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How Hicks presents Giants with intriguing pitching versatility

How Hicks presents Giants with intriguing pitching versatility originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

The Giants, on the surface, upgraded their pitching staff Friday with the reported addition of right-handed pitcher Jordan Hicks.

While the move caught many by surprise, including yours truly, Hicks can provide San Francisco with a familiar level of pitching versatility, but to a much higher degree.

The Giants' reported agreement with Hicks is for four years and $44 million with at least a reported $2 million in incentives tied to innings pitched. Primarily used as a relief pitcher throughout his five full MLB seasons, the Giants reportedly plan to deploy Hicks in the starting rotation.

This move is surprising given president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has stressed time and time again the Giants' desire to add a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher to pair with Logan Webb and indicated the team will not be looking to add rotation depth.

Hicks, by most accounts, is not a top-of-the-rotation arm. Mostly because, well ... he's not a starting pitcher. Yet. Odd? Yes. Can I see the vision? Also yes.

This move is fascinating because, on one hand, this reported four-year agreement would be the longest contract the Giants have committed to a free-agent pitcher under Zaidi. It completely goes against the grain. On the other hand, the role Hicks likely will absorb -- and potentially thrive in -- is quite familiar to the team.

All signs point to this being a Jakob Junis-type role. A much more expensive Jakob Junis, I might add. Hicks could bounce around between the rotation and the bullpen and we know how much the Giants love their versatility, especially with veteran Alex Cobb and newly acquired lefty Robbie Ray sidelined until midseason.

Hicks is one of MLB's hardest-throwing pitchers, topping out at 105 mph on a handful of occasions in his career. His command, however, is suspect. One thing that almost certainly drew the Giants to him was his career 60.4 percent ground ball rate, which is better than NL Cy Young Award candidate Logan Webb's mark of 58.4 percent.

Once a top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals' organization, Hicks debuted in 2018 as a 21-year-old where he spent four full seasons, not counting the 2020 season he opted out of due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hicks was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays at the 2023 trade deadline where, as Jomboy Media's Dalton Feely pointed out on X, formerly known as Twitter, he thrived out of the bullpen.

Hicks did not exceed two innings pitched in any of his 65 outings last season and his career high is five innings, which coincidentally came against the Giants in 2022. While it's unclear what role Hicks has been preparing for this season, the 27-year-old could have a slow ramp-up to a starter's-level workload to begin the 2024 season.

San Francisco, at the very least, has an exciting, young bullpen arm with electric stuff who, along with All-Star closer Camilo Doval, is capable of blowing hitters away with otherworldly velocity.

However, if the Giants do succeed with the Hicks experiment, the flamethrowing righty could be part of San Francisco's rotation for years to come.

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