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How Giants plan to fill rotation after three additions

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The mad scramble to get free agents signed before a likely MLB lockout on Wednesday night led to an interesting situation for the Giants.

At 11 a.m. on Wednesday they announced a two-year deal for Alex Wood, which came a morning after Alex Cobb's two-year deal was announced. Farhan Zaidi did a Zoom call with reporters at 11:30 a.m. to discuss the moves, and Cobb and Wood took part in back-to-back press conferences a couple of hours later. 

In between all that action, Kevin Gausman was introduced as the latest big addition for the Toronto Blue Jays. On a day when the Giants celebrated filling two more spots in their rotation, it was hard not to think about what they're also missing. 

There is no doubt that the Giants are a better team today than they were 24 hours ago. Wood and Cobb are coming off good years, and there's reason to think both can be more productive in 2022. Wood fought some inconsistency with his slider in his first year with the Giants and also missed time with COVID-19; Cobb took huge strides after visiting Driveline and now will get to work with perhaps the best coaching staff in the game.

Those two will join Anthony DeSclafani in filling the spots behind Logan Webb, but the Giants still have a hole to fill. When a 107-win team got to the postseason it was Webb and Gausman who were the clear options to pitch the first two games of the NLDS. Either would have been a logical choice, with Webb getting the nod. 

 

The Giants have done good work over the last 10 days, but they certainly could still use a 1A to Webb, right? 

"It's a fair question. Everybody could use more top-of-the-rotation options," Zaidi said. "We had those two guys starting games one and two for us last year, but I think we feel like some of the other options that we have could emerge and be part of that scenario. Some of the starting pitchers that are still available in free agency and trade could be part of that, but again, I think we just try to build the best roster that we can. Even if you look at teams in the postseason there are different compositions of teams in terms of their strengths, in terms of the relative strength of their rotation and the relative strength at the top of their rotations."

Over and over on Wednesday, Zaidi hit on adding depth, not star power, and it shouldn't be a surprise. He has said repeatedly this offseason that the goal is to fill 162 starts, not a five-man rotation. On paper, the Giants are one starter away from a full rotation, and adding another big arm could bump Wood, DeSclafani and Cobb down to be a very strong 3-4-5. But the Giants aren't looking at this in a traditional way. 

"I know I sound like a broken record -- we just don't think of it as these are our five starters," Zaidi said. "When you go around baseball, if you ask the question of what percentage of a team's starts were made by the five guys who were in the 'opening day rotation,' that number varies pretty widely."

The Giants had 13 different pitchers start a game last year, but if you take out their openers they really used eight pitchers in a traditional starting role. They need to plan for at least that many in 2022, and likely more. The 2021 group actually stayed relatively healthy, and Cobb has had injury issues in his career. 

Zaidi mentioned young pitchers Sean Hjelle, Sammy Long and Tyler Beede as guys who could fill starts throughout the year, but the Giants will keep looking for depth. He said he wouldn't rule out signing another veteran and added that the Giants will also seek swingmen -- guys who can be in the bullpen at times, too -- and pitchers who can be optioned to Triple-A. 

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Reading between the lines, it did not sound like the Giants plan to make a splash, and they certainly weren't willing to approach the $110 million that Gausman got from the Blue Jays. The best pitcher remaining on the market is Marcus Stroman, but he could also wind up getting the kind of deal the Giants have avoided. (Editor's note: Stroman has since announced he's signing with the Chicago Cubs).

 

The Giants will also look at trade options, and they certainly could find someone -- Cincinnati's Luis Castillo or Oakland's Frankie Montas, perhaps -- who looks like a strong No. 2 in their rotation. But they're not going to force it, and their goal whenever the offseason resumes will be to continue to build depth. 

It's possible that by the end of next September, one of DeSclafani, Wood or Cobb is right there with Webb at the top of a playoff rotation, but for now Zaidi is focused on all 162 games and what his team needs to add to win as many of them as possible. On Wednesday, he made a point of noting that the Giants went 21-10 in DeSclafani's starts and 19-7 when Wood started a game. 

"We would love to add somebody who could pitch at the top of the rotation with Logan," Zaidi said, "But I think we are more looking for as many starting pitchers as possible that give our team a chance to win on any day."

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