Should we just forget the search for a fifth starter?

Leave a comment

A lot of time has been spent trying to figure out who should be the fifth starter in New York, but if it were up to FanGraph’s Marc Hulet, we wouldn’t even be making the effort:

Teams spend millions of
dollars and thousands of hours crunching data to build a successful
five-man rotation, but it’s all in vain. The truth of the matter is that
these mythical creatures don’t actually exist. If we look back to the 2009 season, only two teams had five starters
on their pitching staffs that made 24 or more starts: the Chicago Cubs
and the Colorado Rockies.

Hulet has a better idea: rather than pick one guy to be the fifth man in the rotation, make it a committee affair, filling that fifth slot with a veteran long reliever who could make 8-10 starts, a young pitching prospect who can make 8-10 starts and split the season between the minors and the big club and fill the remainder of the starts with minor league veterans and organizational soldiers.

I like the thinking — don’t anoint anyone “fifth starter” and, rather, use that slot as a proving ground of sorts — but it just seems impractical for anyone but a rebuilding team.  The first time the young prospect gets a go and has a nice outing everyone will be clamoring for him to keep the job. The first time the swingman gets shelled everyone will wonder why a career long relief guy is starting games.

Hulet’s idea is a nice way to optimize resources and give multiple guys looks, but it overlooks the fact that managers get cameras and tape recorders shoved in their faces every single night and are expected to explain themselves. That’s stressful and distracting even if the skipper has the backing of the front office. Upshot: neat idea, but I think it’s ultimately unworkable.

Giants nearing deal with Cameron Maybin

Cameron Maybin
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Giants are finalizing a minor league deal for free agent outfielder Cameron Maybin, according to Andrew Baggarly and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The team has not confirmed the signing, but it’s in keeping with their stated goal of adding more veteran presence and outfield options to their roster in advance of the 2019 season.

Maybin, 31, appeared in back-to-back gigs with the Marlins and Mariners in 2018. He slashed an underwhelming .249/.326/.336 with four home runs, 10 stolen bases (in 15 chances), a .662 OPS, and 0.5 fWAR through 384 plate appearances for the two clubs, a clear improvement over his totals in 2017 but still shy of the career numbers he posted with the Padres all the way back in 2011. It’s not only his offense that has tanked, but his speed and defense in center field, all of which he’ll try to improve as he jockeys for a roster spot in camp this month.

The Giants’ outfield has been largely depleted of any kind of consistent talent lately, especially taking into account the recent departures of Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, and Gorkys Hernández. Even with the acquisition of, say, All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, there’s nothing standing in the way of Maybin and fellow veteran signee Gerardo Parra grabbing hold of full- or part-time roles this year, though they’ll need to outperform candidates like Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater, Craig Gentry, Mike Gerber, and others first.

In a previous report on Friday, Baggarly revealed that a “handshake understanding” had been established with several veteran players already this offseason, all but guaranteeing them regular starting opportunities over the course of the season. How those agreements will be affected by spring training performances remains to be seen, but at least for now, the Giants appear prepared to give their newest players a long leash as they try to get back on top in the NL West.