Why righty Sugano makes sense for SF

January 4th, 2021

Even after bringing back Kevin Gausman on a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer and signing Anthony DeSclafani to a one-year, $6 million deal, Giants president of operations Farhan Zaidi acknowledged that he might not be done making additions to the club’s starting rotation this offseason.

“I actually think that we have room to add another guy who we could rely on every fifth day,” Zaidi said last month.

Could the Giants now look overseas for more rotation help? San Francisco is among the teams that have been linked to Japanese right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, who has until 2 p.m. PT on Thursday to sign with an MLB club after being posted by the Yomiuri Giants of Nippon Professional Baseball in December.

Sugano, 31, has gone 101-49 with a 2.32 ERA and 1,214 strikeouts over 1,360 innings during his eight-year career in Japan. A two-time Sawamura Award winner (the NPB equivalent of the Cy Young Award), Sugano has a four-year offer from the Yomiuri Giants that includes three opt-outs, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, giving him the option to remain in Japan while still keeping the door open on a jump to MLB in the future.

Still, if Sugano is intent on moving stateside this year, the San Francisco Giants could be an appealing landing spot for the Japanese star, who profiles as a mid-rotation starter and pairs a mid-90s fastball with an array of offspeed pitches. San Francisco's rotation includes Johnny Cueto, Gausman, DeSclafani and Logan Webb, but the club is looking to improve its depth following disappointing campaigns from Cueto and Webb in 2020.

Adding Sugano would give San Francisco a starting rotation composed entirely of right-handers, but Zaidi has said he doesn’t expect handedness to sway future moves.

“I think we'd rather have a rotation of five right-handed starters that we feel good about than sort of sacrifice quality or ability for handedness,” Zaidi said.

With Gausman and DeSclafani signing one-year deals and Cueto entering the final guaranteed year of his contract, the Giants don’t have much certainty in their rotation beyond 2021, so signing an established arm like Sugano to a multi-year deal could help stabilize the starting staff as it aims to keep pace with the Dodgers and the Padres in the National League West in the coming years.


Zaidi has awarded only one multi-year contract since taking over as the Giants’ president of baseball operations in November 2018 -- Wilmer Flores’ two-year, $6 million pact last offseason -- but he might be willing to break that trend, given the Giants’ acute need for pitching. While the club’s farm system is on the rise, the organization is still short on upper-level pitching prospects, as it’s unclear how the canceled 2020 Minor League season will affect the timeline for young starters like Sean Hjelle, Tristan Beck and Seth Corry.

The Blue Jays, Padres and Red Sox are among the other teams that have been tied to Sugano, according to MLB.com’s Jon Paul Morosi. If Sugano joins an MLB club, the Yomiuri Giants will receive a release fee equivalent to 20 percent of the first $25 million guaranteed, 17.5 percent of the next $25 million and 15 percent of anything beyond $50 million.

Sugano appears to be zeroing in on a decision, as Morosi reported that he traveled to the United States on Friday to host meetings with potential suitors.