SAN FRANCISCO — Generally, there are two types of starting pitchers: Those who have been hurt, and those who will get hurt.
That’s just the reality of pitching, and despite the risks, just about every team will dive into the starting pitching market this offseason. It’s just too hard to have a fully homegrown rotation. Even when he was with the Dodgers -- a player development powerhouse over the past decade -- new Giants head of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi occasionally gave out tens of millions to starting pitchers.
The Dodgers tried to mitigate some of the risk by signing veterans to shorter contracts, but even that was a mixed bag.
Scott Kazmir signed a three-year, $48 million deal after the 2015 season and made just 26 starts for the Dodgers. Brandon McCarthy got that much over four years, and he made double-digit starts only once over the next three seasons. Rich Hill signed for — you guessed it — $48 million over three years and has pitched well, although the Dodgers have at times managed his workload.
Zaidi might change his methods now that he’s in San Francisco, but in Los Angeles, the front office certainly had a type. Zaidi and Andrew Friedman were not afraid to take risks on older players, knowing they had the rotation depth to make up for injuries. At the same time, they shied away from the massive contracts, which lessened the blow a bit when those guys got hurt.
This year’s list of free agents presents some guys who would fit that mold. J.A. Happ and Charlie Morton are on the high end of that market in terms of talent, and guys like Gio Gonzalez and Anibal Sanchez should fit the “two-year contract” mold. Perhaps a marquee starter like Dallas Keuchel will find the market to be unexpectedly cold.
There’s one guy, though, who fits right in with McCarthy, Hill and Kazmir in terms of risk and reward.
Nathan Eovaldi is a late bloomer who twice has had Tommy John surgery. At the same time, he’s just 28 years old, his fastball averages 97 mph, and he was one of the stars of the Red Sox's run to a World Series title.
Eovaldi checks off a lot of those boxes that made guys like Hill attractive to the Dodgers. When Eovaldi is right, he’s dominant, and he certainly showed in the postseason that he’s a selfless teammate -- something that’s important to Zaidi and to the holdovers in the Giants' front office.
The Giants could look at the health concerns in a couple of ways. They have the starting depth — with the emergence of Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez — to monitor someone like Eovaldi closely and try to maximize his performance without running him out there 33 times. On the other hand, the Giants have a $130 million starter (Johnny Cueto) on the shelf, and they’re unsure of what they’ll get from a $90 million starter (Jeff Samardzija). Any pitcher with Eovaldi’s injury history might scare them off from the start.
With the Dodgers, Zaidi wasn’t scared off by injuries. They took big swings to try to add rotation depth, and Eovaldi certainly would fit with Zaidi’s past pursuits.
Editor's note: This week across the NBC Sports Regional Networks, we'll be taking an in-depth look at some of the top free agents in baseball. Thursday is dedicated to free agent pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.