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One Month Of Hot Stove Later...

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Burp. Welcome back, you and all your turkey sandwiches. If you didn't eat enough starch this past weekend, I'm sure you can get yam-skin wall weavings at a deep Cyber Monday discount on Etsy.

Meanwhile, let's digest some Giants news. Ryan Vogelsong is back, and it wasn't much of a discount after all. The Giants declined his $6.5 million option, which cost them a few hundred thou, and ended up re-signing him for $5 M with incentives. Doesn't seem like much savings, but when Phil Hughes is getting $24 M guaranteed, Ricky Nolasco nearly $50 M [UPDATE: and Scott Kazmir $22 M!], risking $5 M that a 36-year-old Vogelsong will bounce back even to a modest league-average level doesn't seem a big outlay.

Could the team have shaved a couple mil off the base salary? We might not ever know. Could the team have banked on minimum-salary earners like Yusmeiro Petit and whoever else remains available in January to compete for the fifth rotation slot? I'm guessing the Giants know enough about what ailed Vogey in 2013 to feel better about his chances, and paying for them, than they do about Petit and his ilk.

Unfortunately, it leaves the Giants on paper looking like everything needs to tilt their way, heavily and shockingly, for their rotation to match, say, that of the Dodgers (Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, Haren... Billingsley?). Which is really what we're talking about when we talk about the Giants. They're not going to out-hit the Dodgers, so somehow someway they have to out-pitch and out-defend them.

I doubt it, but perhaps Ryan Vogelsong is the insurance policy in case MLB and the Japanese leagues can't get their lawyers to shake hands, and Masahiro Tanaka doesn't get posted this winter. Perhaps, come April, Vogelsong will be the league's most expensive long man. Oh, sorry. The Dodgers still have Brandon League. But if the Giants in most unlikely fashion do bigfoot their way to Tanaka, it will certainly come by beating LA at their own wretched-excess game, and the Giants will have the bullpen salaries, plus Vogey, to prove it.

I liked the Tim Hudson upgrade. I'm lukewarm about Vogelsong, mainly because it's become clear the big upgrades on this team must arrive through new pitchers, or through incumbents, or through incumbent pitchers. Hudson counts; Vogey doesn't.

Shiny new hitters don't seem to be the rocket fuel on tap to boost a 76-win team into the playoffs -- shocking, no? That said, we've had only a month of hot-stoving, so who knows what kind of odd-at-the-time trade is forthcoming from the flip-phone of Brian Sabean. (Torres/Ramirez for Pagan and Sanchez/Verdugo for Melky Cabrera seemed in the meh-to-uninspiring range when they happened.) Guaranteeing $5 M to Vogey instead of $25-30 M to Bronson Arroyo, or $24 M to Phil Hughes, might be the gap that lets a couple creative trades lasso higher-priced hitting talent.

As for the recent 40-man roster moves, no one's shedding tears for Frankie Pegs, while Johnny Monell has a chance to win a backup role with the O's next spring, so chalk up a potential feel-good assist from the Giants' outbox. Incoming: two no-name minor league pitchers, which instantly makes us suspect Dick Tidrow knows where the golden ticket is hidden.



The other additions, from their own farm system, are also far from blue chip. Former first rounder Gary Brown has a year of AAA under his belt and is underwhelming in too many ways to be considered a good bet at this point; Adam Duvall is a low-minors slugger who turns 26 next year, and the Giants probably hope, at best, he can compete for Brett Pill's job (ie, AAAA slugger with bench power potential) in the next year or two; Hunter Strickland also turns 26 next year, hasn't pitched above AA, and had Tommy John surgery in May; and Kendry Flores, the most promising of the bunch, threw 141 quality innings at low-A Augusta in his age-21 season, with nearly a strikeout an inning and only 17 walks.

Add Flores to the scrum of talented arms the organization hopes will be the foundation -- along with Posey, Cain and Bumgarner -- of the team in the back half of this decade. With the dearth of top position prospects in the system, we can only hope the Giants figure out which young pitchers are the keepers, and which can be traded for hitters and fielders.

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