The San Francisco Giants continue to bolster their pitching staff with their recent signing of free agent RHP Jordan Hicks.
The Giants and Hicks agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract, with the ability of making up to $2 million more per year in performance bonuses. The interesting aspect to this deal is that it was quickly announced that the Giants planned to stretch him out as a starter, rather than as a relief pitcher, where he filled the role for the majority of his professional career.
However, Hicks does have experience as a starting pitcher, working in that role most of the time spent in his two minor league seasons in the Cardinals system.
This also is not the first time that a team will attempt to stretch out the right-hander into a starters role. In 2022, the Cardinals attempted to make him a part of their starting rotation, giving him eight total starts before placing him back in the bullpen.
Since making his return from having Tommy John surgery back in 2019, Hicks was a staple in the back-end of the Cardinals bullpen, converting 14 out of 15 save opportunities.
At the 2023 Trade Deadline, being labeled as one of the hottest commodities available in the relief market, the Cardinals traded Hicks to the Toronto Blue Jays. All told, Hicks ended up finishing with 62 2/3 innings pitched, 12 games saves, an 11.1 K/9, and a minuscule 0.55 HR/9 rate.
In terms of his fit with the Giants, they are looking to solidify rotation spots three through five behind their front-of-the-line starter Logan Webb and Alex Cobb.
Even with the acquisition of Robbie Ray, who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely will not make his return until midway through the 2024 season, the Giants were entering this year relying on Ross Stripling, Kyle Harrison, and Keaton Winn to battle for the open spots. Hicks will now enter that mix and look to piece together a rotation until Ray returns.
The fit, and current plan to stretch Hicks out, could actually work for a team like the Giants and how they deploy their starters. Like the Rays, the Giants have been known to use openers throughout the year in order to make up from some of their deficiencies in the starting rotation.
Last year, Jakob Junis and John Brebbia filled these roles for San Francisco, and were productive doing do. Now with both of those pitchers currently free agents, even if Hicks isn’t fully stretched out by the time the season starts, utilizing him in three-inning spurts until he is, could be mutually beneficial for both parties.
If the attempt to stretch Hicks out fails, him and Camilo Doval would be a lethal one-two punch at the back end of the Giants bullpen, even at the current AAV of his deal.
While the Giants have consistently been linked to starters like Marcus Stroman, Blake Snell, and almost every other top option available, Hicks should not be seen as a consolation prize. The hard-throwing right-hander does have a blazing fastball that was second in the majors last season in average velo, 100.3 mph, but a power sinker and a hard-biting slider that both pair off of it well.