In a modest surprise, left-handed hurler Yusei Kikuchi of the Seattle Mariners declined his $13 million player option in favor of becoming a free agent. The SF Giants heavily scouted Kikuchi in Japan and were seen as a top landing spot when he was posted by the Seibu Lions three years ago.
SF Giants starting pitching target hits free agency
On paper, there is a fit for both team and player. The front office recognizes that starting pitching will be a top priority considering that Logan Webb is the only starter currently under team control for next season.
On the other hand, Kikuchi turned down a substantial salary for 2022 with the hopes of landing a lucrative, multi-year deal. Few teams are as well-positioned to be aggressive in free agency as the Giants.
The veteran southpaw just completed a nice season, registering a 4.41 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.31 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and a stout 2.63 SO/W ratio across 157 innings. Kikuchi posted a 3.48 ERA in the first half of the season, which was good enough to earn an American League All-Star nod.
In total, the lefty has recorded a 4.97 ERA in three seasons with the Mariners but he has gotten better as his career has progressed. Kikuchi is trying to roll his 2021 campaign into a lucrative, multi-year deal and he is probably going to get it. There is never a shortage of teams looking for quality pitching including the Giants.
Kikuchi flashes a power fastball that sits comfortably in the mid-90's and he mixes it with a cuter, slider, and changeup. He uses the fastball and cutter to gain leverage in the count and relies on the slier as his out pitch.
The Giants are in the market for starting pitching help this offseason. There is no indication of whether they will check in on Kikuchi. However, the front office has shown time and again that they will circle back on players where they had prior interest.
With Alex Wood, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Johnny Cueto set to hit free agency, the Giants will have four holes to fill in the rotation. They will gain some clarity on DeSclafani later today as it is the deadline for teams to issue qualifying offers and the righty is certainly a candidate.
Adding a pitcher like Kikuchi will certainly help in rebuilding the rotation but the Giants will have more work to do. Kikuchi was not expected to become a free agent but he is poised to earn a nice payday. The Giants will check in on just about every notable pitcher on the free-agent market and could rekindle interest in Kikuchi.