February 25, 2024
After Hicks signing, SF Giants might be done adding pitching: Zaidi

SAN FRANCISCO — In their Opening Day rotation, the Giants will have Logan Webb. They might have Ross Stripling. And after that, a group that has combined to make 23 major-league starts, a total that grew by eight with the addition of flame-throwing right-hander Jordan Hicks.

No worries, according to president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, who indicated that Hicks, a reliever for the majority of his major-league career, and Robbie Ray, out until the All-Star break, would be the extent of their additions to their pitching staff this offseason.

“I think we feel pretty good about where our pitching staff is,” Zaidi said Thursday, introducing Hicks at Oracle Park upon finalizing his four-year, $44 million deal.

“You’re not done ’til the bell rings, so we’re going to continue to monitor things. But we definitely wanted to add pitching, kind of elite pitching, guys who can impose their will on the competition. Between the trade for Robbie and now bringing Jordan in, we feel we’ve gotten a couple key pieces.”

Any concerns about the rotation, whose 4.12 ERA ranked 10th in the majors last season, should be assuaged by the fact that it will be bolstered by Ray and Alex Cobb around midseason. Ray, the 2021 Cy Young winner acquired in a trade with the Mariners, is recovering from Tommy John surgery, while Cobb had his impinged left hip surgically repaired.

The group to start the season, as it stands, would likely consist of Webb, Hicks and some combination of Stripling, Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck. Pitching prospects Carson Whisenhunt, Mason Black, Kei-Wei Teng, Landen Roupp and Hayden Birdsong could also be ready to contribute at some point.

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Of that group, only Webb and Stripling have a full major-league season of starts under their belt.

“I feel good,” manager Bob Melvin said. “I mean, you’re always looking to add more. But specifically the need for us was a starter. … We have some really good young pitching here, but the need was for another starter. That’s why we’re signing (Hicks) right now.”

While the rotation rated out well in ERA last season, the actual output from Giants’ starters was near the bottom of the league. Measured by FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement, they were the eighth-least valuable rotation in the majors.

That’s because they also threw the league’s fewest innings.

Thirteen different pitchers started games, including a National League-record 30 by so-called openers (starts of 3 IP or fewer, with 1 or fewer runs allowed).

New pitching coach Bryan Price has made it clear a change in philosophy is coming, which Zaidi and Melvin backed up.

While the Giants “might” still utilize openers when needed, “that’s not our goal,” Zaidi said.

“Our goal is to have a stable rotation. We have a couple guys coming back during the year. If we have seven or eight guys that start all 162 games for us, I think that would be a success.”

Added Melvin: “We feel like we’ve got the guys now, at least at this point in time that that dynamic (of using openers) may go away for a bit.”

So, then, are the Giants done adding this offseason?

Unlikely, given that 20 of MLB Trade Rumors’ top 50 free agents remain unsigned, including half the top 10, with less than a month until pitchers and catchers report for spring training (Giants first workout: Feb. 15). That includes Blake Snell, the reigning National League Cy Young Winner, and Jordan Montgomery, a playoff stud for the Rangers on their World Series run, as well as third baseman Matt Chapman and outfielder Cody Bellinger on the position player side.

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One common theme: All four are represented by superagent Scott Boras.

“I just think it’s a tough dynamic to get deals done without a deadline,” said Zaidi, who’s become a proponent of a drop-dead date for multi-year deals, an idea hard-pressed to get past the players’ union. “Honestly a lot of the free agent deals that happen are because agents just say, ‘I’m getting a deal done by the end of this week. Tell me where you are.’ They kind of have these self-imposed deadlines, almost.”

After signing center fielder Jung Hoo Lee and catcher Tom Murphy, the Giants are still shopping for position players and shouldn’t be ruled out for Chapman. They have about $31 million to spend, according to Cot’s Contracts, before they bump up against the first luxury tax threshold of $237 million.

Zaidi said the Giants would like to “add a little bit more to the infield” and “try to continue to upgrade defensively.”

Chapman, a Platinum Glove-winning third baseman, checks both those boxes, with the added bonus of familiarity with Melvin and the Bay Area from his time in Oakland. The question: Do you believe in the .240 batting average or the 56.4% hard-hit rate (among the top 1% of hitters leaguewide)?

A backup to Marco Luciano is also on the Giants’ wish list, but the pickings are slim on the shortstop market, where Brandon Crawford is still available.

Defense would be a priority in any pursuit, Zaidi said.

The Giants committed 113 errors last season, 13 more than any other team, and ranked 23rd in Defensive Runs Saved, though other advanced metrics, such as Outs Above Average (9th) and FanGraphs’ Defensive Value (12th), rated them more favorably.

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“That was a big part of our pitch to Jordan and other pitchers we talked to,” Zaidi said. “We’ve got a great park to pitch in, we’ve got a great catcher (Patrick Bailey) to throw to, a couple great catchers now with Tom Murphy on board. The last piece of it was making sure we have really good defense behind (them). That’s going to continue to be something we look at.”

GIANTS OFFSEASON SO FAR

Added:

  • OF Jung Hoo Lee (6 years, $113 million)
  • LHP Robbie Ray (acquired from SEA)
  • RHP Jordan Hicks (4 years, $44 million)
  • C Tom Murphy (2 years, $8.25 million)

Subtracted:

  • OF Mitch Haniger (traded to SEA)
  • RHP Anthony DeSclafani (traded to SEA)
  • SS Brandon Crawford (free agent*)
  • OF/DH Joc Pederson (free agent*)
  • LHP Sean Manaea (free agent – NYM: 2 years, $36 million)
  • LHP Alex Wood (free agent*)
  • RHP Jakob Junis (free agent*)
  • RHP John Brebbia (free agent*)

* =  unsigned