SF Giants possibly out on a frontline starter after Friday's surprise trade

Cleveland Guardians v Seattle Mariners
Cleveland Guardians v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The SF Giants added Robbie Ray to the rotation in a surprise trade on Friday. Despite this, they still have more work to do on the rotation, but Farhan Zaidi hinted that they may no longer be in the market for a frontline starter, per Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area.

SF Giants possibly out on a frontline starter after Friday's surprise trade

The need for another starter, especially one with a predictable track record, is evident. Ray is expected to miss the first part of the season as he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery. He had the procedure done in May of 2023 and the recovery timeline ranges from 12 - 18 months.

On the other hand, Alex Cobb will also miss the first part of next season as he recovers from offseason surgery. He underwent hip surgery in October with an expected recovery timeline of six months. That leaves Logan Webb and Ross Stripling as the only starting pitchers under contract for next season who are expected to be healthy to start next season.

At some point, the Giants could put together a competitive rotation anchored by Webb and Ray, who was the AL Cy Young award winner in 2021. Plus, Cobb is coming off of his first All-Star season in his 12-year career. Unfortunately, at some point may not come soon enough.

Both Ray and Cobb are coming off of major surgery, so while they may be on target to return, there is no way of knowing definitively until they are back on the mound. In the case of Ray, it bears mentioning that, in many cases, a pitcher does not regain his pre-surgery form until he reaches that second season after surgery.

John Brebbia is an example of a player who struggled a bit in his return from Tommy John surgery, posting a 5.89 ERA in his first season back in 2021. He has tallied a 3.47 ERA in 116 appearances since the start of 2022. Could Ray be on a similar timeline? There is no way of knowing, but it is within the range of outcomes.

In the meantime, this will create an opportunity for Kyle Harrison, Tristan Beck, Keaton Winn, and Kai-Wei Teng. Plus, Trevor McDonald is on the 40-man roster, but he has not pitched above High-A yet and there are several prospects in the upper minors that the Giants like.

If they do not make another notable addition to the rotation, they are putting a lot of faith on several younger pitchers. That is not a bad thing and could be a good opportunity for their development. However, the front office would be taking a risk on unproven track records to blend with Webb and Stripling to start the year. And, Stripling is coming off of a rough season of his own.

That is a lot of risk for a team that is coming off of two, below-average seasons. And, it is a gamble for a front office and ownership group that has not inspired a lot of confidence in the fanbase lately.

From a developmental perspective, I could see this being a good opportunity for the younger pitchers. Harrison, Beck, and Winn all showed flashes of promise in 2023. Are they ready to assume a larger role in 2024? They might have to but it is a strategy that could dig the Giants in a deep hole early in the year.

San Francisco is banking on a rotation that could be solid in the second half of the season. Of course, it might never truly come to fruition in 2024. They need at least one more reliable starting pitcher.