The Giants are a star-heavy team. They have both a former MVP and a former Cy Young winner in their midst, along with three other starters that received Cy Young votes and thee other hitters that have received MVP votes. Needless to say, there are plenty of options when choosing the four horsemen of the San Francisco Giants.
Cain has been the workhorse of this Giants staff for years, tossing 200 or more innings in each year from 2007 to 2012. But in 2013, Cain struggled only throwing 183 1/3 innings and pitching to a 4.00 ERA, his highest since his rookie year of 2006. Cain was really the same pitcher last year as he was every other year of his career, but just got a little unlucky with his home run rate and, to a lesser extent, his health.
Cain is still just 29-years old and is signed for four more years at $20 million per year. All signs point to Cain being able to bounce back and earn his money, but if he struggles like he did in 2013, he could be a burden on the Giants' payroll going forth. The big question about Cain is whether 2013 was just a blip on the radar, or if it's a sign of things to come.
The 2012 NL MVP came back to Earth in 2013, but still had a fine year, hitting .294/.371/.450 with 15 homers. Posey doesn't need to be superhuman to be a valuable asset to the Giants, which 2013 proved in spades.
But if Posey does manage to crank it up and do what he did in 2012 (win the NL MVP and batting title), he could push the Giants to the top of the NL West. Last year, Posey had some help in the Giants lineup in Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence, meaning that it wasn't all just on him.. If Posey could have hit anywhere near as well as Belt and Pence did in the second half, maybe the Giants could have played a little better in July and August and made a run for the playoffs. But that didn't happen, and San Francisco stayed home in October.
While Cain and Tim Lincecum get most of the attention on the Giants staff, Bumgarner is the real ace. The 24-year old will be San Francisco's Opening Day starter this year, and is coming off of a fabulous season that saw him pitch to a 2.77 ERA with 199 strikeouts in 201 1/3 innings.
And really, with Lincecum's struggles as of late, Bumgarner is the new young face of the Giants rotation. He's been one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball since he was called up for good in 2010, and he keeps getting better and better. Last season, the Giants would have been lost without Bumgarner's presence in their rotation due to the struggles of Cain, Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito. This year, Bumgarner is expected to be the man, and I think he'll do just fine.
Romo took over as Giants closer late in 2012, replacing Santiago Casilla who had initially replaced Brian Wilson following the bearded one's Tommy John surgery. In his new role, Romo has continued to thrive, though his strikeout to walk ratio wasn't as absurd in 2013 as it was in 2011-12.
Here's the odd thing about Romo going into 2014 – he'll be a free agent after the season. The Giants have made a substantial effort to lock up their entire bullpen over the past couple of winters, and have done that – with the exception of Romo. Casilla, Javier Lopez, and Jeremy Affeldt have all gotten multi-year deals, but Romo still remains unsigned past 2014.
In many ways, 2014 is a make or break year for Romo, who turns 31 in March. Another great year as Giants closer will increase his earning potential and allow him to cash in on his newfound value. But remember what happened to Wilson? Like Romo, he signed a two-year deal to buy out his last two arbitration seasons. He blew his elbow out early in 2012, and didn't sign a new contract until July of 2013. With a big 2012, Wilson could have cashed in. Instead, he spent half of 2013 unemployed, made just $1 million when he did sign, and then only got a one-year deal with an option this winter (though he won't be complaining about his $10 million salary).
Could Romo end up following the same path? Romo is a completely different pitcher from Wilson, who focused on throwing gas and worrying about the consequences later. But then again, all it takes is one tweak of the elbow to knock a pitcher out for the season. If Romo stays healthy, he'll be poised to get a sizable raise this winter. If not, it could be a long wait for his payday.