Sept. 13, 2011
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Unless you're among the Giants fans still unwilling to concede the miracle it'll take to chase down the Braves for the National League wild-card spot, and if you need to take a peek at the impossibility that the remaining schedule represents, your mind is surely wandering in the direction of Scottsdale 2012 right about now.Specifically, the competition for the No. 5 spot in San Francisco's starting rotation.Let's assume for the time being that Ryan Vogelsong won't break an ankle jumping at the two-year deal the Giants should offer him the moment the season ends; he's in.
We'll also assume the Giants don't do the unthinkable and trade Tim Lincecum for a big bat rather than pony up another massive raise via arbitration this offseason; he's in.
Matt Cain is under contract, and trading him would be a PR nightmare on par with a Lincecum deal; he's in.
Madison Bumgarner has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's in, too.RELATED: Sanchez stats splits game logs
That leaves, as of now, three legitimate candidates for the final spoke in the wheel that once again will be expected to motor the Giants into contention in 2012: lefties Eric Surkamp, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito.As of today, because he's done in the short time he's been in the big leagues what Sanchez and Zito haven't done all year (i.e., proven himself to be steady, reliable, unflappable under a modicum of pressure), Surkamp is surely the frontrunner in most fans' minds.
Is he that in the minds of management? Probably not as strongly.Why? Track record. Sanchez, for all of his maddening inconsistency, remains the most gifted among the trio. Zito, whose five years in Orange and Black have redefined maddening in many ways, remains the most accomplished. Those things count for something, believe it or not. And they should.RELATED: Zito stats splits game logs
So if all three of them pitch well next spring, who gets the gig?Here's a better question: Will all three be in Giants camp next spring?Now, here's a scenario in which they aren't, and it's a scenario that could make the Giants considerably better:Sanchez, who heads to Scottsdale this week to continue his rehab, is eligible for arbitration this winter. Despite his lost season, he's going to get a big raise unless the Giants decide to non-tender him and let him walk as a free agent. That's just how the game works. At first glance, it might look sensible to strongly consider a non-tender for Sanchez, but the first glance is usually blurry. Look at the situation with clarity and you'll see that such a move would mean the Giants are giving up a very talented, still-fairly-youngish lefty and getting zero in return.RELATED: Surkamp stats splits game logs
So why not, as soon as he gets healthy, go to Sanchez with a one-year offer for 6 million? He's making 4.8 this year, and coming off such a disappointing season, he'd probably jump at that the way Vogelsong would jump at the aforementioned two-year deal (10 mil total sounds about right there).Then, with Sanchez firmly in the fold, get to work on trading him.That's right. Sign him and trade him. Think there won't be a number of teams out there jumping at a chance to add a talent like Sanchez for 6 million? Teams that will buy the change-of-scenery pitch that Giants GM Brian Sabean will surely pitch?
There will be plenty, and by packaging Sanchez and perhaps a decent prospect or two, the Giants should be able to get a decent hitter to fortify an offense that needs help all over the diamond. And there will be teams willing to give up a bat for a that kind of package. Then you're down to Surkamp and Zito for the No. 5 spot next spring, and may the best man win. If it's Zito, whose contract makes him untradeable until about midseason next year, Surkamp gets a little more seasoning or makes the club as the long man. If it's Surkamp, Zito has to figure out a way to survive in relief.Either way, with Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong and Bumgarner in the first four sports, the fifth spot isn't going to be a make-or-break gig -- especially with an improved offense; improved in part by the Sanchez sign-and-trade.It's as simple as it sounds. And quite a bit more realistic than those crazy playoff hopes you might still be harboring.