The San Francisco Giants have made a much-needed addition to their starting rotation, and they did so by turning somewhere that none of us were looking (except for Bryan!): to the relief pitchers. On Friday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that the Giants had agreed to a deal with power righty reliever Jordan Hicks. The catch? The Giants plan to use Hicks as a starter.
It’s a four year, $44 million contract for Hicks, who is 27 years old.
BREAKING: Right-hander Jordan Hicks and the San Francisco Giants are in agreement on a four-year, $44 million contract, a source familiar with the deal tells ESPN. Hicks, 27, is expected to work as a starter after spending the majority of his career in the bullpen.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 12, 2024
Hicks has been known mostly for his obscene fastball, which has averaged more than 100 mph in every year of his career, and has regularly sat quite a few ticks higher than that.
Despite having that weapon, Hicks has at times struggled to put all the pieces together. But he excelled in 2023, posting a 3.29 ERA and a 3.22 FIP and accruing 1.1 fWAR in 65.2 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals and Toronto Blue Jays. He entered the offseason viewed as one of the best relievers in free agency.
But apparently the Giants think he can be even more than that. Like so many MLB relievers, Hicks rose through the Minor Leagues primarily as a starter. The Cardinals gave him a brief shot at returning to the rotation in 2022, though it didn’t go super well, with Hicks posting a 5.47 ERA in eight starts.
Perhaps the Giants just think Hicks will work well as a starter, or perhaps they see something in his repertoire that they can focus on, as they did when they brought Kevin Gausman into the fold. Hicks primarily throws his triple-digit sinker and four-seamer, paired with a mid-80s sweeper. But he’ll occasionally throw a slider, which was a staple of his arsenal early in his career, and he has a changeup that he can break out every now and again too. It seems as though the adjustments that Hicks made after a midseason trade are very encouraging. He also induces a lot of ground balls, which we know the Giants like ... especially if they sign Matt Chapman.
One other note on Hicks: he joined the Cardinals Major League team in 2017, after a short stint in High-A. He never pitched in AA, and his only time in AAA has occurred in brief rehab appearances. He’s the very definition of a fast-tracked player, and it’s fair to wonder if there’s still some development left that the Giants can work with.
It’s a fun contract for the Giants. The best-case scenario is that Hicks excels in a return to the rotation, and the worst-case scenario is that he struggles as a starter and then they have a very good reliever for what should be his best years. I’ll take that eight days a week ... or every fifth day.