Wellemeyer to San Francisco

The Giants added some Madison Bumgarner insurance on Wednesday, signing SP Todd Wellemeyer to a one year minor-league contract with a base salary of $1 million if he makes the team. Wellemeyer figures to battle with Bumgarner and possibly Kevin Pucetas and Joe Martinez for the 5th spot in the San Francisco rotation.

With a very solid front four in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito already in place, the Giants have the makings of another excellent run preventing team. Still, depth could be a big problem going forward. If it turns out Bumgarner isn’t ready, Pucetas or Martinez could step in and deliver acceptable, albeit not particularly desirable, production in a 5th starter role. However, if one of the Giants front four went down for an extended period of time, a rotation with both Pucetas and Martinez would be exposed quickly, as both are projected for a 5.00+ ERA. Acceptable out of a 5th starter, but not out of a 4th.

Inviting Todd Wellemeyer to camp is a step in the right direction. With a non-guaranteed contract, the Giants assume none of the risk that Wellemeyer’s 2009 injuries are lingering. If Wellemeyer returns towards his 2009 form, he could quite easily post a sub-5.00 FIP and be a one-win type of starter, both a huge bargain at $1M and a good bridge to Bumgarner.

However, this is certainly no guarantee. Even if the injuries aren’t affecting him any more, Wellemeyer was never a great pitcher. His only truly productive year came in 2008, which is also the only year of his career in which he’s posted a BB/9 below 4.00. It’s possible that regression merely hit Wellemeyer hard in 2009, and his true talent level is simply not that of a major league quality pitcher.

For that reason, the Giants shouldn’t consider themselves ready for camp in terms of SP depth. They don’t need to make a huge financial investment, but there are players like John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez still available who likely wouldn’t cost much money and could push them closer to contention. CHONE has the Giants within 7-9 games of the division and CAIRO gives them a non-zero chance at the playoffs.

If the money is available, the Giants should bring in another quality SP to camp. Wellemeyer adds some depth, but given the risk surrounding all their potential 5th starters, Brian Sabean should not be complacent.

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Mark C. O'Connor

I’d love to see Pedro in orange and black. No argument with Smoltz, either. I’m as excited about MadBum as any fan of the team, but he is very young and has never thrown more than 140 innings in a season, and some time at AAA wouldn’t hurt. Sabes may not know how to build an offense, but at least he’s doing the right thing by stockpiling arms.