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Why Giants still need more starting pitching for '21 season

NBC Sports
Farhan Zaidi, Giants

When it comes to starting pitching, the Giants will not be able to match the Padres or Dodgers, but they feel they've still ticked off one of their major goals for the offseason. To stay as close over 162 games as they did over 60, they wanted to solidify their rotation and make it a group that could spur winning streaks. After their latest addition, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi expressed confidence. 

"When you have five guys that give you a chance to win every day that's the best chance to build that kind of momentum," Zaidi said, "And with some of what we've been able to do rotation-wise -- retaining Kevin Gausman and now signing (Anthony) DeSclafani and Alex Wood -- we're starting to build the type of rotation that we think can kind of give us the momentum to have some of those positive stretches that you need to be a playoff team."

Wood, who signed to a one-year deal last week, gives the Giants four veterans to go along with young right-handers Logan Webb and Tyler Beede, who is due back from Tommy John surgery early in the season. On paper, the left-hander filled out the rotation heading into spring training, but Zaidi said he wouldn't rule out the Giants adding another starter to their 40-man roster. 

The Giants would try to build out their depth under any circumstance, but it'll be even more important coming off a 60-game season. 

 

"Even the traditional 200-inning guys are coming off seasons where they threw maybe 70 innings because of the shortened year," Zaidi said. "I think managing workloads and making sure you have enough depth to get through the season from a pitching standpoint is going to be really important ... it's not out of the question we could add a veteran knowing that in a usual year you need nine, 10, 11 starters to get through 162 games, and that number might be higher in 2021."

For proof, just look back at 2020. Even over just 60 games, the Giants had seven different pitchers make at least four starts. Had the season continued, the wheels might have come off, too. Cueto and Webb struggled late, Trevor Cahill became a bullpen option, and Jeff Samardzija -- one of the seven -- was DFA'd after his final appearance. Cueto led the staff with 63 1/3 innings and Gausman threw 59 2/3, so bumping back to a normal range in 2021 might be a stretch. Webb has not thrown more than 105 innings in a calendar year in his career. DeSclafani threw 33 2/3 innings last year and Wood was at just 12 2/3. 

There's no doubt the Giants need to add another trustworthy starting option or two. The only question is whether he comes on a big league deal or enters camp as a non-roster invitee, as Cahill, Tyson Ross and others did last spring. 

Cahill and Tyler Anderson remain part of the free agent class, and either could be a solid addition as a depth piece. The free agent market has picked up this week, but there are still plenty of intriguing options out there, including higher-upside plays who could shift Webb to the bullpen or Triple-A to start the year. 

The Giants also have several internal options they will take a look at in the spring, including homegrown lefty Conner Menez ("we're still high on him, he's a guy who has missed a lot of bats in the minor leagues," Zaidi said) and 2020 addition Anthony Banda. Both seem headed for Sacramento's rotation right now, where they may eventually be joined by Sean Hjelle and Tristan Beck, two prospects who should be in line for 2021 debuts. 

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If the younger pitchers develop, the Giants could have plenty of choices late in the summer. But right now, with Beede still rehabbing, they're lacking reliable options if someone gets hurt in spring training or April. That's why Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris will continue to scour the pitching market even as they aim to fill bigger holes, like adding one more left-handed bat. 

"We'll just see how it goes," Zaidi said. "It's certainly possible (to add one more), but we're going to have to balance that against some other things that we're trying to do as well."

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