Giants: Alex Wood could be this year’s Drew Pomeranz
By Jeff Young
The San Francisco Giants will likely be in the market for starting pitching help this offseason, and there is one pitcher in particular who could be this year’s Drew Pomeranz.
Left-hander Alex Wood is a name the San Francisco Giants are all too familiar with from his time facing off against them as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, his Dodgers tenure came to an end last December when he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal that also involved teammates Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp.
The Reds believed they were acquiring a mid-rotation piece in Wood, but injuries and ineffectiveness derailed his performance in 2019, and he ended up making just seven starts.
Now, Wood is set to test free agency for the first time, and his situation is very similar to where Drew Pomeranz was at this time a year ago. Below are just a few of the similarities:
- Both throw left-handed. Not necessarily important, but it bears mentioning.
- Both entered free agency with a long track record of quality pitching, including one All-Star appearance apiece.
- Both battled ineffectiveness and injuries in their contract year.
- Both have excelled when used as relievers.
After struggling to the tune of a 6.08 ERA in 74 innings with the Boston Red Sox in 2018, Pomeranz found few opportunities as a free agent. He ended up signing with San Francisco in January on a one-year deal with a $1.5 million base salary and some incentives.
The southpaw struggled as a starter to begin the season.
In 72.1 innings spanning 17 starts, he struggled to a 6.10 ERA during his time in the Giants rotation, albeit with an impressive 84 strikeouts. That high strikeout total indicated that Pomeranz, while mostly ineffective as a starting pitcher, still had swing-and-miss stuff.
Due to his struggles, the Giants relegated him to the bullpen in the middle of July. That wasn’t new territory for the 30-year-old, as he has made 74 appearances as a reliever prior to the 2019 season.
While it could have been seen as a demotion at the time, the move to the bullpen may have been the best thing for Pomeranz’s career. He tossed 5.1 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in four relief appearances with the Giants upon moving to the pen, which quickly turned him into an attractive trade chip.
He went on to post a 2.39 ERA and 0.91 WHIP with an eye-popping 15.4 K/9 and 12 holds in 25 appearances out of the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen following the trade, and now he’s poised to benefit handsomely from a thin reliever market outside of Will Smith and Will Harris.
Wood may not be in the exact same spot Pomeranz was a year ago, but the boat each pitcher rode into free agency was similar. Perhaps, Pomeranz rode in on a boat made by Toyota, whereas Wood rode in on one made by Honda.
Despite a long track record as a solid pitcher, Wood could have trouble finding a landing spot.
He struggled to a 5.30 ERA across 35.2 innings in an injury-riddled season in 2019. Recency bias and questions about his heath may scare away his market.
As a result, this likely will not be the year Wood cashes in on free agency. Rather, a one-year, pillow contract to re-establish value looks like the best thing for his future earning potential.
With that being said, the Giants will likely be in the market for starting pitching help, and a pillow contract may be beneficial for both parties. Behind Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, the Giants rotation is filled with more questions than answers.
The Giants need depth, and they will likely be searching for value potential once again.
Wood is not known as an innings eating due in part to pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers where his starts were often limited to five or six innings. Still, from 2014-18, he posted a 3.31 ERA while averaging 145 innings per season.
While the Giants will want to use 2020 as an opportunity to continue developing their young pitchers, including Logan Webb and Tyler Beede, they will still want some depth to protect against injuries and regression.
That is where Wood could come into play. On a one year deal to re-establish value, signing Wood comes with little risk. The potential reward is that he pitches well, and becomes a trade asset at the deadline.
If he struggles, the Giants could always send him to the bullpen, where he has generated a 2.70 ERA and 9.7 K/9 in 43 appearances as a reliever.
It worked out at the 2019 trade deadline with Pomeranz, and teams are seemingly always in need of relievers at the deadline, especially ones who happen to pitch with their left hand.
As the San Francisco Giants scour the free-agent market for pitching help, Alex Wood should be one of the pitchers they pursue, especially considering the potential upside could benefit the team’s long-term outlook.