The San Francisco Giants will likely be in the market for a new closer this offseason with 2019 All-Star Will Smith set to cash. Could Daniel Hudson be the answer?
One way or another, the San Francisco Giants will need to find someone to hand the ball to in the ninth inning next season.
With standout closer Will Smith headed for a hefty payday as one of the top relievers on the free-agent market, and no clear in-house candidate to take over aside from the injured Reyes Moronta, an outside addition seems likely.
We’ve already highlighted a number of under-the-radar options to fill the void, including Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler, and Hector Rondon, as well as high-risk, high-reward former All-Star Dellin Betances.
Now we’ll turn our attention to Daniel Hudson.
The 32-year-old is currently pitching for the Washington Nationals in the World Series, and he has emerged as one of the team’s top bullpen options, alongside incumbent closer Sean Doolittle.
A promising young starter in the Chicago White Sox farm system after being selected in the fifth round of the 2008 MLB draft, Hudson was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the 2010 trade deadline in exchange for the well-traveled Edwin Jackson.
He promptly broke out the following season, going 16-12 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 169 strikeouts in 222 innings.
However, injuries derailed him from there and he pitched just 48 innings total over the next three seasons while recovering from the second Tommy John surgery of his career.
He returned in a bullpen role in 2015 and quickly reestablished himself, logging a 3.86 ERA with 21 holds in 64 appearances, and he’s been used almost exclusively as a reliever in the years since.
Despite posting a 5.22 ERA in 70 appearances in 2016, he showed enough upside with his stuff to land a two-year, $11 million deal from the typically frugal Pittsburgh Pirates.
He had a 4.26 ERA in 111 appearances over the life of that contract but found limited interest in a slow-moving free-agent market last winter, eventually settling for a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels, who released him just before the start of the season.
That proved to be a mistake.
The Toronto Blue Jays scooped him up and he quickly emerged as a key contributor in their bullpen, pitching to a 3.00 ERA with two saves and eight holds over 45 appearances before he was shipped to the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. He was lights-out post-trade with a 1.44 ERA in 24 appearances, and he’s nailed down all four of his save opportunities so far this postseason.
While Hudson has just 17 regular season saves to his credit, he’s proven capable of closing out a game on the biggest stage, and undoubtedly boosted his free-agent stock in the process.
He should be able to snag an MLB deal this time around, but he won’t command anywhere close to the money Smith will wind up signing for, so he could be the perfect alternative to fill the void in San Francisco.
With most contenders likely to target him for a setup role rather than the closer job, the Giants could actually have a leg up if they’re the only team willing to hand him the ninth-inning gig.
Will Daniel Hudson be the answer to the San Francisco Giants closer question? We shall see.