On Friday night at Oracle Park, nestled along the shores of the San Francisco Bay, the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants will play the second of a four-game series in mid-April. On the surface, it's two teams off to mediocre starts battling for third place in their division. But anyone who followed Major League Baseball's longest free agency cycle ever knows this means a whole lot more than that.

Jordan Montgomery will make his first start for Arizona Friday, while Blake Snell will make his third for San Francisco. These two lefties were the crown jewels of their free agent class, expected to rake in nine figures each. Montgomery had just won a World Series, after all, while Snell was literally the defending National League Cy Young Award winner. Instead, both failed to clear the $100 million mark and both have at least the option to hit free agency again this winter.

So much of the discourse around why these two and Scott Boras' other clients couldn't get the contracts they were after, the fallout of Montgomery dropping Boras as his agent and what will happen when they all enter the market again in the near future. But regardless of how long they stay with their current teams, all Snell and Montgomery can focus on is the here and now. And tonight's matchup will tell us a lot about the way the National League playoff picture is shaping up in the early stages of this season.

Giants, Diamondbacks both stuck in neutral

For both teams, it's ideal timing to get their free agent lefty rolling, because both are in need of a momentum spark. Thanks to winning Thursday night's matchup over Arizona 5-0, the Giants have won three of four, but still sit at just 9-11 overall. The Diamondbacks have the exact same record and are now losers of three of their own last four.

From a runs scored versus allowed perspective, Arizona has been the better team to this point, outscoring the Giants' offense 106-84 with a run differential of +14 to the Giants' -7. San Francisco has played a slightly tougher schedule, though, including seven against the Padres and a three-game sweep at the hands of the Dodgers. And interestingly enough, the D-Backs are struggling mightily against left-handed starters to start the season, with a 3-7 record against southpaws. The Giants, for the record, are 2-2.

Though the season is only an eighth old, both teams would do wise to remember one of Yogi Berra's many notable quotes: “It gets late early out there.” The longer you hover around .500, the longer you give upstart teams that may not have had playoff expectations the chance to start believing. And whichever team wins this very series could have a mental edge that lasts well into the summer.

What can Snell, Montgomery bring to their rotations?

San Francisco Giants pitcher Blake Snell (7) throws a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays in the second inning at Tropicana Field.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like a simple question, given that both lefties come with such solid pedigrees, but every player fits differently with whichever new team he signs with. Snell's first two rocky starts with the Giants are a perfect illustration of this very concept. These two were excellent with Texas and San Diego, respectively, but to a large extent, none of that matters once they toe the rubber in their new ballparks.

In four starts with the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park, Snell was absolutely dominant, with a 1.59 ERA and 31 strikeouts in just 22.2 innings, per StatMuse. Montgomery, meanwhile, has just one start under his belt at Chase Field in Phoenix, and it came last August when he threw eight shutout innings against his future teammates. From a park perspective, both are a solid fit.

And from a personnel perspective, both are arriving at a perfect time as well. The Giants had well-documented injury issues in their rotation coming into the season and if not for converted reliever Jordan Hicks putting on an early clinic, would be having massive depth problems right now. The Diamondbacks have yet to get an inning from their other free agent signee, Eduardo Rodríguez and are once again the Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly show, with no one else yet stepping up to give Arizona quality outings.

Therefore, if either Snell or Montgomery can be a stabilizing force for their team's rotation, it will represent a huge advantage one way or another in this fight to earn a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive NL West. Yes, both teams could technically make it, but it's hard not to imagine the Los Angeles Dodgers winning the division and with the Padres slightly ahead of both San Francisco and Arizona in the standings, it's going to be hard for both to sneak in through the back door.

So who has the edge?

The Diamondbacks have seen much more of Snell than the Giants have of Montgomery, which could effectively work in favor of either side. None of the D-Backs have excelled against Snell, though, with Lourdes Gurriel having the most success with a pair of homers, but just a .167 batting average in 12 at-bats.

Montgomery, meanwhile, has held the Giants to a .567 team OPS in two starts, but San Francisco has managed to win both games. No one on the Giants' roster has taken Montgomery deep, however, nor does any individual player have more hits against the southpaw than Austin Slater's three.

Perhaps the tiebreaker is that Snell has already had two starts this season, though he's certainly been far from good with 10 earned runs allowed in seven innings. But Montgomery is essentially still in Spring Training mode, having only thrown 3.2 innings on 71 pitches in his last start with the AAA Reno Aces. It's close, but Snell and the Giants have to be considered slight favorites to take the win Friday night and establish the upper hand in this early power struggle of two playoff hopefuls.

The Diamondbacks-Giants clash is scheduled for 10:15 PM EST.