The San Francisco Giants made their second signing of the offseason with a 1-year, $1.15 million deal with LHP Scott Alexander, as first reported by MLB Trade Rumors. The 33-year old Santa Rosa native and Dodger castoff had a remarkable — STELLAR — stint with the Giants to end the 2022 season, and the Giants are getting him for just 160% of the major league minimum next season ($720,000). The deal avoids an arbitration hearing.
Five weeks ago, I went through the thirteen arbitration eligible players and tried to figure out who the Giants might keep. Turns out, the plan is to bring back basically all of them, any interesting position considering that the Giants said they’d be looking to make some big moves, but have mostly gone through the effort of bringing back a lot of players already.
Sure, Evan Longoria is gone with Carlos Rodón right behind him, but right now, here are the “headliners” of the active roster:
C Joey Bart / Austin Wynns
1B Wilmer Flores
2B Thairo Estrada / Tommy LaStella
SS Brandon Crawford
3B J.D. Davis / David Villar
LF Austin Slater
CF Mike Yastrzemski
RF LaMonte Wade Jr.
DH Joc Pederson
SP Logan Webb
SP Alex Cobb
SP Anthony DeSclafani
SP Alex Wood
SP Jakob Junis / Sean Hjelle, etc.
CL Camilo Doval
RP John Brebbia
RP Tyler Rogers
RP Scott Alexander
RP Cole Waites
RP Alex Young
RP Thomas Szapucki
That’s 26 players recognizable players with 14 others to fill out the 40-man. Now, there could be trades in the works, some DFAs — trying to sneak players through waivers — or some players not being tendered contracts ahead of arbitration that could free up some roster spots. Point is, the Giants still would seem to have a lot of work ahead of them and what they have done is simply maintain a status quo.
In Alexander, though, that’s not a terrible thing. He had a remarkable season — albeit limited — for the Giants. In just 17.1 innings, he posted a 1.03 ERA (2.88 FIP) and generated 0.3 fWAR. That was all thanks to his sinker, which in limited run put up spectacular value, according to Statcast:
As you can see, Baseball-Reference’s WAR liked Scott Alexander’s contributions a little bit more; but the point is that in just 17.1 IP, the sinker was worth -8 runs in value. Reminder on run value:
The idea is that every base-out situation has a run potential. And after the event, the new base-out provides a new run potential. The CHANGE in those run potential is what we attribute to the event. A strikeout with bases empty and 0 outs for example turns the run expectancy from .481 runs to .254 runs. And so, the change in run expectancy, or the run value, of the strikeout is -0.227 runs. If the bases are loaded with one out, a strikeout has a run impact of a whopping -0.789 runs. So, the impact of the event is highly dependent on the circumstances.
He missed most of 2022 with a shoulder and thumb injuries that ended his 2021 season. MLB Trade Rumors projected he’d get $1.1 million in arbitration and so this looks like a deal that makes sense for both parties.
The only real guarantee in the bullpen for next season is Camilo Doval, and as good as Alexander was, the biggest issue for him is health. Over the last four seasons, he’s appeared in just 76 games (13.9% of total possible games). He will be a great piece to have as long as the Giants have him, and paying him through arbitration rather than free agency probably helped him more because this injury track record would’ve made him more likely to receive minor league deals with major league options instead of this decent guarantee.
Now maybe Brian Bannister and Andrew Bailey have figured out how he can adjust his pelvic force or whatever they do to break down and improve throwing motions which might ease some of the strain that impacts his health. Statcast doesn’t show increased velocity or spin, but it’s plausible to teach a player a more efficient way of doing things the way they’ve always done them. Or the Giants will just be happy to get what they get out of him with no burden on their budget.
It’s a good thing he’s back, and here’s hoping he can build off that brief spark he gave the team at the end of the season.