Here is a link to my Tuesday Giants farewell column. The full text runs below:
Giants management said goodbye on Monday. CEO Larry Baer and General Manager Bobby Evans and manager Bruce Bochy came to the interview room at AT&T Park for the final time this season, participated in a state-of-the-team Q&A.
The Giants have a superior lineup going into next season. But their starting pitching is not superior. The Giants need to improve the rotation, make it worthy of the position players. So, I started the discussions by asking Evans to name his core starting pitchers, to explain how he will augment that core.
“The rotation starts, of course, with Madison Bumgarner,” Evans said. “But Jake Peavy is a big part of our end-of-season success. And then Matt Cain, seeing him come back (Sunday), we’re looking at him as a starter for us next year. And then Chris Heston struggled as much as he did the second half. Maybe getting an offseason under his belt — we’re going to look at him and evaluate his role in the rotation.
“So, it at least leaves us one hole and we’ll have to consider whether there’s more to address there or not. But, at least, we know there’s one hole we’ll have to look at in the free-agent market or through internal options or internationally. We’ll just have to be creative and see what we can find.”
“Is it possible you have more than one hole there?” I asked.
“I think it’s possible, yeah,” Evans said. “We have to keep an open mind, see what options avail themselves.”
Those were interesting answers. Interesting for whom Evans named and for whom he did not name.
Bumgarner, Peavy, Cain and Heston.
Is this a strong four? No, it is not. It could be good, but it also could not be good. Of course, Bumgarner will be among the best pitchers in baseball, maybe the best. But he’s a once-every-fifth-day employee.
Peavy is a pure pleasure to watch. He is clever, an intellectual on the mound — strictly mind over batter. But he will be 34 next season and, while 34 isn’t ancient, it isn’t exactly spry. Pitchers that age can lose it at once. It’s like they pass their sell-by date. Not saying this will happen with Peavy, but it’s a risk.
Cain is an extreme risk. More than that, he’s an unknown. Evans said Cain pitched well on Sunday. He did. Five innings, no runs. Such a small sample size for a man who can’t stay healthy. For a man who’s been no factor two years in a row. Hard to pencil him into the rotation without a trembling hand.
Heston started the season well and was awful at the end. Look it up. Even Evans couldn’t predict him as a starter. Evans hopes after some rest Heston will be worth considering.
That means out of four known starters only one is a sure thing — Bumgarner. Each of the others poses an issue, a potential flaw, certainly a worry. You don’t make a champion gambling with that rotation. If Giants management is content with this group, it’s kidding itself — as it kidded itself before this season.
I don’t think Evans and Brian Sabean are in the kidding mode. Let’s look deeper.
Mike Leake: “There’s mutual interest,” Evans said, “but the timing may not be as quick as we’d both like. We’ll have to see how it plays out.”
Translation. Even though Leake is in a hurry to sign up, the Giants don’t want to commit themselves just yet. He is very good, but the Giants may find a better pitcher for the same dough. And Leake is definitely a No. 2 pitcher, if that. The Giants need another No. 1 to keep Bumgarner company.
Tim Lincecum: “Our focus right now is his rehab, to make sure he’s healthy,” Evans said. “This is a pretty stiff rehab for him. It will not be easy. Hopefully, that will progress and give us an opportunity to assess him.”
Translation: Lincecum had serious hip surgery. He hasn’t been special in a long time. No sane executive would remotely count on him. He must stand and deliver.
A Pitcher to be Named Later, a top-end starter like David Price or Zack Greinke to team up with Bumgarner.
Baer: “We’re going to look exhaustively at the market. We’ve been able to win and develop at the same time. That’s hard to do. Sometimes, developing means you take a couple of years off in the rebuild mode. That’s not who we are. Sometimes, it may be unavoidable. We want to get ourselves right back there in 2016. Anything’s possible, but it’s got to be the right fit. It’s too early to call.”
Translation: Maybe yes, maybe no on the multiyear whopper contract for a whopper starter. But the Giants will compete. They need to.
Evans: “The rotation will need to be addressed. There’s expectations internally in terms of the role that Matt Cain and Jake Peavy can play in our rotation, especially if Matt Cain comes back healthy. We’re going to be open-minded to every opportunity that presents itself. The higher end the better. We’ll ultimately take the best guy with the best deal and the best timing.”
Translation: Evans was still playing the Matt Cain card, but he’s no dummy. He will investigate every candidate. He has to. He knows that. Remember the phrase “the higher end the better.”
Key moment of the news conference: Someone asked Evans, “Is there a feeling in management of keeping up with the Dodgers, especially the big two in their rotation (Greinke and Clayton Kershaw)?”
To which Evans shot back: “No we don’t want to keep up with them. We want to pass them.”
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach taff ColumnistLowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.