Five free-agent arms Giants could sign to fill Smyly hole


The Giants have thus far been a victim of their own success this offseason. Six weeks ago, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said he hoped to bring Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly back after both had strong bounceback seasons, but it cost $18.9 million to lock up Gausman, and Smyly fled for the Braves, a contender willing to give him $11 million because of the promise he showed in orange and black.Going one for two is better than at least one alternative, and the Giants believe strongly that Gausman's best days are ahead of him. But he needs plenty of help in a rotation that still has holes and lacks sizzle. Luckily, this is a great market if you're looking for flyers who could wind up as much more.Zaidi and Scott Harris will surely add some pitchers on minor league deals later this offseason, hoping to replicate what they've done with guys like Trevor Cahill. But first they should add someone with a chance of giving them a bit more dependability.Here are five guys who could ably fill a rotation hole if they're right.

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This one is easy, because the Giants have reportedly already shown interest in the former Twins right-hander. Odorizzi pulled a Gausman last year, playing on the qualifying offer, but he wasn't able to take advantage. Injuries limited Odorizzi to just four starts in 2020, but none of them came with long-term concerns. 

Odorizzi had a 3.51 ERA and 3.36 FIP for the Twins in 2019 and was an All-Star, but throughout his big league career he has been much more like a No. 3 starter. Odorizzi has churned out 160-inning seasons with solid production, and guess what? The Giants don't have a lot of guys who can offer that. They could use more week-to-week certainty in their rotation. 

Putting Odorizzi alongside Gausman and Johnny Cueto would give Gabe Kapler some peace of mind, and allow Zaidi and Harris to take bigger swings with any other starting pitching additions.


Speaking of big swings ...

Kluber, a former Cy Young award winner, made just one appearance in 2020 and left after one inning with a shoulder injury. He turns 35 next April. There's a lot of risk here, and there's a non-zero chance that any team that gives Kluber a one-year deal could wind up getting no innings out of it. 

On the other hand, you could be getting an ace. 
Kluber isn't that far removed from being one of the best and most reliable pitchers in the big leagues. He had a 2.89 ERA in 2018 and led the American League with 225 innings and 1.4 walks-per-nine. He's just three years removed from leading the majors in ERA and winning his second Cy Young award. 

A broken forearm and oblique injury wrecked Kluber's 2019 and he was traded that winter, and it's certainly concerning anytime you hear "shoulder injury." The Giants just came off one of those with Jeff Samardzija. But if Kluber is healthy, he could be an all-time buy-low candidate. 


A former first-round pick and top prospect who has had some brilliant stretches in the big leagues but struggled with consistency and bounced around.

That was Gausman; it's also Walker, who was additionally slowed by Tommy John surgery. 

Walker could be a popular option for teams looking for high-upside flyers, as he had a 1.37 ERA in six starts after a trade from the Mariners to the Blue Jays. But most projections still have him in the one-year range somewhere around what Gausman got ($9 million) from the Giants last December. The Giants helped Gausman finally reach his ceiling as a big league starter. Perhaps they could do the same with Walker.


The Giants might one day soon have Seth Corry atop their rotation, but for now they have a group that's awfully right-handed after Smyly's departure.

Gausman, Cueto and Logan Webb are locked in, with Tyler Beede on the way back. Even Sean Hjelle and Tristan Beck -- two prospects who might be close -- are right-handed. The Giants could tender a contract to Tyler Anderson, but even then they could use another lefty option.

Paxton, 32, had a strong 2019 season but was limited to five appearances in 2020 by a flexor strain. That can be a precursor to bigger issues, but if Paxton is healthy -- and he's reportedly close to throwing -- he has No. 2 or No. 3 starter upside.


You might remember him from classics such as 2016's "Chatwood throws eight shutout innings at Oracle Park" or the next year's sequel "Chatwood blanks Giants for first career shutout." The longtime Rockie and recent Cub has always pitched really well against the Giants, and he has a 2.04 ERA in nine career starts at Oracle Park. 

That right there is a start, although Chatwood isn't quite the same guy. He was a swingman for the Cubs in 2019 and made just five appearances in 2020.

Chatwood gave up 11 runs in 18 2/3 innings in the shortened season, but he struck out 25 and ranked in the 96th percentile in fastball and curveball spin rates. The tools are certainly there for Chatwood to break through if he can show better command, and perhaps Oracle Park would once again bring out the best in the California native. 

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