Chad Gaudin (courtesy of ESPN.com)
The San Francisco Giants are poised this offseason to overhaul a rotation that helped them win two World Series titles in three years. While Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner remain core staples as front end starters, the back end of the rotation is filled with question marks. Will Tim Lincecum sign? Which veteran starter will the team bring in to replace Barry Zito? Will Ryan Vogelsong return on a lesser deal? Perhaps one of the most intriguing questions fans have pondered involves Chad Gaudin, a pitcher who posted respectable numbers in 12 spot starts when Vogelsong landed on the DL. Let’s take a look at Gaudin’s history and performance this season in order to determine whether he’s a viable candidate for a spot in next year’s rotation.
After playing 10 years in the Majors for 8 different teams, Gaudin was offered a minor league contract to play for the Giants in 2013. His impressive Spring Training earned him a Major League deal to join the big league roster as the final piece of the bullpen, taking over the long relief role previously held by Guillermo Mota.
Gaudin’s previous track record as a journeyman mostly featured stints as a relief pitcher. Only once, in 2006, has he ever posted an ERA below 4.40. Furthermore, Gaudin has very limited experience as a starting pitcher. He made 2 starts in 2003 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, going 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA that included 12 appearances as a reliever. In 2004, Gaudin made 4 starts in 26 appearances while splitting time with Tampa’s Triple-A affiliate.
In 2005, Gaudin was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he made 3 starts in 5 appearances, posting an inflated ERA of 13.15. Traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2006, Gaudin shined as a reliever, posting an ERA of 3.08 in the second half. This prompted Oakland to try him as a starter in 2007, where Gaudin had his best and most extensive season as a member of a starting rotation, going 11-13 with a 4.42 ERA across 34 starts. In 2008, Gaudin started a total of 6 games for the A’s before a mid-season trade to the Chicago Cubs. Where we saw him do a stint in the bullpen, and he was released after a poor second half.
Gaudin signed a minor league deal with the San Diego Padres in 2009, starting 19 games and posting a 5.13 ERA before another mid-season trade landed him with the New York Yankees, serving as a spot starter and reliever. He would win a ring with the New York that year, and the Yankees won all 6 of his starts. From 2010-2012, Gaudin bounced around a bit between Oakland and New York, making quick stops in Washington and Miami before the Giants signed him in 2013. During that 3 year period, Gaudin did not make a single start.
All of this brings us to Gaudin’s performance as a swing man and spot starter for the Giants. He went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA across 12 starts and 18 relief appearances. While he filled in admirably for an injured Vogelsong, Gaudin’s promotion left a hole in the bullpen that ultimately lead to overtaxing the rest of the relievers. This, in turn, led to the Giants giving up leads late in games and losing contests when they could not score in the later innings. It also exposed the team’s lack of rotation depth, as various names from Triple-A could not give the Giants the quality starts they needed when Gaudin himself got injured – likely from overtaxing his arm as well, considering he had not started a game since 2009 before being thrust into the Giants’ rotation.
To date, Gaudin has yet to earn a full bill of health, and his profile remains that of an ideal long-relief pitcher capable of spot starts. He neither has the stamina nor the track record of an experienced, successful starter, which is precisely what the Giants need for next season. As grateful as the team was for his ability to step up when needed, the Giants’ front office knows what the other 8 front offices before them knew – that Gaudin is miscast as a starter and can’t be relied upon to fill out a rotation for the long haul at this stage in his career.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that the Giants will even attempt to bring Gaudin back for next season. Yusmeiro Petit,another pitcher with a nearly identical track record, is out of minor league options and will most likely be kept on the roster as a long relief candidate and rotation depth. It would also be prudent to point out that Gaudin was arrested in January of last year under rather unsavory circumstances, so it’s entirely possible that the team will opt to sever their ties with Gaudin entirely.
Regardless of what happens, it appears unlikely and unwise for the Giants to rely on Gaudin as a backend member of the rotation for next season. Assuming he can report to spring training fully healthy, he might earn an invite and a chance to compete for a spot in the bullpen once again.
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