SF Giants: Buy or Sell – Left-Handed Pitcher Drew Smyly
By Jeff Young
The SF Giants have a handful of key free agents, including Drew Smyly, but the question is, should they reunite with the left-handed hurler in free agency?
The SF Giants list of free agents includes Smyly, Tony Watson, Trevor Cahill, and Kevin Gausman. The case for keeping Gausman is a slam dunk, but the cases for keeping the remaining three are a little more nuanced.
At Around the Foghorn, we will be analyzing each case and deciding whether to buy (keep) each free agent or sell (let walk in free agency).
The SF Giants case for keeping Smyly
The veteran southpaw had a strong start to his career. In his first four seasons, Smyly posted a 3.24 ERA (3.53 FIP) with 385 strikeouts across 395 frames.
To be honest and this might hurt, he was the type of pitcher earlier in his career that I feel like Giants fans thought Matt Moore would become. Before you get ready to throw a tomato at me, we will swiftly change subjects.
After 2.5 seasons with the Detroit Tigers, he landed with the Tampa Bay Rays as a key part of a three-team deal that sent David Price back to Detroit.
He was an up-and-coming pitcher before injuries plagued his late-20’s, including a UCL tear in his pitching elbow that required Tommy John surgery midway through the 2017 season.
While the rehab process has improved over the years, Smyly’s road back did take a few twists and turns. He missed the 2017 and 2018 seasons as he recovered from surgery. However, it was not smooth sailing after that either.
Once healthy, the southpaw latched on with the Texas Rangers for 2019 but struggled to the tune of an 8.42 ERA in 13 appearances before getting designated for assignment.
The Philadelphia Phillies ((More like the Flyers) took a flyer on him down the stretch in 2019 where the results were much better. He made 12 starts where he generated a 4.45 ERA with 68 strikeouts across 62.2 innings. As he has shown throughout his career, Smyly has no problem racking up the strikeout totals.
SF Giants sign Smyly
Following the 2019 season, the SF Giants reeled him in on a one-year, $4 million pact as a reclamation project. He did not disappoint in his brief showing with San Francisco.
Across, 26.1 frames, the 31-year-old posted a 3.42 ERA (2.01 FIP) with 42 strikeouts against only nine walks. He commanded the zone well while striking out an impressive 37.8 percent of opposing hitters.
Interestingly, upon joining the SF Giants, Smyly ditched his changeup and increased the usage of his curveball. Opposing hitters struggled to make any contact against this pitch as they posted a paltry .183 batting with 27 strikeouts.
On a different note, Smyly pitched to a 3.80 ERA as a starter but yielded only one run in five innings while collecting 10 strikeouts out of the bullpen. This stretch included a memorable four-inning, seven-strikeout performance against the San Diego Padres out of the bullpen in September:
I mention his bullpen split because I spent so much time writing about finding the next Drew Pomeranz last offseason, and it is possible that the Giants found him without me even realizing it. Becoming a reliever could be a second career for Smyly.
The one red flag from Smyly’s year was that he missed most of the season with a blister injury. As he enters his age-32 season with an injury list that continues to grow, that is one concern that will be tough to evaluate this offseason.
I do think buying Drew Smyly to return is an easy call. He will have a nice market in free agency, but given how well he threw with San Francisco, I do think there will be mutual interest to continue this partnership in 2021.
I will add that health is a big concern. If the Giants were to re-sign Smyly, then they really need to beef up their starting pitching depth. For example, re-signing Trevor Cahill would give them insurance in case Smyly goes on the shelf. When healthy, Smyly is one of the more electric pitchers out there, but health is too big of a question mark going forward.