MLB Hot Stove Lowdown: Jordan Hicks signs with Giants

It was a quiet weekend on the Hot Stove, with no major signings or trades coming through the wire. We're roughly a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. We should see things pick up in the coming weeks for the remaining free agents and perhaps movement on the trade market. The Giants did land one of the top free-agent relievers, while the Reds added a bit of depth.

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Giants ink Jordan Hicks to multi-year deal

ESPN's Jeff Passan reported the Giants have signed free-agent reliever Jordan Hicks to a four-year, $44 million contract. The 27-year-old right-hander had his best professional season last year, posting a 3.29 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and an 81/32 K/BB ratio across 65 2/3 innings while converting 12 saves with the Cardinals and Blue Jays. Despite a checkered injury history and poor results as a starter, San Francisco intends to give Hicks a go in the starting rotation. He's made just eight career starts, recording a 5.47 ERA across 26 1/3 innings as a starter with the Cardinals in 2022. So, what gives the Giants hope he can find success as a starter?

The Giants' development staff have gained a reputation for getting the most out of their starting pitching over the last several years, producing great seasons from the likes of Kevin Gausman, Carlos Rodón, Alex Cobb, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani. While Hicks has a lot of work to do, he does have some skills he can build on. He likely won't be asked to go a full 5-6 innings per start, instead being used more like a bulk reliever going 3-4 innings following an opener. This should allow Hicks to maintain his high heat on his sinker, which helps him induce a 58.3 percent ground ball rate. He pairs his fastball with a sweeper that generated a whopping 59.5 percent whiff rate. Adding a third pitch to get outs would help him excel in a multi-inning role, and he flashed a splitter with promising results. Hicks will also need to improve his walk rate. Though, that's something he began to do in the second half with the Blue Jays. After posting a 12.7 percent walk rate in St. Louis, he walked 8.3 percent of batters over his final 24 innings in Toronto. Pitching to one of the game's top framers should help. Giants' catcher Patrick Bailey finished as the top backstop in called strike rate at 52.9 percent. The experiment may very well go south. But even if things don't work out as a starter, the Giants already know they have an excellent high-leverage reliever in Hicks that can slot into the back end of the bullpen, well worth the cost of the contract. He's been drafted just outside the top 300 in NFBC drafts. I'd expect that to drop in the coming weeks, as he's mostly been drafted as a speculative save source.

Reds add Brent Suter to bullpen

The Reds signed free-agent reliever Brent Suter to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2025. The 34-year-old left-hander posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and a 55/25 K/BB ratio across 69 1/3 innings with the Rockies last season. Suter gives the Reds a steady veteran presence in the bullpen. The soft-tossing southpaw doesn't have overwhelming stuff, throwing just 88 on the fastball. But Suter excels at generating plenty of soft contact, allowing only seven barreled balls and a 26.3 percent hard-hit rate all season. He's been able to get by that way, with a sub-four ERA every season since 2018. Suter joins a bullpen that features closer Alexis Díaz at the top, with Emilio Pagán and Lucas Sims working as setup men. With no path to saves and very little help with ratios and strikeouts, Suter has no fantasy upside unless the Cincinnati bullpen suffers multiple injuries.