After struggling through 8.2 frames with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Nate Jones was placed on waivers. He went unclaimed and elected free agency. Throughout his 10-year career, Jones has been a steady contributor and still excels in a key area. Could he be a fit for the SF Giants?
SF Giants: Potential bullpen target reaches free agency
Jones debuted with the Chicago White Sox back in 2012 and spent the bulk of his career with Chicago before making brief stops with the Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In that time, the right-handed hurler has registered a 3.45 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 1.25 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, and a good 2.77 SO/W ratio.
Despite these solid numbers, Jones has fallen on hard times in recent seasons. Since the start of 2020, he has posted a rough 5.97 ERA while struggling to keep the ball in park as he has allowed 12 home runs in his last 37.2 innings pitched. Furthermore, his command has been erratic, walking 18 batters in that same time span.
However, he still was able to collect strikeouts (8.8 K/9) at a healthy rate and his fastball velocity sat comfortably in the mid-90’s as it has for much of his career. Jones’ recent performance has been a struggle, but these are a couple of encouraging signs.
The 35-year-old pairs his fastball with a power slider and an occasional changeup. The slider is a true out-pitch as opposing hitters have posted a meager .192 batting average against it in 2021.
In some ways, Jones’ skillset is the archetype for how the Giants’ front office has built the bullpen in that his performance has been inconsistent while relying on one plus pitch to get by. In this type of pitcher, the Giants hope that they can tweak the pitcher’s usage or grip to generate better and more consistent results.
Jake McGee, Matt Wisler, and Zack Littell are a couple of recent examples. The bet does not always pay off but it has more often than not in 2021. They have been aggressive on the minor league free-agent market, especially considering that nearly half of their bullpen (Littell, Dominic Leone, Jimmie Sherfy) was reeled in on a minor league pact.
The bullpen has stabilized recently and their 3.35 ERA ranks as the fifth-best mark in baseball. This front office has proven that it is in a never-ending pursuit for depth and given Jones’ recent performance, he is likely in the market for a nonguaranteed contract.
Even as a depth move, Jones makes a lot of sense for a team that seems like it will make a couple of bullpen tweaks before the trade deadline. He is now a free agent, and hopefully, the Giants take a flyer on him because the bullpen is the most fluid part of the roster and you never know when you might need another right-handed arm.