Why the SF Giants should still look to upgrade the starting rotation this winter

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

In his end-of-the-year press conference, team president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi indicated that they would not be in the market for depth rotation options. However, the SF Giants should still look to upgrade the rotation because it is light on track record outside of the top two options.

Why the SF Giants should still look to upgrade the starting rotation this winter

Those two options would, of course, be Logan Webb and Alex Cobb. Webb just finished a stellar campaign in which he posted a 3.25 ERA across a league-leading 216 innings. He should finish the year with plenty of Cy Young votes as well.

On the other hand, Cobb continues to prove that there is plenty left in the tank. The Giants confirmed that they were going to pick up his team option for next season, which is hardly a surprise. The 12-year veteran tallied a 3.87 ERA in 28 starts while earning his first All-Star nod.

Outside of these two, Kyle Harrison is expected to play a prominent role in next year's rotation with Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck somewhere in the mix. Plus, the front office expects a handful of rookies to make an impact next year as well.

The Giants will have Anthony DeSclafani and Ross Stripling under contract for next season. Stripling has stated that he will not exercise his opt-out clause, whereas the team will have to wait on Sean Manaea's decision.

Whether Manaea opts out or not, have a lengthy depth chart for the rotation and there is some inherent depth. It might be the first offseason in the last couple of years where they really do not need to make additions to the rotation to cover innings. Zaidi is right in saying that they do not need to be in the market for depth, but they should target a mid-rotation option or better.

The starting rotation still should be an area to upgrade as it is pretty light on track record and predictability. The Giants expect Webb to anchor the rotation with Cobb giving them quality innings as well.

The rotation was fine with a 4.12 ERA this past season, but the current iteration of next year's rotation depends too much on the success of both Webb and Cobb. As 2023 demonstrated, they can handle the pressure, but past results do not predict future performance. In fact, no one can predict the future despite how much front offices try with their projections.

The Giants need to consider hedging their bets against the top two options because if one of either Webb or Cobb falters, they just do not have enough quality depth to make up for lost production based on 2023 performances.

Now, further development from someone like Harrison could go a long way in minimizing performance risk. Though, the Giants need to ask themselves how much can they expect from Harrison's workload next year.

The 22-year-old pitcher has never completed more than 113 innings as a pro, which he did in 2022 in a year that we split between two affiliates. Can the Giants realistically ask him to throw 140 innings or more next year? With how conservative they were with Harrison's workload this year, it would be a mild surprise to see his workload spike by more than 20 percent. It could happen, but it would be a surprise.

They could also get production from young pitchers like Winn and Beck. The same could be said for DeSclafani or Stripling, but if they are counting on either one of those to perform, that is a problem and it is not going to inspire a ton of confidence with the fanbase. DeSclafani and Stripling were unplayable when healthy, but they have had past success.

Nevertheless, the Giants need to consider that a bonus. Of course, they want to create some competition and opportunity with their younger pitchers, which is a tough balancing act when the front office needs to prove it can put together a winner next season.

The opportunities will come for those pitchers, but it felt like they were just one mid-rotation option from being in the playoff picture this year. They cannot make the same mistake next year.