Giants re-sign starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani

DeSclafani, 32 next April, spent this past season in San Francisco. He joined the organization on a one-year, $6M guarantee last December. That was a buy-low play for the front office, as DeSclafani has struggled with both injuries and performance en route to a 7.22 ERA across 33 2/3 innings the year before, his final season with the Reds.

The move worked out as well as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi could have reasonably expected. DeSclafani stayed healthy — aside from a minimal IL stint due to ankle inflammation — and made 31 starts, finishing 18th in the National League in innings pitched. Along with taking on a heavy workload, DeSclafani posted arguably the best rate numbers of his career. He worked to a personal low 3.17 ERA and 3.62 FIP, while his 4.11 SIERA is right in line with his best marks during his time in Cincinnati.

Despite averaging north of 94 MPH on his fastball, DeSclafani’s swing-and-miss and strikeout numbers are more fine than spectacular. His 11% swinging strike rate and 22.5% strikeout rate this past season were both almost exactly in line with the respective league averages (10.9% and 22.4%) for starting pitchers. While he hasn’t been overpowering, DeSclafani has typically paired those decent strikeout numbers with plus control and a ground-ball rate at or just a tick above the league average.

Fielding independent metrics suggest DeSclafani’s more of a capable mid-rotation workhorse than a true top-of-the-rotation starter. There’s plenty of value in a third or fourth starter who soaks up average to slightly above-average innings in bulk, though, and that’s the type of pitcher DeSclafani has been over the course of his career. For a Giants team that could’ve lost all but Logan Webb from this year’s rotation, making a run at bringing DeSclafani back always seemed like a strong possibility.

San Francisco elected not to make him an $18.4M qualifying offer at the outset of the offseason, but they struck fairly quickly to bring him back on a multi-year deal at a lesser average annual value. The guarantee comes in just a hair below MLBTR’s three-year, $42M projection. It’s a sensible price point, although it’s worth noting that this kind of deal has become fairly atypical as teams have tended to devalue mid-tier arms in recent years. Among free agent starting pitchers, only Kyle Gibson ($30M with the Rangers in 2019-20) and Tyler Chatwood ($38M with the Cubs in 2017-18) have signed three-year deals worth between $30M and $50M over the past five offseasons.

The Giants have an abundance of payroll flexibility — both in 2022 and beyond. They’re apparently taking advantage of it to address their aforementioned rotation needs early in the offseason. In addition to the already-finalized DeSclafani reunion, the club is reportedly nearing a two-year deal with Alex Wood and was said to be making a strong run at Alex Cobb this morning. Whether all three starters will wind up in black and orange remains to be seen, but it’s clear the front office has made addressing the rotation a priority — seemingly in advance of the December 1 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.

To clear space on the 40-man roster for DeSclafani’s return, the Giants designated corner outfielder Alex Dickerson for assignment. That’ll almost certainly conclude Dickerson’s two and a half season tenure in the Bay Area, as he has more than enough service time to refuse an outright assignment even if he’s not traded or claimed off waivers over the coming days.

The Giants acquired Dickerson in a minor deal with the division-rival Padres in June 2019. That paid off handsomely, as the lefty-hitting outfielder performed quite well down the stretch that year and mashed in a limited sample during last year’s shortened season. Between those two campaigns, Dickerson kicked off his Giants’ career with a .294/.361/.552 showing over his first 341 plate appearances.

Impressive as he started, Dickerson couldn’t get on track in 2021. While he tallied a career-high 312 plate appearances this past season, he managed just a .233/.304/.420 line with 13 home runs. Combined with a limited defensive profile and an arbitration salary projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to land in the $3M range, the front office determined not to bring him back in 2022.

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