PHILADELPHIA – The Giants are intensifying their search for a starting pitcher, but they are finding the cost of most top arms to be prohibitive in one respect or another.
Either they are owed too much money beyond this season, such as the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, or they will be in wide demand and will cost a premium package of prospects, such as the Rays’ David Price or the Phillies’ Cliff Lee.
And the Giants are in one other unfortunate position: three of the five or six pure sellers in the National League play in the West, which can be a mild impediment to finding a match. San Diego’s Ian Kennedy and the Rockies’ Jorge De La Rosa are two of the better pitchers that could be moved in the nine days before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
There are less sexy arms on the market – Kyle Kendrick is within literal arm’s reach here – and the Giants’ appetite could be whetted to make a patch-a-hole deal if spot starter Yusmeiro Petit has a rough outing Tuesday night. Petit is in the rotation in place of Matt Cain, who has an inflamed right elbow and is far from a sure bet to return to effectiveness this season.
Should the Giants lose another starter, then they’d really be in scramble mode. Edwin Escobar is having a rough season at Triple-A Fresno and Mike Kickham wasn’t competitive in a brief look last season.
There’s one other pitcher on the market who makes too much sense: Jake Peavy.
The Giants pursued Peavy last year but were never close. He’s a personal favorite of Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who managed him during his peak seasons with the San Diego Padres. It also would be poetic of sorts if Peavy were to replace Cain in the rotation, since Cain admired him as a young pitcher and taught him how to be a tough competitor.
Peavy is making $14.5 million this year and won’t pitch enough innings to vest a $15 million option for next season. That meshes well with the Giants, who can add some payroll this year but want to retain as much flexibility as possible for next season. They already have almost $125 million committed in 2015, and they’ll need a second baseman, a third baseman, a No. 5 starter, a closer and a left fielder.
The problem with acquiring Peavy is that the Red Sox are said to want young outfielders and the Giants’ system really doesn’t extend any further than first-round disappointment Gary Brown. The St. Louis Cardinals reportedly have been hot on Peavy’s trail for more than a month and likely could make a more attractive offer.
Peavy is 1-8 with a 4.59 ERA in 19 starts and his strikeout rate has slipped while walks and home runs have gone up. But a move from Fenway Park to the NL West should make an impact on those numbers.
As for Colon, he’s making $11 million next season and the Mets aren’t willing to absorb much of that number.
In the meantime, the Giants continue to work their list of right-handed hitting outfielders, second basemen and relievers. San Diego’s Chris Denorfia is one name that interests them to some degree. The Cubs just activated infielder Emilio Bonifacio from the disabled list, too, and the Giants have been scouting the Cubs in recent days. Right-hander James Russell might be available as well.
Angel Pagan began hitting off a tee from both sides of the plate and Bochy said he told trainers in Arizona that he felt good. There’s still no timetable for Pagan to start a minor league rehab assignment. He’s on the DL with a bulging disc in his lower back.
Brandon Belt (concussion) continues to improve slowly and he could begin some light activities in two to three days. There’s no guarantee he’ll be activated when eligible on Sunday.
Finally, Bochy said catcher Buster Posey is OK and put him at first base Tuesday because Monday’s game was a long one. Bochy also wants Posey to catch Wednesday as well as Thursday’s day game here, no doubt so that Hector Sanchez can catch Tim Lincecum in Friday night’s home series opener against the Dodgers.
It’s an easy move to put Posey at first base while Belt is on the DL. But the downside is that Sanchez is getting harder and harder to hide in the lineup. He's bating .127 with two walks and 21 strikeouts in 71 at-bats over 30 games since May 29.
"That's one thing the kid can do is hit, but we've got to get that back," Bochy said. "He's just coming off the ball."