The San Francisco Giants bolstered their rotation with the signing of free agent Anthony DeSclafani to a 1-year deal worth $6 million, with additional performance bonuses. DeSclafani had spent the last five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.
The 30-year old had his worst season in the shortened 2020 year, making nine appearances (7 starts), and had a 7.22 ERA while going 1-2. He struck out 25 and walked 16 in 33.2 innings, with his highest career rate of walks per nine innings (4.3) and lowest rate of strikeouts per nine innings (6.7).
That’s in sharp contrast to 2019, one of his best seasons, when he had a 3.89 ERA in 31 starts, with a career-high 167 strikeouts in 166.2 innings, and just 49 walks. DeSclafani was batting a back injury to start 2020, and the Giants think he’ll be past it in 2021.
DeSclafani will earn more money if he stays healthy and in the rotation. He can earn up to $250,000, making $62,500 when he hits each of 140, 160, 180, and 200 innings pitched.
Coming off his worst season, DeSclafani might be looking to rehab his chances with the Giants.Recently, the Giants have had some success with signing pitchers to 1-year deals and improving their fortunes.
Drew Pomeranz signed with the Giants in 2019, and while his performance wasn’t stellar (5.68 ERA in 21 appearances, 17 starts), the Giants converted him to a reliever and traded him mid-season. He received a 4-year deal with the Padres in the following offseason. In 2020, the Giants signed Drew Smyly and Kevin Gausman to 1-year contracts. Smyly posted a 3.42 ERA with the Giants and signed an $11 million 1-year contract with the Braves for 2021, nearly 3 times his contract with the Giants. Gausman signed a $9 million contract for 2020, but after posting a 3.62 ERA, he accepted the Giants qualifying offer of $18.9 million, and reportedly turned down a 3-year deal worth around $40 million from the Blue Jays.
Stats indicate that part of DeSclafani’s fall in 2020 was a change in the effectiveness of his curve. Hitters swung and missed at his curve 40% of the time in 2019, but just 14.3% of the time in 2020. They also hit it harder, as batters had a .161 expected batting average and a .281 expected slugging percentage in 2019 against the curve, but the numbers were .328 xBA and .506 xSLG in 2020.
DeSclafani will join two sure thing starters in the Giants rotation, Johnny Cueto and Gausman. DeSclafani’s role is no sure thing, but he’ll be competing with Logan Webb, coming off a tough rooking season, and Tyler Beede, coming back from Tommy John surgery. Other young pitchers that could be in the mix included Shaun Anderson, who had a 3.52 ERA in 18 relief spots, Conner Menez, who had a 2.38 ERA in 7 relief appearances in 2020, and Caleb Baragar, how had a 4.03 ERA in 24 appearances, one of which was a start.
The Giants are likely to continue pursuing starting pitching options on the free agent market.
DeSclafani was drafted in the 6th round of the 2011 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, but was traded to the Marlins in November of 2012 in a 12-player trade that sent Mark Buehrle and others to the Toronto. DeSclafani made his Major League debut with the Marlins in 2014, posting a 6.27 ERA splitting time as a starter and reliever. In that offseason, he was traded to the Reds as part of the return for Mat Latos.