The San Francisco Giants have made several moves this offseason, but have not acquired any big name stars, as of yet. Farhan Zaidi, President of Baseball Operations, and Scott Harris, General Manager, have been busy with several acquisitions that can best be described as under-the-radar. The question remains, whether the Giants have done enough to realistically contend for a playoff berth in 2021. In order to answer that question, let’s take a look at the Giants’ top five moves this offseason.
# 5 – Anthony DeSclafani
The San Francisco Giants signed Anthony DeSclafani to a one-year, $6 million deal. He adds depth to a very thin starting rotation and barring any additional acquisitions, is likely slotted in to be the Giants’ third or fourth starter. DeSclafani’s track record is that of a mediocre pitcher. In six prior seasons in the big leagues, he has a record of 37-39, with an ERA of 4.29. He has never won over nine games in any single season.
Signing DeScalfani is a typical move by Zaidi, as he is coming off a terrible season in 2020. In 33 and two-thirds innings, he allowed 41 hits and 16 walks, while striking out only 25. DeSclafani had an astronomical ERA of 7.22, a WHIP of 1.693, and a very poor strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.56. Nevertheless, his poor 2020 enabled the Giants to sign him at a relatively inexpensive price.
The Giants are hoping that DeSclafani can pitch more to his 2019 performance, which was quite respectable. In 31 starts, DeSclafani threw 166 and two-thirds innings, allowed 151 hits and 49 walks, while striking out 167. He compiled a record of 9-9, with an ERA of 3.89 and WHIP of 1.200. If DeSclafani can duplicate or improve on his 2019 season, the Giants will have gotten a steal.
There are two additional reasons for optimism when it comes to DeSclafani. First, he will be pitching half his games in San Francisco, as opposed to the band-box that is Great America Ballpark in Cincinnati. That alone should help DeSclafani’s performance and confidence level. In addition, the Giants acquired backup catcher Curt Casali from the Cincinnati Reds. He is familiar with DeSclafani and caught him at times over the past three seasons.
The signing of DeSclafani is a very low-risk, high-reward move for the Giants. Under the Zaidi regime, the Giants have been very successful with this strategy.
# 4 – Matt Wisler
The Giants needed bullpen depth and Matt Wisler helps to add that for them. He has bounced around a lot over his six-year career, having pitched for five different teams. Wisler had a very good 2020 season with the Twins. It was, statistically, the best of his career. In 25 and one-third innings of work, Wisler allowed only 15 hits, while striking out 35. His walk total was too high, however, with 14. He finished the shortened season with an ERA of 1.07 and a WHIP of 1.145.
The Giants signed Wisler for $1.15 million, over one year. If he comes anywhere near his 2020 performance, this is a tremendous bargain. Although Wisler has minimal closing experience, if can continue to maintain his effectiveness and high strikeout total, he could assume the closer role.
The Giants have no proven closers on their roster and that was a problem last year, as they blew several ninth-inning leads and missed the playoffs by one game. Having Wisler step into the closer role and succeed would be a major step forward in the Giants’ 2021 playoff hopes.
# 3 – Alex Wood
Over the past two years, Alex Wood has suffered through multiple injuries and ineffectiveness. When healthy, Wood is a very solid left-handed pitcher. Prior to this acquisition, the Giants had no lefty starters, so getting Wood helps to give their rotation some balance.
The Giants signed Wood to a one-year, $3 million deal, with an additional $3 million in performance bonuses. Like the DeSclafani acquisition, this is another low-risk move that could pay big dividends for the Giants.
If Wood can come close to duplicating his 2017 or 2018 seasons, the Giants will be very fortunate. He was an All-Star in 2017, winning 16 games, with only three losses. His ERA was a superb 2.72, with a WHIP of 1.057. In 2018, Wood went 9-7, with an ERA of 3.68 and WHIP of 1.207. In both seasons, Wood logged right about 152 innings.
If Wood can stay healthy, he should be the Giants’ third starter, however, that’s a big question mark. In addition, if the Giants were to fall out of the playoff hunt and Wood was pitching well, he would be a good candidate to be moved to a contender. Left-handed starters are always in demand and the Giants could get good value for him in a midseason trade if it comes to that.
# 2 – Kevin Gausman
After signing with the Giants for the 2020 season for $9 million, Kevin Gausman had an excellent year. He parlayed that into an $18.9 million deal for 2021, as he signed the qualifying offer to remain in San Francisco. Keeping Gausman was a top priority for Zaidi and the Giants, as he was by far their best pitcher in 2020. It’s quite possible the Giants will negotiate a longer-term deal with Gausman, as well.
In 2020, Gausman threw 59 and two-thirds innings, allowing 50 hits and 16 walks, while striking out a very impressive 79 batters. His 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings were easily the best of his career. Gausman has a fastball in the mid to high 90’s and combines that with a hard, biting splitter that he gets a lot of swing throughs on.
Gausman finished 2020 with a record of 3-3, an ERA of 3.62, and a WHIP of 1.106. Interestingly, Gausman has never had a season where he won more games than he lost. The Giants are counting on him to change that in a big way, this upcoming year. Expect Gausman to be the Opening Day starter for the Giants and lead the starting rotation.
# 1 – Tommy La Stella
The Giants have agreed with Tommy La Stella on a three-year deal in the range of $19 million, pending a physical. Assuming all goes well with the physical, La Stella will be the first player in the Zaidi era to sign for more than two seasons. This is really the first step to what the Giants hope will be a consistently contending team in two or three years.
La Stella is a left-handed hitter and can play second, third, or first base. Look for La Stella to play all over the infield at those positions and end the season with 400 at-bats, if the Giants play a full 162 game schedule. He will spell Evan Longoria at third base and also Donovan Solano at second.
La Stella is a pesky contact hitter, who rarely strikes out. Over his six-year career, in 1,496 plate appearances, La Stella has only struck out 159 times. He is one of those players that can be classified with the moniker of “professional hitter.”
In 2019, La Stella was an All-Star selection and finished the year with a slash line of .295/.346/.486. In 2020, La Stella split time with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland A’s. He compiled another very good year at .281/.370/.449. La Stella’s OPS over the past two years was .832 and .819 respectively.
Have The Giants Done Enough?
If the Giants went into the season with the roster they have now, it’s unlikely they have what it takes to be a true playoff contender. It will be up to Zaidi and Harris to continue to fortify the roster.
Offensively, the Giants should be decent and they are still looking to add a left-handed hitting outfielder. However, the main question marks revolve around the pitching staff. It would behoove the Giants to acquire another solid starter, as the rotation is filled with question marks. Is age catching up to Johnny Cueto? Can Wood and DeSclafani return to top form? Will Logan Webb or Tyler Beede ever develop some consistency? Can Gausman be as dominant in 2021 as he was in 2020?
Typically, in most seasons, the answers to these many questions are not always 100 percent positive. Look for Zaidi to make at least one more addition to the Giants’ starting pitching.
The Giants should be adding a proven closer, however, that does not seem to be a priority. It appears that they will go with a committee type of approach again, based on match-ups. This usually does not work and the Giants saw that in 2020. Trevor Rosenthal and Alex Colome‘ are still available and either would be a welcome addition.
If the Giants do not bolster the pitching staff, look for them to hang in the playoff hunt through the All-Star break. A full season is a grind and without depth in the pitching staff, the Giants will gradually fade as the season wear on.
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