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Giants interested in RHP Kodai Senga

A blurry photo posted to Twitter reveals the Giants Alex Cobb-level target this offseason — and he’s a good one!

United States v Japan - Baseball Gold Medal Game - Olympics: Day 15 Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

I love Twitter and I’ll be sorry to see it go if/when that happens. Until then, we need to hopscotch through a lot more noise on the site to see any real news about the San Francisco Giants and their offseason plans; but, I am happy to say that there is something to report thanks to a tweet:

This is the best kind of offseason rumor bit of news, on par with someone randomly spotting Larry Baer in Las Vegas while Bryce Harper fielded free agent offers. The Giants could use another starter, and he would be a great fit.

Kodai Senga of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks ranked 18th on that Keith Law list of free agents I mentioned in last night’s post about the Giants potentially choosing between Corey Kluber and Andrew Heaney to replace their ace, Carlos Rodón.

He throws 100 mph with a plus splitter, while opinions on his slider vary [...] He does have a true curveball that looks like it would be at least an average pitch as well.

Here’s an MLB Network spot on him which features a strikeout of Buster Posey during the World Baseball Classic in 2017:

And here’s a highlight reel from his first start of this season:

Hold that thought about the 100 mph fastball for a moment and let’s take a look at his career line from NPB (Japan’s MLB):

1,089 IP
1,252 K
414 BB
1.12 WHIP
2.59 ERA

That translates into a 28.2% K rate and 9.3% BB rate, which has a 2022 comp in Charlie Morton, just from a rate standpoint. The pitch mix, however, makes him a lot more like Alex Cobb. If there’s one thing the Giants have been great at since 2019, it’s finding these Alex Cobb types. Even if his NPB numbers don’t 1:1 translate to the US (Law mentioned control-command issues, for one thing), the Giants’ Brian Bannister-led pitching lab seems like the perfect partnership group for Senga’s existing talents.

Okay, now we can bring in the 100 mph fastball.

We saw how effective Carlos Rodon was last season because of his big-time velocity. We know the Giants are lacking in it up and down their organization, for the most part. It’s basically Camilo Doval for the time being. Having one more arm who could throw some flame isn’t just something nice to have, it’s necessary. The fewer balls that can be put in play, especially with the restrictions on shifting next season, could make all the difference in the Giants winning 79-81 games next season, or actually realizing their ceiling of 85-87 wins (reader: I don’t have much confidence in the Giants being able to free agent their way out of their present morass).

Going back to Law’s post on The Athletic:

[...] I’d be surprised if someone didn’t give him four years and $80 million-plus because they see an above-average starter [...]

We know the Giants would rather spend for an average or below average starter so they can coach up or sequence up the performance to above average, thereby realizing some cost savings, but if someone was ordered to generate a screen graphic for the videoboard at Oracle Park, then the only logical conclusion is that they have some interest in the player.

Keith Law has been fairly anti-player when it comes to free agent value, so if even someone like him has come out to say that a Japanese player has the chance at a $20 million AAV, then that’s something to keep in mind. If the Giants have put him in their sights — and, again, that graphic indicates they have — then they’ve either penciled him in as their Rodon replacement, or they figure they can negotiate him to something much closer to their Anthony DeSclafani deal. It’s hard to say because almost all 30 teams are colluding on payroll these days.

Now, would Senga want to sign with the Giants? That’s going to be the big question this offseason. The exciting free agents have spent the last 22 seasons Heisman’ing the Giants’ advances, and nothing has yet to appear to suggest that pattern is likely to change.

Could Senga be able to get some insight into playing for the Giants from some former teammates? Last year, he played with former MLBers Freddy Galvis, Colin Rea, Tsuyoshi Wada... no real help there, because Galvis left the Phillies before Gabe Kapler took over. But you could look at his 2020 teammate, Matt Moore, and wonder if maybe they are close enough for Moore to share some insights. Would those insights be favorable to the Giants? His presence on the team was with the previous regime, and he’s now more likely to try and recruit Senga to the Texas Rangers (his 2022 team, where his Giants manager, Bruce Bochy, now manages). Moore is a free agent, though, so maybe he’d play it a little more neutral? Or maybe none of that really matters.

Maybe the Giants will have to sell him on being the ace of a team that was .500 this past season and plays in the same division as the Dodgers and Padres. If the Mariners, Yankees, Cubs, or even the Angels decide to get involved, it seems like they’d have the advantage, just from a fellow countryman standpoint. The Giants don’t have much more to offer than money and the promise of being a better pitcher. Let’s hope that’s enough! He’d be a great addition to a bland roster.

No matter what happens, the Hot Stove is heating up. Somehow, improbably, still thanks to Twitter. [wipes tear] It’s beautiful.