The lack of free agent movement so far indicates most teams are unenthusiastic to commit their precious dollars to available players. With the Covid-19 shortened 2020 season significantly impacting team revenue, owners have been hesitant to splash the cash this offseason. It could be a very cold winter indeed.
The Giants haven’t been very active yet. Kevin Gausman was retained on a one-year qualifying offer for $18.9 million and infielder Jason Vosler was given a major league contract, despite not having made his major league debut yet.
Ask any fan strolling past Third and King Street this week and they’ll tell you the pressing need in San Francisco is the rotation. As it currently stands, the Giants’ starting pitching group would look like this on Opening Day 2021:
Kevin Gausman, 30 years-old, right-handed
Johnny Cueto, 35 years-old, right-handed
Logan Webb, 24 years-old, right-handed
Tyler Anderson, 31 years-old, left-handed
Tyler Beede (if healthy), 27 years-old, right-handed
It is not an overwhelmingly impressive bunch, I think we can all agree. If the Giants expect to compete with the Dodgers and Padres in the NL West next year, they will need to improve in this area specifically.
There are arms aplenty out there, ready to be brought west to the pitcher-friendly confines of Oracle Park. I recently looked at the possibility of the Giants adding the top pitcher available, Trevor Bauer. Today, let’s focus on some of the other guys still on the market. They won’t cost the price of an NL Cy Young Award winner like Bauer, but could be persuaded to take residence by the Bay for a more modest sum.
The market for Quintana’s services will be competitive and that’s largely because the veteran lefty offers teams a highly sought-after commodity: durability.
Quintana, set to be 32-years-old at the start of next season, has been one of the most durable pitchers since entering the league. Between 2013-19 Quintana guaranteed at least 31 starts every year. The White Sox and Cubs knew they could send him to the mound every fifth day and he could be relied upon. That seemingly routine action really matters to MLB teams.
It might be nitpicking but Quintana’s numbers have rarely been worthy of awe and wonder. His best season came in 2016: a 3.20 ERA, 126 ERA+, an All-Star appearance and some Cy Young votes (10th place). In recent years he’s still been that reliable innings-eater who keeps his team in the game, but the numbers have been pretty average. In no way is that a mark against him though. The Giants would definitely welcome a bit of average in their rotation now.
2020 was an aberration for Quintana (and the rest of us). He cut his finger washing dishes and experienced a minor lat strain midway through the season that saw him limited to just a single starting appearance and three cameos in relief. These injuries don’t really represent signs of his decline however, and shouldn’t dissuade his suitors this winter.
If I’m the Giants, I’m making a big push for Quintana. His consistency would be of huge benefit to the rather unpredictable group currently in residence. Plus, the addition of a lefty to the righty-dominated rotation would be a bonus. Even on a multi-year deal, Quintana offers value, and would make a great addition to the Giants roster.
Odorizzi was coming off an All-Star season in 2019 and his immediate future was looking bright. But 2020 was not so kind to him. Join the club Jake.
The Twins righty was limited to just four starts, and four bad ones at that. An assortment of injuries and issues prevented him from regaining any of his 2019 form. He had problems with his back, his ribs, blisters, and a screaming line drive to the chest for good measure. I think it’s harsh to judge Odorizzi on just 13 ⅔ innings.
If we take 2020 as the anomaly it is, his full season numbers are much more encouraging. Over 30 starts in 2019, Odorizzi recorded a 3.51 ERA, 3.36 FIP, and a much improved K/9 ratio of 10.08, a career best (per Fangraphs). His numbers between 2014-19, his career as a consistent starter, are very good: 165 innings a year on average, for a 3.88 ERA.
The Giants are just one of many clubs predicted to be in the hunt for Odorizzi. This could drive up his price, particularly if a multi-year deal is in discussion, which I’d expect it would be, despite Odorizzi’s freaky 2020. If the price is right though, the Giants should go for it. Odorizzi, with a full spring training and a clean bill of health, automatically upgrades what San Francisco already possesses.
It really doesn’t feel so long ago when Archer was considered one of the top arms in the game.
It was five years ago Ash, now get over it.
In 2015 Archer was unquestionably the Rays’ ace and a bonafide Cy Young candidate (he finished 5th in voting that year). But ever since the two-time All-Star was traded away from Tampa, things have gone downhill in a hurry. His first full season for the Pirates in 2019 was an injury-filled disaster: 23 starts, a 5.19 ERA and an ugly 4.14 BB/9 rate. 2020 was even worse. Archer didn’t pitch, undergoing surgery in June to relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, ultimately ruling him out for the year.
The Pirates decided to decline his 2021 option. Thus, Archer finds himself atop the free agent scrap heap. Under the leadership of Farhan Zaidi, the Giants love nothing more than a reclamation project, so they’ve gotta be looking at Archer.
The 32 year-old righty’s average fastball velocity has been in decline for a few years, dropping from almost 96 mph at his 2015 peak to 94 mph in 2019 (per Baseball Savant). On the surface, this shouldn’t be enough on its own to detract the Giants. And as we’ve seen, Gabe Kapler’s coaching staff have proven they can work miracles.
Just look at Drew Smyly, who came to the Giants last year unheralded on a $4 million wing and a prayer. Smyly bathed in the healing waters of the San Francisco Bay and raised his average fastball velocity from 91 mph in 2019 to almost 94 mph in 2020 (per Baseball Savant). He came, he saw, he briefly conquered over 26 ⅓ innings, and received an $11 million contract from the Braves as his reward.
The Giants pitching gurus can work wonders and perhaps Archer will be the next beneficiary. He’s been regarded throughout his career as having supreme, top tier stuff, and has excelled at making batters whiff regularly (even when his other numbers have been poor). If the Giants can determine that Archer would be healthy enough for a full season, he could be a one-year deal worth taking. Admittedly, it’s a big if. Aren’t they always?
Ash Day is covering the San Francisco Giants throughout 2020 as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29