Posted on January 23, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The San Francisco Giants are one of many teams that are going bargain hunting with the start of spring training less than a month away. The Giants hope they’ve found a bargain Wednesday when they signed left-handed pitcher Drew Pomeranz. The two sides agreed to a one-year deal worth just $1.5 million. However, Pomeranz can earn up to $5 million in 2019 with a slew of performance-based incentives written into the contract.
In 2018, Pomeranz endured what can only be described as a nightmare of a season, despite winning a World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox. He continued to fight elbow problems, beginning the season on the DL. Pomeranz then spent large chunks of June and July on the DL with biceps tendinitis. Even when he was healthy, his performance was subpar and he was eventually moved to the bullpen. Over 11 starts and 15 bullpen appearances, Pomeranz was 2-6 with a 6.08 ERA.
However, last season’s poor performance is little more than a blip on the radar of an otherwise impressive track record. The previous season, Pomeranz went 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA for the Red Sox. He posted an identical ERA in 2016, which is what prompted the Red Sox to give up their top-rated prospect in order to acquire Pomeranz from the Padres. Even with last year’s disastrous season, Pomeranz still owns a career ERA of 3.92.
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For Pomeranz, signing with the Giants means a return to the NL West. The lefty had great success with the Padres during the first half of the 2016 season in what was surely the best stretch of his career. Pomeranz also broke into the big leagues with the Rockies, spending 2011 to 2013 in Colorado. Along the way, Pomeranz has been frequently sidelined by elbow issues. However, he’s also shown the upside of a frontline starter. If he’s healthy and can recapture the form he had as recently as 2017, Pomeranz could be a steal for the Giants, even if he hits all of his incentives and maxes out his contract at $5 million.
Of course, Pomeranz will first have to earn a spot in San Francisco’s rotation. Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija are set to lead the rotation with Dereck Rodriguez being a safe bet lock down a spot after an impressive rookie campaign in 2018. Recently signed veteran Derek Holland will also have the inside track on a spot heading into spring training. That could leave Pomeranz competing with Andrew Suarez and Chris Stratton for the final spot in the San Francisco rotation. Of course, a vacancy could open up in the event of an injury.
The silver lining for the Giants is that Pomeranz could easily transition to the bullpen if he doesn’t make the rotation out of spring training. Pomeranz has 74 career relief appearances, including the 15 he made last season. He could potentially serve as a versatile swingman the Giants can move between the rotation and the bullpen.
Obviously, Pomeranz is far from a sure thing to work out. But with a base salary of $1.5 million, the Giants aren’t taking much of a risk on him. His health, of course, is an issue, but a viable left-handed pitcher is typically worth more than $1.5 million per season.
More importantly, Pomeranz boasts great upside. He could turn into a legitimate mid-rotation starter or better if he can stay healthy and bounce back from last year’s nightmare. In the end, there’s no chance of this deal blowing up in their face and at least some chance that Pomeranz returns to form and ends up being one of the biggest free agent bargains of the offseason.