The worldwide search for a reliable Giants starting pitcher took them 5,000 miles away. But the hunt is not ending with a pitcher from Japan.
Tomoyuki Sugano will be a Yomiuri Giant but not San Francisco Giant, choosing Thursday to return to his Nippon Professional Baseball team for next season rather than take his talents to MLB, according to various reports. Sugano did not come to an agreement with a major league club and reportedly will sign a four-year deal with three opt-outs, thus allowing him the flexibility to keep peeking at the majors. Perhaps when teams are no longer crying poverty following a pandemic-altered season, there will be meatier offers that tempt the righty.
The San Francisco Giants reportedly were among the handful of clubs deep in talks with the 31-year-old in the past 30 days, after Yomiuri posted him and his reps could negotiate. Farhan Zaidi has a history of bringing in players from overseas, having landed Kenta Maeda when he was with the Dodgers, but if Sugano furthers that legacy, it won’t happen this season.
He would have fit not just this season but in future Giants rosters, as San Francisco has zero proven starters signed beyond 2021. Kevin Gausman, Johnny Cueto and Anthony DeSclafani have contracts that expire at the end of the season. Logan Webb and Tyler Beede, coming off Tommy John surgery, are expected to compete for spots, but the Giants continue to seek another rotation member.
That addition likely will not be Trevor Bauer, easily the top starter on the market, even if the Giants get battery-mate Curt Casali involved. Some viewed Sugano as the next best option. Last season he won his second Central League MVP, posting a 1.97 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 137 1/3 innings. He’s twice won the Eiji Sawamura Award, the equivalent to the Cy Young. In his eight NPB seasons, Sugano has recorded a 101-50 mark with a 2.34 ERA using an assortment of breaking pitches and a low-90s fastball, command rather than stuff his key to success.
Whether that translates to a No. 1 or No. 5 starter (or more likely in between) in MLB is a question that will not be answered in 2021.
So the Giants will keep hunting during this painfully slow-moving offseason. Among the options still out there are 2020 Giants Tyler Anderson and Trevor Cahill, along with Mike Foltynewicz, Jon Lester, Jake Odorizzi and James Paxton.