MLB Free Agency: Giants' Young Starters Could Be Impacted by Changes

SAN FRANCISCO -- The offseason haul thus far has not been particularly flashy, but Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi does have at least one ambitious goal for his first winter in charge at AT&T Park.

At the MLB Winter Meetings last week, Zaidi said he hoped to add enough starting depth that Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez would not be needed in the Giants' rotation on Opening Day. 

"They certainly showed the capability to start in the big leagues and be on the Opening Day roster, but I would view it as a sign of organizational health if we have to make some tough decisions with those guys," Zaidi said. 

[RELATED: Rookie Dereck Rodriguez is biggest bright spot of down year]

That was a hallmark of the Dodgers when Zaidi worked under Andrew Friedman. They regularly lined up so many quality starting options that veterans got extra time off and talented rookies were slow-played. Even now, with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler at the top and plenty of depth behind, the Dodgers are rumored to be after high-end pitching in the trade market. 

Zaidi has inherited a rotation with considerably more question marks. The Giants ranked 10th in the National League in starters' ERA last season. Their ace, Madison Bumgarner, is on the trade block. Johnny Cueto likely won't be back until September, and while Jeff Samardzija has started a throwing program, the Giants won't know much about his shoulder until he actually gets into spring games.

Rodriguez and Suarez were the highlight of the 2018 season, but neither has done it for a full big league year yet. Derek Holland, such a valuable swing piece, is a free agent. Chris Stratton could fit into the plans, but he also had plenty of rough moments in 2018. 

"There's a lot of volatility in there because of the health and having Rodriguez, Suarez and Stratton all in that mix and coming off their rookie seasons," Zaidi said. "It's an area where adding more depth and certainty is certainly a priority. We've talked about some of the younger guys, if they start in the 'pen as a way to control their innings going forward, or if they start in Triple-A as a way to create rotation depth -- those are not bad things for us over the course of 162 games."

That's easier said than done, especially with a market where Matt Harvey is getting $11 million and Lance Lynn requires a three-year deal. The Giants liked Lynn, according to The Athletic, and sources told NBC Sports Bay Area that they had some interest in the traded Tanner Roark.

There still are other stopgap options available, although Zaidi may be hard-pressed to find enough options that Rodriguez and Suarez truly can have their innings watched. 

Counting the minors, both got to their required innings totals in 2018, finishing around the projected 180. They should be fine to stretch to 200 over a full season, but Zaidi prefers a different approach.

Buehler, a better prospect than any Giant, made three short minor league starts last season before joining the Dodgers rotation and throwing 10 innings in April. He was at his best down the stretch. 

"There are some studies that kind of show the best way to maintain health for pitchers is actually to stretch them out over the course of a six-month season," Zaidi said. "Maybe throwing three to four innings a start and then go five, six, seven. You do it that way rather than having an innings count.

"Again, when guys start in the minor leagues, it's certainly easier to have them start off with three-inning starts, four-inning starts, that kind of thing. In L.A., it was something we did with our young guys, kind of start them at the minor league level, almost as an extended buildup from spring training."

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