Alex Wood nearly signed with the Giants last offseason, and he candidly suggested that it might have been the better career move over returning to the Dodgers. But the opportunity to win a World Series ultimately tugged at his strings, and the decision ultimately paid off. Now, he’s hoping to replicate that success in San Francisco.
One year and a championship ring later, Wood was introduced as the newest Giant on Tuesday after signing a one-year contract on Friday worth $3 million that can increase by $3 million in performance bonuses.
Wood cited his longstanding relationship with Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and the chance to pitch exclusively in a starter’s role as the primary reasons for his strong fit in San Francisco. He joins a Giants rotation comprised of right-handers Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani and Logan Webb in the Giants’ rotation for 2021, slotting in as the lone lefty.
“I was really close to coming to San Francisco last year,” Wood said. “I basically got down to two teams, L.A. and San Francisco last offseason. It was a really tough decision for me because on an individual and personal level, the smarter decision probably would've been for me to go to San Francisco. But I felt that I had some unfinished business in Los Angeles, and I had an opportunity to go back on a team that looked like they were going to be the best in baseball, and so that was the route that I decided to go. Fortunately, that decision worked out as far as being able to win a World Series.
“So that was pretty much the biggest difference in the two. I'm grateful that Farhan still wanted to reach out and bring me back this season, and I'm really looking forward to my time in San Francisco starting hopefully with a bang.”
Wood brings a familiarity of the National League West and of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry -- as well as renewed confidence in his pitching arsenal, which has received positive analytical backing, Zaidi noted last week. Wood is a sinker-curveball-changeup lefty who throws from the first-base side of the rubber in a quirky three-quarter delivery that looks as if he’s barely holding his balance.
He said that his two-seamer is behaving more like a four-seamer, in that it’s creating more vertical movement. He’s added more than four inches of horizontal movement on his changeup, which he believes can become a weapon for inducing groundouts. And his curveball generated a 42.4% whiff rate in 2020.
Last season, Wood battled shoulder inflammation around Opening Day and compiled a 6.39 ERA over 12 2/3 regular-season innings. But he proved to interested clubs that he had recovered when pitching four postseason games of relief, including in the Dodgers’ World Series championship-clinching Game 6 win over the Rays. While shoulder issues have cropped over the course of his eight-year career, at his very best, the former first-round Draft pick of the Braves is an All-Star.
“He pitched incredibly well in the playoffs, including in the World Series,” Zaidi said. “For me, watching him pitch in the playoffs was really reminiscent of when I've seen him at his best.”
In 2017, when he was selected to the Midsummer Classic (and when Zaidi was general manager of the Dodgers), Wood went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and 152 ERA+ over 152 1/3 innings. But he hasn’t thrown that many innings in a single season since, which may explain the particulars to his contract. Wood will earn bonuses for games pitched in which he records 10 or more outs, including $125,000 for 12 and 14 such games, $250,000 for 16, 18, 20, 22 and 24 such games and $500,000 for 26, 28 and 30 such games. The deal gives the Giants a low-stakes commitment to an established arm with upside, and it gives Wood protection in case he’s deployed as a bulk-innings pitcher behind an opener.
“I think my ties to [Giants manager] Gabe [Kapler] and Farhan were important,” Wood said. “This is my second year going through free agency, being around long enough, it's really important at least to me -- and I think it is for a lot of guys -- of finding people in places that really believe in you. ... I feel like Farhan really believes in me. That goes a really long way in my book.”