SF Giants Opening Day starting rotation in 2023:
SP1: Kevin Gausman
SP2: Clayton Kershaw
SP3: Logan Webb
SP4: Seth Corry
SP5: Tyler Beede
The Giants lineup has some uncertainty, but the team’s future pitching staff is an even larger Pandora’s box. On the current roster, Logan Webb is the only starter under team control beyond 2021. Needless to say, a lot will change by 2023.
With plenty of financial flexibility, the Giants should have no problem re-signing ace Kevin Gausman. If he departs, the team will need to pay a premium for at least one starter in the coming offseason anyway. Marcus Stroman seems like the most obvious alternative, but both he and Gausman seem more likely to stay where they are than leave. Aside from them, the rest of next offseason’s pitching market is relatively thin.
That changes substantially in the projected free-agent class after 2022. Jacob DeGrom can opt out of his contract and potentially join José Berríos, Joe Musgrove, and Sean Manaea on the open market. Assuming the Giants go big in free agency offensively, it’s not out of the question that they spend another year filling out the rotation by re-signing Gausman and a slew of one-year reclamation projects before making another big splash the next offseason. However, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has spent three years building teams with virtually no legitimate chance at winning the division. I don’t think he is going to play things that slowly.
Clayton Kershaw will be a free agent at the end of this season. While he has dominated for the Giants’ biggest rivals for years, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, Trevor Bauer, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May are all under team control for the Dodgers well into the future. It’s hard to envision Los Angeles forking over a large contract. Set to turn 34 next year, Kershaw’s long injury history will lead many teams to shy away. The Giants, though, have shown a willingness to bet on a player’s health on short-term deals.
Zaidi is obviously familiar with Kershaw from his years with the Dodgers, and the southpaw continues to be effective even as he’s aged. For all the criticism of Kershaw’s postseason performances and erratic health, he’s pitched in at least 160 innings every year since 2009 except for two: when he threw 149 innings in 2016 and the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. A two-year, $50 million or three-year, $70 million deal would give the Giants another elite starter without making a long-term commitment. San Francisco would still have the money to make a run at DeGrom or Berrios if either became free agents, but locking up Gausman and Kershaw would solidify 40% of their rotation alongside whichever young pieces stick.
Webb is beginning to look like a long-term option, and Tyler Beede made great progress in the spring of 2020 before he underwent Tommy John surgery. His future may be in the bullpen, but I think Beede could pitch his way into the back-of-the-rotation for the end of 2021 and beyond.
Seth Corry is one of the best starting pitching prospects in the Giants system but still has to answer questions about his command. Still, fans could slot in their favorite prospect between Corry, Tristan Beck, Sean Hjelle, Kai-Wei Teng, or even Kyle Harrison. The Giants have been willing to stomach starters who did not work deep into games under Zaidi if they could generate whiffs alongside the occasional dominant outing. To me, Corry is the best bet to do that by 2023.