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SF Giants Target Tomoyuki Sugano Returning to Japan

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 21: Tomoyuki Sugano #11 of Japan
pitches during the Game 2 of the Championship Round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic between United States and Japan at Dodger Stadium on March 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 21: Tomoyuki Sugano #11 of Japan pitches during the Game 2 of the Championship Round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic between United States and Japan at Dodger Stadium on March 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
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SF Giants, Tomoyuki Sugano
Japanese starting pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano (11) pitches against the United States during the second inning of the 2017 World Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. He was posted in December by the Yomiuri Giants and was tied to the SF Giants. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

SF Giants free-agent target Tomoyuki Sugano has decided to return to the Yomiuri Giants rather than come stateside in 2021.

According to a report by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Yomiuri Giants starting pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano will return to the team in 2021. The Japanese ace was posted by Yomiuri in December and had until Thursday to sign with an MLB team. However, it appears concerns surrounding COVID-19 in the United States and a strong offer by Yomiuri may have made him less inclined to come stateside. Of course, the SF Giants were reportedly one of the finalists to sign Sugano.

Given the Giants’ obvious needs in the starting rotation, even after signing Anthony DeSclafani, Sugano had the potential to shake up the team’s offseason. He easily would have been the most exciting free-agent signing of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi’s tenure and probably would have been the most costly. However, they will now have to shift to other free-agent options to fill out their rotation.

Sugano is considered by many to be the best starting pitcher in the world not already playing in MLB and projects as a mid-rotation arm. He has won the Most Valuable Player and two Sawamura Awards (the NPB’s equivalent of the Cy Young) since debuting in the highest level of Japanese baseball in 2013. In 2020, Sugano’s managed an elite 1.97 ERA across 137.1 innings (20 starts) with 131 strikeouts, just 25 walks, and 97 hits. Over his career, Sugano maintains a 2.34 ERA over 1362 innings (197 games) with 1216 strikeouts, 265 walks, and 1145 hits.

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Since Sugano was expected to receive a multi-year deal with around $20 million-$30 million in guarantees, it would appear the SF Giants are willing to spend a bit more than they have in the past on free-agent acquisitions. Free-agents like Jose Quintana, Masahiro Tanaka, and Jake Odorizzi would all seem like strong alternatives at a similar cost.

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