Phillies targeted veteran reliever before signing with the SF Giants

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages

Veteran pitcher Jordan Hicks had an extensive market before signing with the SF Giants. According to Matt Gelb of The Athletic, there was some mutual interest between Hicks and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Phillies targeted veteran reliever before signing with the SF Giants

Gelb notes that the extent of the interest is not known, neither is whether the Phillies made an offer than came anywhere close to the Giants' four-year, $44 million deal. More important than that, the Phillies viewed Hicks as a reliever, whereas he was enticed to join San Francisco due in part to his desire to work out as a starting pitcher.

Philadelphia's bullpen was surprisingly strong in 2023. They posted a 3.58 ERA, which was the seventh-best mark in baseball. Craig Kimbrel was a fixture in that bullpen, but he departed in free agency on a one-year, $13 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. This does include a team option for 2025.

There is a void in the Phillies bullpen, but it is likely that José Alvarado slots into the closer role following Kimbrel's departure. That said, the interest in Hicks makes sense given his experience working in high-leverage spots while working as the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Phillies seemingly have a framework for their starting rotation for 2024. This includes Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Taijuan Walker, Ranger Suárez, and Cristopher Sánchez. There likely would not have been much space to stretch Hicks out as a starter.

For the Giants, the ability to start is what might have swayed Hicks to come to San Francisco. The hard-throwing pitcher had several interested suitors, including the Phillies as well as the New York Yankees.

San Francisco is likely set with its current options for the starting rotation. Hicks will have a good chance to stick as a starter early in the year given that both Robbie Ray (elbow) and Alex Cobb (hip) will be recovering from major surgery.

We explained why the Hicks addition is a fascinating experiment. The right-handed pitcher threw a sinker that averaged over 100 MPH last year that he pairs with a sweeper. He has rarely relied on his changeup, but it has been a good pitch when used. There is a chance that his changeup usage increases as he will need to deploy a third pitch as a starter.

The bigger questions are whether he is durable enough to handle the increased workload and whether his control can improve. Hicks' control did improve during his brief tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2023, but it is hard to know whether that was a sustainable change or a product of a small sample.

Given his fastball velocity, Hicks has a high margin of error with location. He does not have to be too fine with where he places the ball, so long as he locates it in the strike zone. The veteran pitcher will be tough to hit one way or the other.