Three SF Giants pitching targets that could replace Kevin Gausman in the rotation
Yusei Kikuchi is in the same mold of Sonny Gray in that his 2021 numbers do not impress at first, but he does a lot of things that the Giants like in a starting pitcher. Plus, Kikuchi was heavily scouted by the Giants when he was initially posted by the Seibu Lions three years ago.
This front office has proven that the interest in a player does not end when the player signs elsewhere considering that the player is likely to become a free agent again. Could this be the case with Kikuchi?
The left-handed pitcher had a nice season in 2021 as he produced a 4.41 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.31 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and a 2.63 SO/W ratio across 157 innings with the Seattle Mariners. This included an American League All-Star nod that was carried by a 3.48 ERA in the first half, but he struggled to the tune of a 5.98 ERA in the second half.
His 4.41 ERA in 2021 represented a substantial improvement from the 5.39 mark he set in his first two years with the Mariners. That said, these are still below-average numbers. However, he is an innings-eater and the Giants can certainly use that type of pitcher given the durability questions that remain with both Alex Wood and Alex Cobb.
There might be a better pitcher than what Kikuchi's surface-level numbers indicate. His 2.63 SO/W ratio from 2021 suggests that the 30-year-old lefty records plenty of strikeouts while commanding the strikezone well. Furthermore, he induced a ground ball in 48.4 percent of batted balls events last year, so he does typically prevent hitters from generating loft on his pitchers. However, the 11 percent barrel rate he posted indicates that his mistakes tend to get hit hard.
So, Kikuchi's numbers are not that strong at first glance but he does a few things well that typically lead to better results than what he has produced. It has not happened yet for him, but the Giants have had a lot of success in getting the most out of their pitchers.
The veteran lefty is not going to net a contract like the one Carlos Rodón is seeking but he should see a multi-year deal on the open market. With the Giants looking to add one more arm to the rotation, Kikuchi does make some sense, He would not replace Kevin Gausman's production from 2021, but he might be able to replicate Gausman's workload.