Report: SF Giants ‘heavily involved’ in talks with Kodai Senga
From Giants of SF is reported without making a great effort to re-sign Carlos Rodón, they are apparently looking at Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks star Kodai Senga as a possible replacement, according to a report from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Morosi reported that Senga would be “among the next group to sign” after Rodón and Justin Verlander agreed to contracts and identified the Giants as potential suitors. Senga is the 24th best free agent available this offseason, per Giants Baseball Insider Rankings.
“One team that is heavily involved in the Senga market, I’m told, is the San Francisco Giants,” Morosi said. “A Kodai Senga would be very important for the roster, but also to complete the sales pitch to bring Aaron Judge back to California.”
It’s no surprise that the Giants have interest in Senga, the 29-year-old right-handed pitcher for the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. They hosted Senga at Oracle Park in mid-November, putting a photo of Senga in a Giants uniform on the scoreboard. The team has been linked to him since free agency began, and when the winter meetings begin Sunday in San Diego, the signings are expected to follow.
Senga was a three-time All-Star in Japan, becoming a 20-year reliever in 2013, and again as a starter in 2017 and 2019. He won the Japan Series with the Hawks in 2015. In 2017, the The Hawks won the first of four consecutive Japanese series, and Senga was the ace of the staff, pitching the first game of the four series.
He was named the best pitcher in Japan in 2019 and 2020, winning the pitching title both years and the ERA and wins the title in 2020. Senga also won the Gold Glove for the best fielder in both years . He tried to get the Hawks to send him to major league baseball for years, but Fukuoka refused, because he had never done it.
Last year, Senga was 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 144 innings. He was also an international free agent, which meant he could sign with an MLB team without them having to pay a posting fee or hand over draft pick compensation. Clearly, that’s attractive to the Giants, who are likely to add a compensatory pick when Rodon signs elsewhere.
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Senga throws very hard, with a fastball that reportedly tops out at 99-101 MPH. He also has a killer split-finger fastball, a pitch that Kevin Gausman threw with great success in a Giants uniform. Senga’s pitch is known as the “Ghost Fork,” and it’s safe to say the Giants’ marketing department is salivating at the possibilities. After all, they can’t sell giraffe hats or captain hats if Brandon Belt doesn’t come back.
Senga’s two biggest problems are walks – 49 last year – and injuries. He’s never pitched more than 180 innings in a season and turns 30 in January. Of course, that’s young for a free agent starter, especially one with a track record like his. Signing comes with some risk of injury, but that’s true when signing virtually any starting pitcher.
He is clearly one of the best free agent starters… Jim Bowden listed it 4th behind Jacob DeGrom, Verlander and Rodon, and 10th overall. But Morosi argues there’s another free agent fueling the Giants’ pursuit: Aaron Judge.
“If Aaron Judge is going to sign with the Giants, there has to be a component that says, ‘What are the chances of winning now?’ ” Morosi said. “For the Giants to sign Aaron Judge, this may not be the culmination of offseason moves, but rather a big first step.”
San Francisco had an excellent pitching staff last year, but Rodon was a big part of it. This is not a deep free agent class for pitchers. I miss Senga, and suddenly they have options like Chris Bassitt or Jameson Taillon. These guys aren’t bad, but consider that Taillon was the fourth starter on Judge’s old team. Does he really want to sign with a team where Taillon isn’t? 2?
Of course, Senga also wants to play for a contender.
Senga wants a large market (check), an analytically oriented organization (check), and a win-now team (in theory, check).
In order to get Aaron Judge, the SF Giants need to convince him that they are serious about winning. They may have to convince Kodai Senga of the same.
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