This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
The Giants prefer to play it close to the vest when it comes to their free-agent pursuits, but they may have given an unintentional hint about one of their pitching targets earlier this month.
Eagle-eyed reporter Marc Delucchi, the managing editor at Giants Baseball Insider, happened to be driving through San Francisco on Nov. 12 when he spotted a graphic of Japanese right-hander Kodai Senga and his No. 41 flashing on the Oracle Park scoreboard.
Were the Giants hosting the Nippon Professional Baseball star or merely practicing for a future visit?
“We’re going to have to start tenting our ballpark whenever we put anything up on the big screen,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi joked recently. “I think that’s the only official comment you’re going to get from me on that. Good sleuthing by Marc. We’ll have to tread a little more carefully with that if we don’t find a tent big enough to cover the ballpark.”
Senga, who will turn 30 in January, filed for international free agency on Oct. 31 and is expected to seek a Major League contract this offseason after logging a 2.59 ERA over 11 seasons for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Wielding a 101-mph fastball and a nasty splitter, Senga has struck out 1,252 batters over 1,089 innings in the NPB, where he also threw a no-hitter in 2019. He went 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA over 22 appearances this year, racking up 156 strikeouts over 144 innings.
The Giants have a big hole in their rotation now that Carlos Rodón is a free agent, so they’re expected to be in the market for at least one other starter this winter. If San Francisco is unable to re-sign Rodón, Senga could be an intriguing alternative, especially since he wouldn’t be subject to posting fees.
“He’s obviously one of the top pitchers and players in Japan,” Zaidi said. “He’s had a long track record of success there. He’s pitched in the World Baseball Classic, so he’s gotten a little taste of the competition over here. We’re just continuing to do our work and due diligence on him and other starting pitchers in the market with us having a vacancy in our rotation.
“Carlos Rodón is part of those conversations. Anytime you have an elite performer over there who throws as hard as he does and comes with interesting secondary weapons, you’re going to get broad interest from Major League teams, which is what appears to be his market.”