Giants get their man in righty Sanchez

February 22nd, 2021

The Giants have had their eyes on for a while.

At the 2019 Trade Deadline, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi had talks with the Blue Jays about acquiring Sanchez, but the 28-year-old right-hander was ultimately dealt to the Astros.

When Sanchez was attempting to come back from right shoulder surgery last summer, the Giants reached out again about potentially bringing him into their alternate training site in Sacramento. No deal ended up materializing, as the Giants felt it didn’t make sense to try to rush Sanchez’s throwing progression.

Still, they continued to stay in touch and monitored his free agency throughout the offseason. After watching Sanchez hit 98 mph in his most recent showcase for teams in Miami last weekend, the Giants were finally sold. On Sunday, San Francisco officially announced the addition of Sanchez on a one-year, $4 million deal, finalizing a pact that had been expected since last week.

“Last weekend, he was kind of in midseason form,” Zaidi said Sunday. “He was up to 97-98 [mph] and looked really good physically. Fortunately, his physical went really well and kind of corroborated what we were seeing with just how his body was moving and working.”

Sanchez’s arrival came with a surprise departure, as right-handed reliever Trevor Gott was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Gott, 28, opened last season as the Giants’ preferred closing option, but he lost his grip on the role after a brutal stretch in which he blew three consecutive ninth-inning leads. He finished the shortened 2020 season with an ugly 10.03 ERA over 15 appearances, but he was still one of the club’s more experienced right-handed relief options heading into this season and was tendered a one-year, $700,000 contract in December.

Still, the Giants improved their bullpen depth from the right side by adding Matt Wisler, John Brebbia, Dedniel Núñez, Camilo Doval, Kervin Castro and Gregory Santos to their 40-man roster over the offseason and bringing in several veterans on Minor League deals, including Dominic Leone, James Sherfy, Zack Littell and Jay Jackson.

“We have a pretty deep pitching group right now with some of the [non-roster invitees] we’ve brought in and guys on the roster,” Zaidi said. “We certainly would have preferred a situation where we didn’t have to make a move off of the roster, but that was just a position of depth.”

The Giants could have cleared a spot on the 40-man roster by transferring right-hander Tyler Beede (Tommy John surgery) or outfield prospect Alexander Canario (shoulder surgery) to the 60-day injured list, but Zaidi said the Giants wanted to take more time to evaluate their health in camp before making any transactions that would essentially sideline them until June.

Sanchez is expected to join a Giants rotation that already includes four other veteran starters in Kevin Gausman, Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. The Barstow, Calif., native said he viewed the Giants as a desirable landing spot because they were willing to give him an opportunity to start and prove that he can return to the All-Star form he displayed in 2016, when he led the American League with a 3.00 ERA over 192 innings for Toronto.

Sanchez’s contract includes up to $2.5 million in performance bonuses: $250,000 each for 16 and 18 games started; and $500,000 each for 20, 22, 24 and 26 games started.

“That’s a huge reason why I inked the deal here,” Sanchez said. “Even in my years prior, I’ve been banged up a little bit and if you look then, I still made 27 starts in 2019 not being healthy. I’ve been around. I know what it takes to perform through 162 games. I know what kind of work needs to be done to manage that.”

Sanchez said he was also impressed by the Giants’ analytically driven coaching staff, which includes pitching coach Andrew Bailey and director of pitching Brian Bannister.

“I reached out to some of my friends around the league that have come through this organization, and I heard nothing but great things,” Sanchez said. “Both [from an] organizational standpoint and a pitching and analytical standpoint. And obviously I got the opportunity to start here -- that was the biggest thing for me.”

The Giants are well aware that the 2021 campaign will present a unique challenge for their starting rotation, which will be relied on to take down more innings now that the regular season is set to revert to 162 games While the club’s starting staff carries significant upside, there is also some risk, with DeSclafani, Wood and Sanchez each coming off injuries this year.

With that in mind, the Giants have been attempting to build enough depth to guard against injury and underperformance amid the more taxing workload for pitchers this year. So while Sanchez’s arrival could ultimately push Logan Webb out of the Opening Day rotation, manager Gabe Kapler said he’s confident the young right-hander will still have plenty of opportunities to make starts for the Giants in 2021.

In addition to Webb and Beede, who likely won’t become a rotation option until May at the earliest, the Giants’ depth chart also includes left-hander Conner Menez, pitching prospect Sean Hjelle and veterans Nick Tropeano and Shun Yamaguchi, who were added on Minor League deals over the last week.

“We’re going to need at least seven, eight, nine starting pitchers to get through the season,” Zaidi said. “And obviously with younger guys with options it’s a little bit easier to have them start in the Minor Leagues if everyone else is healthy and effective. But we’re trying to focus more on what are reasonable workloads to get out of those guys over the course of the full season and seeing if we can kind of do the math to get up to 162 games. That’s going to be a challenge for every team in baseball this year.”