If you search through old tweets for clips of Anthony DeSclafani, the one that pops up most often is a grand slam he hit off the Chicago Cubs in 2018. Assuming there's no DH in 2021, the Giants will take every additional flash of power they can get, but in signing DeSclafani to a one-year, $6 million contract they're hoping for something much more traditional.
DeSclafani becomes the latest in a line of pitchers with an intriguing toolkit, inconsistent results and a desire to break through by signing with the Giants. It worked for Drew Pomeranz, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly, and DeSclafani fits that mold pretty well. He signed a contract on Wednesday that includes an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses for innings pitched.
The 30-year-old right-hander jumps into a rotation lacking reliable arms. DeSclafani wasn't one of those in 2020, posting a 7.22 ERA and 6.10 FIP in nine appearances, seven of which were starts. But in 2019 he made 31 starts for the Cincinnati Reds -- who also employed Gausman that season -- and had a 3.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 4.43 ERA. By ERA+, he was well above average (120) as a starting pitcher, and he had a career-high strikeout rate.
DeSclafani has almost exclusively been used a starter in his career, but he has the kind of velocity that should play up if the Giants need to shift his role. The performance bonuses -- $62,500 each for reaching 140 innings, 160 innings, 180 innings and 200 innings -- are a clear sign neither side expects that to happen, and the Giants will hope to turn that velocity into a strength as a starting pitcher. In 2020, even as he struggled, DeSclafani hit 97 mph with his fastball and touched 90 with his slider.
He averaged 94.8 mph in 2020 and 94.7 the year before, although the pitch has not been particularly effective in piling up outs. It's the slider that pitching coaches Andrew Bailey and Brian Bannister likely are looking at with this addition. DeSclafani threw the pitch nearly a third of the time last year, holding opposing hitters to a .190 average. It was more hittable in 2019, but DeSclafani had good success that season with a hard curveball.
That breakout 2019 season included 29 homers, and DeSclafani should benefit greatly from the move from Great American Ball Park to Oracle Park. Even if it plays the way it did last year, Oracle is still far more forgiving.
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With Gausman back and DeSclafani in the fold, the Giants head into the holidays with what's starting to look like a rotation. They have one more year of Johnny Cueto and are hopeful that some tweaks to his routine can bring more success in 2021. Logan Webb will be an option, and Tyler Beede is expected back from Tommy John surgery around the start of May.
The Giants still could use a left-hander or two -- a source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area that Andrew Suarez is likely to bolt for the KBO -- but they have plenty of time to figure that part out and will surely find others looking for the kind of one-year deal DeSclafani took.