San Francisco Giants:Mazzaro signing intriguing;Kickham and Ford return

May 21, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Vin Mazzaro (32) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the second inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 9-8. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
May 21, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Vin Mazzaro (32) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the second inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 9-8. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

There aren’t many spots available on the San Francisco Giants roster these days. That means that some off-season signings are for depth in the minor leagues. But sometimes a signing may be to provide competition for the current major league roster. That is what makes the signing of Vin Mazzaro intriguing.

Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain and Jake Peavy. That is the rotation for the San Francisco Giants heading into spring training 2016. And the bullpen is pretty much a combination of Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Hunter Strickland, Javier Lopez, Josh Osich, George Kontos and Chris Heston.

If there are any questions it would likely be in the bullpen. Perhaps the Giants want to send Heston to Sacramento to continue as a starter. Or maybe Mike Kickham outpitches Osich. Stranger things have happened.

Which is why the signing of former third-round pick of the Oakland A’s, Vin Mazzaro is somewhat noteworthy.

In addition to Mazzaro, the Giants re-upped with Darren Ford, who was in Sacramento last year. Ford was part of the trade with the Milwaukee Brewers way back in 2008, which sent Ray Durham to the Brewers. He also has a World Series ring from 2010. He scored one run and stole two bases in seven games. He never made a plate appearance that year. He did get 14 at-bats in 2011, hitting .286 in his 26 games.

They also brought back Kickham, who spent last season in Triple-A with the Mariners and Rangers organizations. He is a former 6th round pick of the Giants, who showed a plus arm in limited action in 2013 and 2014, but never looked too comfortable on the mound. Maybe his return will bring a more experienced pitcher. He will likely start the season in Triple-A Sacramento.

The Giants aren’t anything without their ability to scout quality arms. They have proven that they can develop from the minors, as well as find reclamation projects that work out well.

With that in mind, with the depth of pitching in the organization, why would any free agent pitcher sign a deal with the Giants? They must think they have a decent chance at making the club. Otherwise, there are plenty of teams out there in need of pitching that he could have signed with.

Mazzaro probably enjoyed his time in Sacramento while with the River Cats as a minor leaguer with the A’s. But after getting to the major league level, the hope is to stay there, and he has enjoyed success.

As recently as 2013, Mazzaro, who is 29, pitched in 57 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He went 8-2 with a 2.81 ERA. Those numbers figure to be comparable to what he would get while pitching at AT&T Park.

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Looking back at his career, Mazzaro has definitely had some lost years. In 2011, after being traded from Oakland to Kansas City in a deal for David DeJesus, he was 1-1 with a 8.26 ERA in 7 games. But that was after he went 7-2 in Triple-A earlier that season, and most of that high ERA was from one outing.

After the 8-2 record with the Pirates in 2013, he started the following season at Triple-A Indianapolis, only making 5 appearances in Pittsburgh. Then he pitched most of last season in Triple-A for both the Miami and Atlanta organizations. He pitched in 10 games with the Marlins, with no decisions and a 3.75 ERA.

A pitcher that was once projected to be a mainstay in the A’s rotation, has now bounced around to a few organizations who didn’t share in those projections.

Sounds kind of like a Ryan Vogelsong story to me, but then again, I am sentimental.

The Giants might be looking for depth in Sacramento, or they may be looking for competition to replace Yusmeiro Petit. If it is the latter, the inside track may go to Mazzaro since Heston’s development as a starter, and as Peavy’s replacement next year, may be the focus. Having an experienced long-man, like Petit, has proven to be very valuable. And when you compare Petit’s numbers before coming to the Giants to Mazzaro up to this point in his career, Mazzaro has had more success.

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So maybe the Sacramento River Cats have gained another piece in their quest for a PCL championship. But if recent pitching acquisitions made by the team have shown, hidden gems can always become the jewels needed to get a World Series ring.