The obvious competitive advantage for free-agent pitchers is the hitter-friendly confines of Oracle Park, but another underlying advantage is emerging for the SF Giants.
Since Farhan Zaidi has taken over as SF Giants president of baseball operations, he has reeled in pitchers on one-year, pillow contracts who are looking to re-establish market value. In many instances, that contract has paid dividends for both player and team.
This is a trend that the free-agent market is undoubtedly seeing. Or, to put it differently, the Giants have done well to get pitchers back on track and help them get paid. If this continues, San Francisco should have no problem attracting free-agent pitchers.
Since Zaidi has taken over the reins, he has brought in starters Drew Pomeranz Derek Holland, Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, and Anthony DeSclafani on major-league contracts. We do not yet know the end result for DeSclafani as he was just brought in this month, so I am going to focus on the first four.
Below is the contract each pitcher received in free agency from the Giants (per Spotrac), and the ensuing contract:
- Derek Holland: $6.5 million from the Giants for 2019, $1 million from the Pirates for 2020.
- Drew Pomeranz: $1.5 (base) from the Giants for 2019, $34 million from the Padres over the next four years.
- Kevin Gausman: $9 million from the Giants for 2020, $18.9 million from the Giants for 2021.
- Drew Smyly: $4 million from the Giants in 2020, $11 million from the Braves for 2021.
The one caveat with Pomeranz is that he was brought in to start for San Francisco in 2019, but was moved to the bullpen at the end of his tenure. That proved to be a lucrative move as the left-handed hurler transitioned into an electric reliever. Now, he is one of the high-leverage relievers for a Padres team that expects to go deep into the playoffs.
So far, Holland is the only pitcher who did not get a bigger payday than his initial contract with the team in the Zaidi era. That said, his circumstances were a little different because he had success with the Giants in 2018 as he posted a 3.57 ERA across 171.1 frames.
These pillow contracts are a win-win for both team and player. The team gets a pitcher with upside while not having to commit future dollars, whereas the player gets the opportunity to re-establish value at a good rate.
So, what does this mean for the Giants? Well, the Giants may not be in the right position to sign pitchers in the higher-end of the market such as Trevor Bauer or Jake Odorizzi. It may never be their approach to spending with Zaidi at the helm.
That may frustrate fans, but the Giants front office is looking at different ways to realize value. As the offseason continues, they still have some work to do on the rotation.
While most of the leg work might be done, there is still an opportunity for them to reel in another reclamation project or two. They are about five pitchers deep on the starting pitching depth chart, and they would like to have at least 7-8 options.
Pitchers such as Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Carlos Rodon, or Corey Kluber might become depth targets. Regardless, if the Giants continue to have success in getting pitchers paid, then their competitive advantage only gets stronger in the pitching market.