This was the season the San Francisco Giants planned to give the 2012 World Championship team a chance to repeat the magic in 2013.
Other than improving the bullpen (Chad Gaudin for Guillermo Mota), changing back-up catchers (Guillermo Quiroz for Hector Sanchez) and back-up infielders (Nick Noonan for Ryan Theriot), this season's squad was the essentially same one that swept the Detroit Tigers four straight games last October.
2013 is the final contract year for starters Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong, so Giants' management knew they had to prepare for potentially huge changes to the team's celebrated starting pitching staff.
But, in the time it takes to throw one pitch, 2014 just got bumped up.
In last night's 8-0 win over the Washington Nationals starter Ryan Vogelsong swung at a Craig Stammem fastball in the 5th inning and it connected with his right little finger. Two bones in Vogelsong's right pinkie were broken and a knuckle on the same finger was dislocated.
(Ryan Vogelsong is a tough competetor and one tough dude. If anyone can bounce back from an injury like this, he can and hopefully will.)
Vogelsong is expected to out for a month and a half following surgery on his finger, with maybe another six weeks of rehab– which puts him out until about August 20th. That's up to 18 missed starts if everything goes well.
Which is why long reliever Chad Gaudin should not be "filling in" for Vogelsong until his return. Not only would that be way too much to ask of Gaudin, more importantly it would disrupt the balanced bullpen GM Brian Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy crafted going into the 2013 season.
Fans often suggest that bullpen pitchers should easily be able to start whenever needed, not realizing the damaging domino effect that can have on the bullpen, and the season. Chad Gaudin fills a critical role in San Francisco's bullpen, so even if you thought he could take on 15-18 starts the rest of the season, his spot in the bullpen would have to be replaced by a quality long reliever.
Attempting to turn Gaudin into a starter at this point would mean that Vogelsong's injury would end up hurting both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Which is not a good long term plan.
The Giants do have options. Speculation is already out there about bringing up one of two Triple-A Fresno starters: 25 year old Chris Heston (5-2, 5.33, 1.66, 46 SO in 50.2 IP) or 24 year old Michael Kickham (2-4, 4.72, 1.53, 50 SO in 47.2 IP).
And it could well be that Heston or Kickham (or more likely veteran Shane Loux) is brought up for a couple of starts to give the team time to do what it really needs to do: trade for a competent veteran starting pitcher.
The Giants aren't just a world championship team– they are a world class organization with the resources and commitment to overcome losing any starting player on the team. In this case you're talking about replacing a starting pitcher for nearly half a season.
The only logical solution here is to make the best deal for the best available starting pitcher and continue what has so far been a successful, although somewhat bumpy, 2013 season.
The Vogelsong injury is just the type of scenario that should remind Giants' fans that this organization has the financial resources to go out and get almost any player(s) they need to succeed, without having to depend on their poorly-rated minor league system.
Even in the unlikely case the Giants did end up cutting ties with Lincecum, Zito, and/or Vogelsong at the end of 2013, this franchise is one of the wealthiest and most successful in professional sports.
They may still hope their fans believe the myth that San Francisco is a "small market" team, but in reality they are fully capable of entering the trade or free agent markets to solve just about any roster problem.