SAN FRANCISCO — When asked Wednesday afternoon about some of the bigger names that remain on the free agent market, Farhan Zaidi said he won’t talk about specific players.
But the new president of baseball operations at Oracle Park has been open about some traits he specifically is looking for in free agents, and in that respect, Drew Pomeranz checks off a lot of boxes.
Pomeranz, a 30-year-old left-hander, was signed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal Wednesday that could guarantee him as much as $5 million if he hits incentives, according to The Athletic. He will be plugged into the rotation, and the Giants feel they have found their 2019 version of Derek Holland, a veteran lefty who rebounded last year in a new environment.
Holland returned last week on a one-year deal that similarly fit what the Giants are looking for as they take a step back in the roster-building process. Here’s how Pomeranz fit that mold, too:
--- Look at the track record: When discussing guys like Mike Gerber and his Rule 5 picks, Zaidi has talked about the importance of going a few years back in a prospect’s profile. The same holds true for Pomeranz. He had a 6.08 ERA in 2018, but a year earlier he posted a 3.32 ERA while making 32 starts for an American League East club. He had a 3.32 ERA in 2016, too, and it was 2.47 for the Padres before he was traded to Boston.
Pomeranz’s 3.32 ERA in 63 games across those two years ranks sixth among left-handed starters, behind Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Madison Bumgarner, Alex Wood, and Chris Sale. Zaidi worked with three of those pitchers in Los Angeles and now has two in San Francisco, and given that Pomeranz is just 30 years old, it’s not unrealistic to picture him getting back to that production.
“You go back to 2016 and 17, he’s one of best left-handed starters in baseball,” Zaidi said.
Zaidi later went way further back than 2016, repeatedly mentioning Pomeranz’s pedigree.
“Drew’s got a pedigree dating back to his college days,” Zaidi said. “Team USA, and being a top-five pick in the draft.”
--- Take advantage of the ballpark: Pomeranz’s wife is from the Bay Area and the former Athletic met her here. He mentioned repeatedly that he likes San Francisco, and threw in how the ballpark can help starting pitchers.
“The big thing for me was opportunity,” Pomeranz said. “My big thing for me was getting back on track and doing what I can do and just being myself again.”
Zaidi has made no secret of the fact that he’s using Oracle Park as a selling point for pitchers in need of a bounce-back, and he’s even open about how helpful it may be for them financially. He said Pomeranz’s side pushed for a one-year deal.
“It was important to get a one-year deal and reposition himself in free agency,” Zaidi said. “We’re certainly hoping we can give him that kind of platform to have him have a really strong year and re-enter the market or stay in San Francisco if it works for both sides.”
It’s a win-win. Pomeranz gets a shot to rebuild some value and cash in next winter, and if he does pitch well at Oracle Park, the Giants get a good starter … and a good trade chip.
--- Short-term deals: Zaidi inherited the worst future payroll situation in the league, and it has become clear that the Giants do not want to further dig that hole before a season in which they are not expected to contend, even though Zaidi said there’s no mandate for short-term deals. All three additions thus far — Pomeranz, Derek Holland, and Pat Venditte — have come on one-year deals, and the Giants have not been seriously in on any of the big names in the market.
--- Versatility: Pomeranz has made 74 relief appearances in his career and allowed just a 3.00 ERA when coming out of the bullpen. He was signed to be a starter, but like Holland, he should be able to seamlessly move into the bullpen if needed at some point.
“We value guys who have that flexibility, but where we are as a staff, with our depth in the bullpen and need for innings and more of a veteran presence on the rotation side, our plan is for him to be in the rotation,” Zaidi said.