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Those Were Reds, Not Padres (And A Few Words About Hiroki Kuroda)

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So, what would that be called? A yes-hitter? A many-hitter? Tim Lincecum followed one of the best starts of his career with one of the worst, blowing any fuzzy feelings about his revival, renewal, whatever, right across the bay with the July night fog.

Even if Brian Sabean hadn't previously squelched the trade-Timmy talk (here, in case you missed it), Monday's outing probably dumped cold water on any embers of trade interest out there. Not only was Lincecum exposed by a good-hitting team (ie, something the Padres are not), it ignited questions whether the 148-pitch no-hitter had an effect. Either way, would you trade for him now if you were a GM?

Come October, it's almost certain Lincecum will still be a Giant, and the decision will come to three forks: 1) letting him walk unencumbered, with no chance of a compensation draft pick; 2) making a "qualifying offer" that either ties him to the Giants for another year at about $14 M or gives the Giants an extra draft pick if he signs elsewhere; or 3) making a push to re-sign him to a different deal.

Here's the context for that decision: Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are your 2014 San Francisco Giant starting pitchers, barring injury or absolutely shocking trade. Everyone else is a question mark, although I'm willing to bet the team exercises Ryan Vogelsong's $6.5 M team option if he shows a glimmer of rebound from his awful start when he returns next month.

OK, so Cain, MadBum, Vogey. Zito? The Giants owe him $7 M for simply walking away; it's not inconceivable they add a couple million more, ask him to return in 2014, and call it insurance.

There are other zany variables. Is Chad Gaudin's princess carriage about to turn back into a pumpkin? If he's a real candidate for the 2014 rotation, can he and the Giants see eye to eye on a contract? I'm going with "yes." (Side note: I'm not going to speculate, and certainly not going to moralize, about his legal troubles, his innocence, or his guilt until we know a lot more facts. The report was weird, but I really have no idea what happened and won't jump to any conclusions.)

Another variable: Eric Surkamp. He's pitching today in the doubleheader. He'll probably have to prove himself the rest of the year in Triple A. No doubt the Giants would love to see him leapfrog Mike Kickham in the pecking order, as Kickham looks like he needs a lot more work in the minors to prevent half his pitches being hit 410 feet, or 410 MPH, or both.

If the Giants decide to plug a rotation hole or two via free agency, they'll no doubt weigh the consequences: If they finish with one of the top 20 records in baseball, they could lose their first-round draft pick. (A summary of the rules are here.) If they finish outside the top 20, their draft pick is protected. Right now they're just outside, with the 10th worst record.

If the season ended today, this would be my plan A: Pick up Vogelsong's option, make Gaudin a one-year offer with a richer second-year option triggered by performance milestones. (He's making $750,000 this year. Would $2.5 M and $5 M be enough? After Vogelsong's breakthrough 2011, he signed a contract for $3 M and $5 M in '12 and '13.)

If Gaudin is on board, make Lincecum a qualifying offer, then draw up a list of five free agent starters and put Hiroki Kuroda at the top. He's in his late 30s but he's pitched very well in the AL East the past year and a half, and he seems to want one-year deals. Perfect. How about a rich one-year deal and a second-year option? If the Giants want extra insurance, they can try the low-ball, take-it-or-leave-it offer to Zito, too, once he shops around and can't find much else. If Lincecum, Zito and Kuroda all come to spring training, great. It's seven starters fighting for five slots, with Surkamp and Kickham as Triple-A depth. There's always the option of making Lincecum or Gaudin a reliever. There's always the option of cutting Zito and eating the modest salary.

I don't expect anything resembling Plan A to actually happen. But I do predict Brian Wilson will be a Giant before September. Wouldn't that be weird?



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