Addition of Samardzija, Cueto gives SF a shot at fourth title since 2010
By Richard Justice
There's just no way the San Francisco Giants do this thing again, is there? Tell me that's not where we're headed. It defies logic. It defies parity, too. If I'm running one of baseball's other 29 franchises, that's what I'm telling myself.
Let's pause for a short review. The Giants won the World Series in 2010, '12 and '14. That's three championships in five seasons, and along the way, they became the gold standard for being at their best when the lights were brightest and the pressure highest.
Here's what's strange. When they weren't winning the World Series, they were missing the playoffs altogether in 2011, '13 and '15. Since the New Year -- an even-numbered New Year at that -- is upon us, it's easy to connect some dots regarding the Giants. If it's 2016, they're scheduled to win again.
Only thing is, the Cubs have constructed a monster of a team. The D-backs have been busy, too. The Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals, Pirates and Mets might all be good enough to win a World Series in 2016.
Baseball has seldom, if ever, had this kind of parity, and we haven't even gotten to the Red Sox, Royals, Rangers and all those American League teams.
The point is this: The path to winning a World Series might be more difficult than it has ever been. So to think that the Giants have another run left in them, well, there'll be a skeptic or two.
On the other hand, baseball had parity in 2014 when San Francisco won the last time. Now, there's this.
The Giants have had themselves a very nice offseason, and not just in the medical reports they've gotten about some of their key guys. They've also made a pair of impact additions via free agency.
First, it was right-hander Jeff Samardzija for $90 million over five years. He's coming off a season that wasn't his best -- 11-13, 4.96 ERA for the White Sox. From a larger perspective, Samardzija has been very good, averaging 217 innings and 182 strikeouts the past three seasons. His cumulative ERA in that time is 3.96.
On Monday, they struck again by agreeing to a six-year, $130 million contract with right-hander Johnny Cueto. Cueto, like Samardzija, wasn't at his best in 2015 -- a 4.76 ERA in 13 regular-season starts after being acquired by the Royals.
But Cueto's broader numbers are excellent. In the past five seasons, he's 64-38 with a 2.71 ERA while averaging 178 innings and 149 strikeouts.
Here's what the Giants believe: that both Samardzija and Cueto are healthy. That both will benefit from the work of pitching coach Dave Righetti, one of the best on the planet.
Also, both will love playing for the best manager on the planet, Bruce Bochy, and being part of a club with a winning core of players and the atmosphere of AT&T Park, which is packed for virtually every single home game.
Sure, last week some of us were ready to award the National League West to the Arizona Diamondbacks after they'd added Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to their rotation.
And now? If all goes as planned, the Giants could line up a rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Samardzija and Cueto. San Francisco is deep enough that Chris Heston, who pitched a no-hitter last season, will work out of the bullpen until he's needed.
They're not done, either. Vice president Brian Sabean and general manager Bobby Evans are still shopping for outfield and bullpen help as well as poking around the trade market for other possibilities.
The Giants have been connected to virtually all the free-agent outfielders, including Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton. But fixing the rotation was always their first priority. If Cain is healthy -- and indications are that he is -- this rotation could be as good as San Francisco has had during this championship era. Even if the Giants don't do anything else, they've positioned themselves to make another run.
Sure, that's far-fetched. Just like winning three out of five.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.