to the finish line. You can expect, then, that at some point the Giants will be connected to Cole, in large part because the connection is just too obvious. 

This is still a rebuild, though, and an organization that has too many needs to commit $35 million per year to one pitcher. It's fair for Giants fans to dream about adding Cole, but the more realistic path is to simply hope he doesn't end up back in the NL. 

Farhan Zaidi explains Giants' mindset going into 2019 MLB free agency

Farhan Zaidi explains Giants' mindset going into 2019 MLB free agency

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a history when it comes to MLB free agency: He isn't one for giant contracts. 

Go back to his time as Dodgers general manager and Zaidi wasn't even sniffing a $100 million contract. Entering his second season running the Giants front office, and with a general manager in place, what is his mindset this time around in free agency? 

"We certainly have financial flexibility," Zaidi told The Athletic's Tim Kawakami on the "TK Show." "We've made some moves to ensure that. There's different ways to spend that money. We can take on contracts from other teams with some young talent attached to it, which I think probably fits the mold of where we are. We can be active in the free agent market to the extent that there are matches that make sense to us." 

Those comments don't place a ton of confidence in the Giants pursuing a top free agent like pitcher Gerrit Cole or third baseman Anthony Rendon. San Francisco's top needs this offseason are shoring up the bullpen, adding a powerful outfielder and finding platoon bats around the infield. It sounds like those will come in short-term contracts. 

Having financial flexibility certainly doesn't mean open pockets that extend to the floor. Zaidi noted the Giants have flexibility going into the 2020 season, but he has to look much further down the line. 

Prior to Zaidi's arrival in San Francisco, the Giants locked up declining players like Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt to long-term contracts. That certainly is beginning to backfire. 

"We need to be careful given our recent history about creating too many long-term commitments that can get us back in the jam that we very recently put ourselves in," Zaidi explained. 

[RELATED: Zaidi says Giants keeping options open in new closer chase]

Then again, these quotes are from the same guy who offered Bryce Harper a 12-year, $310 million contract last offseason. Was that a one-time thing?

Maybe, maybe not.

"I think that demonstrates if things line up and make sense from a baseball standpoint and an organizational standpoint, that we'll have organizational support to do it," Zaidi said. 

It's clear Zaidi knows the Giants still are in a rebuilding phase with a farm system on the rise. They found talent last year and will continue to do so this year, just don't expect them to break the bank.