The San Francisco Giants have swung a trade for a starting pitcher, although it’s not one that really anyone saw coming. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, San Fran is acquiring 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Mitch Haniger and righty Anthony DeSclafani.
BREAKING: The San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners are in agreement on a trade that will send former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to the Giants for outfielder Mitch Haniger and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 5, 2024
Ray made all of one start in 2023, throwing 3.1 innings before being sidelined with an elbow injury — an elbow injury that required first flexor tendon surgery and then eventually Tommy John. Ray underwent the latter procedure in May, which, with a typical 14-month recovery timeline, would put his return to a Major League mound somewhere around this year’s All-Star break. The 32-year-old lefty still has three years and $83 million left on the five-year, $115 million deal he signed with Seattle prior to the 2022 season.
Of course, before the injury trouble, Ray had established himself as one of the better starters in the game. He was electric for the Blue Jays in 2021, leading the AL in ERA (2.84) and WHIP (1.045) while leading the Majors in strikeouts (248 in 193.1 innings) en route to his first Cy Young Award. He took a step back in his first year with the Mariners but was still solid, with a 3.71 ERA (100 ERA+) and 10.1 K/9 across 189 innings. When he’s right, he’s something akin to Carlos Rodon (non-2023 version), with a dominant fastball/slider combination from the left side that he can struggle to command at times.
This marks a return to Seattle for Haniger, who hit .263/.337/.480 with 107 homers and an All-Star nod across six years with the Mariners from 2017 to 2022. But injuries have really taken their toll on the 33-year-old of late — he appeared in just 61 games for the Giants in 2023 and has played more than 100 in a season just twice in his career — and he posted a poor .631 OPS last season. With the acquisition of Jung Hoo Lee, Haniger figured to be the odd man out in San Francisco’s outfield. DeSclafani, meanwhile, pitched to a 4.88 ERA across 19 appearances (18 starts) in 2023 and profiles as a swingman for Seattle.
If you squint hard enough, you can understand this move for the Giants. The team desperately needs starting pitching options behind Logan Webb, and while Ray comes with a ton of risk, he also offers substantial upside if he hits the ground running upon his return. It certainly shouldn’t be the only pitcher San Francisco adds this winter, but he’s an interesting gamble considering the relatively low cost — and considering how few legitimate starting options are available via free agency or trade right now, and how many teams are in the market for them. Farhan Zaidi and Co. have also been connected to pitchers like Shota Imanaga, and if they add enough that they don’t have to ask too much of Ray, it’s a worthy flier.
For the Mariners, meanwhile ... well, fans wanted them to add offense, although a reunion with Haniger can hardly be what they had in mind. Haniger was a fan favorite during his first stint in Seattle, but at this point in his career it’s unclear whether he’s capable of staying healthy for a full season — and how much he has left in his bat even if he can. The Mariners needed a corner outfield upgrade, but again, it’s not like they can count on Haniger filling that role over a 162-game season, and he hit just .209/.266/.365 last season. DeSclafani is a fine option to provide some depth behind Seattle’s excellent starting rotation, but it’s hard to see this as anything but more fiddling from Jerry “54 percent” Dipoto, fiddling that adds financial flexibility that the team seems intent on never using.