DeSclafani turns 31 in April and posted a rough 7.22 ERA and 25/16 K/BB ratio in 33 2/3 innings over seven starts and two relief appearances this past season. He gave up seven homers along the way and simply wasn’t able to get on track after suffering a right teres major muscle strain (shoulder) toward the end of summer camp.
This wasn’t a matter of bad luck for DeSclafani. Despite an uptick in fastball velocity, he posted the worst strikeout and walk percentages of his career while giving up tons of hard contact compared to 2019. The barrel percentage against him increased from 7.1 percent to 11.4 percent while the hard-hit percentage against him increased from 38.7 percent to 46.5 percent. His curveball was a very effective pitch for whiffs in 2019, but that completely fell apart this year.
There’s no debating it, 2020 was brutal for DeSclafani, but he had a 3.89 ERA and 167/49 K/BB ratio over 166 2/3 innings last year. Making half of his starts in Oracle Park can only help him, even if the ballpark is a little more hitter-friendly than it used to be. Improved health will be a big key for DeSclafani’s chances of turning around, but he’s going to make for an interesting challenge for Brian Bannister and company.
Of course, the Giants already brought back Gausman after he accepted the team’s qualifying offer, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Wednesday that he still plans on pursuing starting pitching even after adding DeSclafani. As of now, Johnny Cueto and Logan Webb are the other safe bets for the rotation, which leaves one opening. Tyler Beede will eventually be an option for the rotation once he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Mariners Find Projected Closer
The Mariners’ bullpen ranked 28th in the majors with a 5.92 ERA this past season, so general manager Jerry Dipoto has apparently made it his mission to improve upon that going into 2021.
Their most significant step yet came in a trade with the Rangers on Tuesday in which they acquired right-handed reliever Rafael Montero in exchange for prospect right-hander Jose Corniell and a player to be named later.
Once a highly-regarded prospect with the Mets, Montero turned his career around during his stint with the Rangers. After missing the entire 2018 season following Tommy John surgery, he inked a minor league deal with Texas prior to the 2019 season and ended up posting a 3.09 ERA and 53/11 K/BB ratio over 46 2/3 innings with the club. Montero served as the team’s primary closer this past season while going a perfect 8-for-8 in save chances. While his swinging strike rate was down this year, he’s still showing very good velocity in comparison to his days as a starter. The 30-year-old is in his second year of arbitration and will have two more years of team control.
As of now, Montero projects to serve as the Mariners’ closer going into 2021. That’s assuming no other major acquisitions in free agency or otherwise. We can’t rule that out, as Dipoto has been very active with his bullpen so far. Even prior to this week, the club had re-signed Kendall Graveman and claimed Robert Dugger and Domingo Tapia off waivers.
Another potential late-inning arm is right-hander Keynan Middleton, who signed a one-year, $800,000 deal with Seattle on Wednesday. Middleton was recently non-tendered by the Angels after posting a 5.25 ERA and 11/6 K/BB ratio over 12 innings this past season. He hasn’t been the same since elbow issues began in 2018 and eventually resulted in Tommy John surgery, but he showed flashes of dominance with a 3.86 ERA and 63/18 K/BB ratio in 58 1/3 innings as a rookie in 2017. Middleton is still just 27 years old, so it’s a worthwhile gamble.
As for the Rangers, they figure to give Jose Leclerc another shot at regaining the closer role. The 26-year-old was limited to just two appearances in 2020 due to a Grade 2 teres major strain in his right shoulder. He’s still owed $4 million next year and $4.75 million in 2022 with a pair of affordable club options beyond that, so it would behoove the club to get him right and use him as trade bait. If Leclerc scuffles, Jonathan Hernandez is the name to watch here after he put up a promising 2.90 with 31 strikeouts and eight walks over 31 innings as a rookie this year. Remember that name.
While we’re still waiting to hear official word on the player to be named, Corniell gives the Rangers a young pitcher with upside. The 19-year-old signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2019 and has yet to throw a pitch in pro ball. According to Baseball America, he was set to rank 26th in Seattle’s Top 30 list prior to the trade.
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Timeline for Thor's Return
The Mets were fortunate enough to have Marcus Stroman accept their one-year qualifying offer and they are still expected to add another starting pitcher this offseason, but Noah Syndergaard might be the biggest wild card for their rotation going into 2021.
Mets president Sandy Anderson said during an appearance on WFAN in New York on Wednesday that June is a “reasonable expectation” for Syndergaard to return. The 28-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery this past March, so next June would put him about 15 months removed from the procedure. 14-16 months is the general expectation for a return for starting pitchers.
Syndergaard hasn’t encountered any issues with his rehab thus far. In fact, he posted a video of himself throwing off a mound last month. Under normal circumstances, an estimated return in June would mean that he would miss the first two months of the season, but these aren’t normal circumstances. There’s been some chatter this week about the start of the season being delayed, so the Mets might get more out of him than anticipated.
Syndergaard last pitched in 2019, posting a disappointing 4.28 ERA over 32 starts. It's not unusual for command and control to be elusive when a pitcher returns from Tommy John surgery, but he still possesses top-of-the-rotation ability.
Quick Hits: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters Thursday that Cody Bellinger is ahead of schedule after shoulder surgery … Athletics manager Bob Melvin said Thursday that Matt Chapman (hip) will be a full-go for spring training … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hinted to reporters on Thursday that he’s not sure whether David Price will return for the 2021 season … Carter Kieboom is expected to get another shot at the Nationals’ third base job in the spring … Jon Heyman of MLB Network hears that the Blue Jays have some interest in Korean infielder Ha-seong Kim … Orioles prospect catcher Adley Rutschman is expected to begin the 2021 season in Double-A … The Rays re-signed catcher Mike Zunino to a one-year, $2 million contract with a club option to 2022 … According to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers are the latest team to show interest in free agent reliever Ryne Stanek … Mitch Haniger (back, core) is expected to be ready for the start of spring training … Robert Murray of FanSided reports that the Nationals “are a possibility” for free agent catcher Yadier Molina … Mets manager Luis Rojas said Wednesday that the club has talked to Amed Rosario about a potential move to third base … Rays prospect Brent Honeywell underwent another surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday, but the hope is that he’ll be ready for the start of the 2021 season … Dylan Moore and Shed Long will compete for the Mariners’ second base job in the spring … Tigers GM Al Avila said Wednesday that his son Alex Avila is on their list of free agent targets this offseason … Mariners manager Scott Servais said Wednesday that Ty France is expected to have a regular role in 2021 … The Angels signed left-handed reliever Alex Claudio to a one-year, $1.125 million contract … The Cubs signed right-hander Jonathan Holder, formerly of the Yankees, to a one-year, $750,000 contract… Mariners catcher Tom Murphy is fully healed from his fractured left foot and is expected to be ready for spring training … The Brewers signed LHP Hoby Milner and OF Dylan Cozens to minor league deals with invitation to spring training … The Phillies signed former All-Star closer Neftali Feliz to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … The Orioles are reportedly set to sign lefty reliever Fernando Abad to a minor league deal … Roenis Elias is set to stage a workout for interested teams on Sunday … The Brewers signed right-hander Luis Perdomo to a minor league contract, though he’s going to be in rehab mode from Tommy John surgery during the 2021 campaign.