Brief SF Giants reclamation project heading to Japan

Matt Shoemaker
Matt Shoemaker / David Berding/GettyImages

The SF Giants pitching development staff has gained a reputation for resurrecting and improving the careers of multiple pitchers over the past few years (see Gausman, Kevin, and DeSclafani, Anthony, for instance), but there are always a few hurlers who don't make the leap and are soon looking for new employment, such as Aaron Sanchez.

Another pitcher who the Giants took a shot on that didn't materialize has made the decision to continue his career overseas: Matt Shoemaker, the 2014 runner-up for American League Rookie of the Year, is reportedly heading to the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's NPB.

Shoemaker, who spent time for the Giants' Triple-A affiliate, Sacramento, in 2021, heads across the Pacific after a few years of trying to stay healthy and recapture his rookie-season success. His most-recent MLB stint came with the Minnesota Twins in 2021, where he put up an 8.06 ERA over 16 games (11 starts) and was released in early-August.

Shortly thereafter the Giants picked him up, and he pitched nine times with eight starts for Sacramento. Shoemaker put up great strikeout and walk numbers at the rung below the big leagues - 54 strikeouts and just nine walks in 50 1/3 innings - but he allowed seven homers among 52 hits. His ERA for the River Cats was 4.83.

Shoemaker put up pedestrian numbers coming up through the Los Angeles Angels' farm system, including ERAs of greater than 4.60 in four different partial or full seasons with their Triple-A club in Salt Lake City. Nevertheless, he burst onto the MLB scene in 2014 with a league-leading .800 winning percentage (16-4), a 3.04 ERA, over five strikeouts for every walk and less than one home run per nine innings.

Injuries have stunted Shoemaker's career since 2016

He was decent in 2015 and 2016 but has battled injuries since then, beginning with taking a line drive off the head in a game on September 4, 2016, that caused a small skull fracture and small hematoma. Shoemaker's 2017 and 2018 were hampered by forearm issues, and a promising beginning to the 2019 campaign with the Toronto Blue Jays (3-0, 1.57 ERA in five starts) came to a halt with an Apri ACL tear that ended his season.

The last spot in the Giants' rotation for 2022 is still up-for-grabs, with a number of internal prospects and minor-league signings expected to compete for the job unless a major signing or trade is completed after the MLB lockout ends. Shoemaker might have been in position to fight for a big-league roster spot had he stayed, but he'll try to stay healthy and have success in Japan for the time being.