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The One Where Ross Opts In

No surprise with this news, but the Giants’ depth piece will need to recalibrate to be effective next season.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Ross Stripling confirmed to Danny Emerman of that he will indeed be opting in with the San Francisco Giants for the 2024 season. This is not a surprise because he said he’d be doing this back in September, but it is newsworthy, as players have until Monday to make their option decisions.

We’ve already seen a healthy degree of activity in that regard today. Cody Bellinger opted out, Wade Miley, too, but those were players declining mutual options. This was, technically, a 2-year deal for $25 million with an opt out after year one. As Stripling mentioned back in September:

“I haven’t pitched well enough to opt out…in my head now, I’m a 2024 Giant. Ready to work with these guys to figure some stuff out, get better. Show up to spring ready to rock and be a Giant 100%.”

It’s important to remember that his next pitching win for the Giants will be his first pitching win for the Giants, an unfortunate statistic given the intention behind his signing. He was supposed to be solid back of the rotation/swingman depth — a Jakob Junis+, if you will.

Back in December, I huffed some serious copium about the Giants missing out on Judge and Correa to gas up every other move they made in the offseason, including this one.

In last month’s writeup, I did note that — at a glance — there’s not a whole lot of separation between Stripling and Jakob Junis when it comes to Statcast. And from a strictly stuff perspective (fastball velocity, slider spin), Junis actually came out ahead in last year’s Statcast measurements. But Stripling’s effectiveness is hard to match. With the right sequencing, his command will make him basically the best version of Jakob Junis, right down to the swingman capability.

It’s hard not to like this move. It only requires that you ignore the Rodón in the room. Which is tough to do! Anyway, with this deal, the Giants’ 2023 Opening Day payroll is now projected to be greater than last year’s, which means the Giants were true to their word and they spent to get the players they wanted.

Hopefully, I prepared you for that, because — wow — what was I thinking? Instead, Jakob Junis was Jakob Junis+ this season, and Ross Stripling was the Ross Stripling that got him traded from the Ddogers to the Blue Jays in 2020. His 2.0 HR/9 matched his 2021 total with Toronto, suggesting that everything he learned from a stellar 2022 (3.01 ERA, 0.8 HR/9 in a career-best 134.1 IP) disintegrated the instant he put on a Giants uniform.

As part of the depth stew next season he certainly has the chance to provide some solid value if he could stop giving up home runs. A remarkable — nay, staggering — bit of data is that Stripling gave up 12 home runs in 10 appearances at Oracle Park and just 8 home runs in 12 road appearances. 3 of those came at Yankee Stadium opening weekend and 2 of them in Arizona in May. He’d allow just 3 over his final 8 road appearances. I point that out because it’s very hard to hit home runs at Oracle Park, but Ross Stripling made it easy!

The Giants did phantom IL him, a situation that could be very bad for the franchise. The Mets’ previous GM Billy Eppler, for example, is under investigation by the league for possibly misusing the injured list. Although Ross Stripling cleaned it up to say that “phantom IL” was his own wording...

... it’s sort of undeniable. In 7 appearsnces following the All-Star Break he had a 4.10 ERA — not terrible — but a 5.02 FIP and allowed 9 home runs in 37.1 innings pitched. In three August appearances (one start, two bulks), he allowed six home runs among 19 hits in 16.1 IP. His lows were very low and his highs were few and far between and never really reached cruising altitude.

All the same, I’m sure the $12.5 million he’ll receive this season more than makes up for any inconvenience. He’ll be 34 next season, and his three-year track record (98 ERA+ in 324.2 IP) suggests someone whose market value is, well, much, much less than that.