It won’t be an easy task for the San Francisco Giants to repeat their astonishing success from the 2021 campaign, a season where they shocked the baseball world by winning a franchise record of 107 games to clinch the best record in the game.
Though a few key pieces are no longer in the organization, the Giants have opened Spring Training rejuvenated with the same core group, along with several additions that have significant big league experience with other teams.
A few days before their first spring contest Friday, the Giants bolstered their outfield by agreeing to a one-year, $6 million deal with outfielder Joc Pederson. The former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect – and product of Palo Alto High School – gives manager Gabe Kapler a power, left-handed bat with a proven track record against right-handers. Since 2015, Pederson has had a .834 OPS against righties and has the fourth most homers against them (137).
In 2021, Pederson hit .238 with 18 home runs, 61 RBIs and a .732 OPS between the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves.
After announcing the move, President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi said the Giants “felt pretty set on the position player side.” Despite the obvious need for a right-handed bat, it seems unlikely the Giants will pursue any of the big names still on the free agent or trade market.
Since the lengthy MLB lockout ended, the free agent frenzy has been in full swing, with San Francisco externally adding depth to their pitching staff.
The biggest splash has been the addition of southpaw Carlos Rodón on a two-year, $44 million deal. If Rodon surpasses 110 innings in 2021, he’ll have the ability to opt out. The signing adds another superb arm aside Logan Webb atop San Francisco’s rotation.
After being non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox after the 2020 season, he was brought back to the Windy City on a one-year deal and became one of the American League’s best pitchers. Led by a lethal fastball-slider combination, Rodon finished fifth in AL Cy Young balloting and was fourth in bWAR for pitchers (5.0).
The former No. 3 overall draft pick battled through arm fatigue the second half of the year and was deemed questionable during the White Sox’s postseason run. He did end up making a start in the ALDS, throwing just 2 ⅔ innings and allowing two earned runs. Rodon’s medical records were reportedly positive and showed no traces of any lingering ailments on his left arm.
Before the lockout, the Giants fulfilled their priority to keep a few of their starting pitchers around by re-signing Anthony DeSclafani to a three-year, $36 million deal and left-hander Alex Wood to a two-year, $25 million contract.
DeSclafani, 31, returns after enjoying a career year and establishing himself as a solid rotation piece for the 2021 playoff run. In 31 starts, he went 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 167 ⅔ innings of work, including two complete-game shutouts.
Wood, 31, has battled through injuries for the majority of his career before putting on a Giants uniform in 2021. Like DeSclafani, he transformed from a one-year reclamation project to cashing in for a multi-year deal. In 26 starts, Wood’s deceptive and quirky nature from the left-side notched a 3.83 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 138 ⅔ innings.
The fit to remain in San Francisco can’t make more sense from a ground ball perspective; Wood induces a majority of his ground balls to the left side, an area covered by two well-regarded defenders – Evan Longoria at third base and Brandon Crawford at shortstop.
Before the lockout, the Giants also agreed to terms with veteran righty starter Alex Cobb on a two-year, $20 million contract. Cobb, 34, fits the mold of what the new baseball operations regime – led by Zaidi – is looking to add: affordable talent with the possibility of unlocking even more potential.
In Cobb’s case, he hasn’t pitched over 100 innings since he turned in 152-1/3 with the Baltimore Orioles in 2018. Despite lingering injuries, he showed promise with the Los Angeles Angels in 2021 with a modest 3.76 ERA in 18 starts. His 11.2% swinging-strike rate and 24.9% strikeout percentage were enough for career-highs.
Post-lockout, the Giants focused on smaller-scale deals to increase their pitching depth. They signed former Kansas City Royals righty Jakob Junis to a one-year, $1.75 million deal and longtime Detroit Tigers southpaw Matt Boyd to a one-year pact worth $5.2 million, possibly $2.3 million more in incentives. After undergoing left flexor tendon surgery in September, Boyd won’t be ready for Opening Day and is eyeing a June 1 return.
According to reports, San Francisco also has a minor league deal in place with former St. Louis Cardinals righty Carlos Martinez. The 30-year-old is expected to be invited to big league camp and will earn $2.5 million if he cracks the Opening Day roster. Once a highly-touted arm, Martinez’s career has recently been derailed by injuries, including a thumb injury that required surgery that prematurely ended his 2021 season in July.
Quite a bit of speculation has surrounded plans for the starting rotation. Like many big league teams today, the Giants have added bulk-innings pitchers with high-profile stuff. It’s unknown whether a traditional five-man rotation is expected, but a six-man staff isn’t outside the realm of possibilities.
Former Giants on the move
- Before the lockout, the Toronto Blue Jays reached an agreement with righty Kevin Gausman on a five-year, $110 million contract. Gausman was brilliant for the Giants in the first half in 2021 but struggled to repeat his success after the All-Star break, tallying a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts.
- Kris Bryant signed a mega seven-year, $182 million deal with the Colorado Rockies, ending any possibility the Giants had of resigning the former National League MVP. Bryant was above average at the plate after being dealt to San Francisco at the July 30 deadline, hitting .262 with seven homers and 22 runs batted in.
- Infielder Donovan Solano is now with the Cincinnati Reds after signing a one-year pact worth $4.5 million. Solano, 34, hit .308 with a 113 OPS across three seasons with the Giants. With the presence of Wilmer Flores, Thairo Estrada, and Mauricio Dubon on the 40-man roster, it wasn’t a fit to bring Solano back to the Bay Area.
- Just hours before Pederson’s reported deal with the Giants, Atlanta filled his void by signing outfielder Alex Dickerson to a non-guaranteed big league deal with a base salary of $1 million. The 31-year-old was effective against right-handed pitchers in 2019 and 2020 but struggled with injuries and inconsistencies in 2021 with San Francisco.
The Giants will begin Cactus League games on Friday as they take on the Cubs at Scottsdale Stadium. First pitch is 7:05 p.m. Webb will open on the mound and the plan is for him to throw two innings.