Giants FA WAR Experiment (Pitchers
This is a sequel to the hitters version of this article where we took the remaining free agents on the market and looked at their 2019 projected WAR compared to the Giants current position players. Today we will look at the pitchers side of things and see if there are any viable free agents that could bolster the Giants rotation or bullpen.
Lets start with the Giants starting rotation that currently is projected to consist of Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Derek Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, and Chris Stratton. What I found in the 2019 WAR projections for the Giants starting rotation is concerning.
Madison Bumgarner has been the ace of the Giants since 2014 and is an elite level talent. However, recently hindered by poor decisions and injuries, Bumgarner has failed to produce at said elite level the last two seasons. Bumgarner finished 2018 with a WAR of 1.4. He is projected to see an increase in WAR in 2019 to 2.1 which is still fairly pedestrian. What is upsetting about that number is that Patrick Corbin (3.5), J.A. Happ (2.8), Charlie Morton (2.8), and Nathan Eovaldi (2.7) are all projected for a higher WAR than Bumgarner in 2019. Unfortunately, all of those players have since signed with other teams. Fortunately for the Giants the second highest projected WAR among free agent pitchers is still available. Dallas Keuchel has a shockingly high WAR projection of 3.2. There is no reason this projection cannot be trusted as Keuchel managed a WAR of 3.6 in 2018. Keuchel is 31, just two years older than Bumgarner, and is projected for a full 1.5 wins above Bumgarner. It would be wise for the Giants to pursue a deal with Keuchel regardless if punting 2019 or attempting to compete. If attempting to compete the thought of a re-surging Bumgarner with Dallas Keuchel is an appealing image. If punting 2019 attempting to trade Madison Bumgarner for major league level talent or high level prospects would become likely. Either way the Giants need another starting pitcher and Dallas Keuchel can be that guy.
Jeff Samardzija is currently projected to be in the two or three spot in the starting rotation. Also marred by injuries last season, when we did see Samardzija he was terrible. "The Shark" ended 2018 with a WAR of -.2. Fortunately for the Giants, for their success in 2019 and/or for increasing Samardzija's value on the trade market, Jeff is expected to make a minor bounce back in 2019 up to a WAR projection of 1.6. This 1.6 2019 WAR projection is only topped on the free agent market by Keuchel furthering the necessity for acquiring him. Samardzija's massive contract and minimal trade value all but guarantees him a spot in the rotation so he can regain said value.
Andrew Suarez was a fantastic rookie for the Giants in 2019 and was a large part of the minor success in a youth movement for the Giants pitching staff. Suarez finished the 2018 season with a WAR of one which isn't anything crazy good but also isn't bad for a rookie. Fortunately, Suarez is projected to take a step forward next season with a 2019 WAR projection of 1.6, the same as Jeff Samardzija. Again only Dallas Keuchel tops Andrew's 2019 WAR projection. Suarez will likely be a staple in the Giants rotation for many seasons to come.
Dereck Rodriguez was also a rookie last year and emerged out of nowhere to have a fantastic year for the Giants. Rodriguez finished off 2018 with a WAR of 1.7 which was second highest among the Giants starting pitchers behind Derek Holland. However, Rodriguez is expected to make a major drop off in 2019. The steamer currently projects Rodriguez to obtain a WAR of just .8 in 2019. There are three pitchers projected at higher 2019 WARs, the aforementioned Dallas Keuchel (3.2), the former Diamondback Clay Bucholz (1), and the former Brewer Wade Miley (1). However, only Keuchel would be a viable addition. Bucholz (34) and Miley (32) aren't worth possibly stunting the growth of Dereck Rodriguez (26) for only an increase in WAR of .2.
A similar case can be made for Chris Stratton. Stratton was up and down from the big league club last season. Eventually Stratton was booted out of the rotation by Derek Holland pitching his best season since 2013. Now, with Derek Holland a free agent, Stratton is currently projected for the number five spot in the rotation. Last season, Stratton ended with a WAR of .6 which is largely expected to continue in 2019 with a projection of .7. There is a case to be made that signing someone to replace Stratton off the free agent market would stunt his growth. However, if the Giants are not inclined to believe that Stratton will grow then there are a flurry of options to replace him. We obviously have the aforementioned Dallas Keuchel (3.2), Clay Bucholz (1), and Wade Miley (1). We can also add Drew Pomeranz (.8), Gio Gonzalez (.8), and Martin Perez (.8) to the list. Signing one of those three and frankly Bucholz or Miley doesn't seem to make too much sense. The upgrade would be minimal and the Giants would hinder any possibility for true growth from the 28 year old Chris Stratton. In order for the Giants to upgrade their rotation its pretty much Keuchel or bust at this point. At least via free agency that is.
The bullpen for the Giants was surprisingly good last year thanks to Will Smith (2), Tony Watson (1.8), and Reyes Moronta (1) who all obtained at least one WAR each. Unfortunately for the Giants this group seems to be on the downward trend and a big drop is projected to happen in 2019. Will Smith is projected to drop 1.1 down to .9 WAR in 2019, Tony Watson is expected to drop 1.5 to a .3 WAR, Reyes Moronta is expected to drop .6 to a .4 WAR, even Sam Dyson (.5 to .3) is expected to lose some next season. That doesn't factor in that Mark Melancon isn't expected to improve on his WAR of .3 as he has an identical .3 projection for 2019. This could spell disaster for the Giants. Fortunately for them there is an abundance of free agent options.
Even with Will Smith's massive reduction in WAR only two free agent options top his .9 WAR projection, Craig Kimbrel (1.4) and Jaime Garcia (1.1). Craig Kimbrel is all but guaranteed a massive contract next season so the Giants won't go anywhere near him. However, Jaime Garcia could be a valuable commodity for the Giants as Garcia has been a reliever and a starter throughout his career giving the Giants added versatility. Garcia looks exactly like the Giants type of player so don't be shocked if the Giants jump at the chance to get versatility on the cheap.
The rest of the Giants bullpen 2019 WAR projections goes as follows. Reyes Moronta (.4), Ray Black (.4), Mark Melancon (.3), Tony Watson (.3), and Sam Dyson (.2). All of these players have a multitude of viable replacements on the free agent market. Jaime Garcia (1.1), David Robertson (.8), Derek Holland (.6), Zach Britton (.5) and Adam Ottavino (.5) are all projected higher than Moronta or Black. We can likely remove Zach Britton and David Robertson as both will cost more money than I'm sure the Giants would like to spend. However, a return of Derek Holland to the Giants staff would not be a surprising one, especially as a versatile pitcher who can pitch in relief and start. Not to mention he would likely come dirt cheap. Adam Ottavino would also be a nice option. The former Rockies pitcher would get to stay in the N.L. West and he knows how to navigate Coors field with success. Furthermore, Ottavino has closing experience which is always valuable. The upgrade wouldn't be much but if the Giants trade Tony Watson, then Ottavino could be signed as a replacement which would actually work to be a slight upgrade over Watson. Pitchers Cody Allen (.4) and Kelvin Herrera (.4) are both projected to out WAR Melancon, Watson, and Dyson. However, both would likely want more money than would be acceptable as both have been elite closers recently. Furthermore, the upgrade would be so insignificant that it simply wouldn't be worth the money or trouble.
That does it. Hopefully you found these findings as intriguing as I did. Thank you for reading.