The Giants’ acquisition of Trevor Gott came without fanfare and at virtually no cost; he was acquired from the Nationals last February for cash considerations, part of a seemingly endless churn at the back end of the 40-man roster in Farhan Zaidi’s first season at the helm. Gott might find himself back on the trade market this season (if play becomes feasible), and he’d figure to return quite a bit more than cash this time around.
Gott had a somewhat promising debut with the 2015 Angels, riding a monster 57.2% ground ball rate to a 3.02 ERA in 48 games. He was flipped to Washington that offseason for Yunel Escobar, but his career went off the rails. In parts of three seasons, he compiled a brutal 7.39 ERA over 28 innings with an uninspiring 24:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Quietly, he found a new gear in San Francisco last year, even if his 4.44 ERA wouldn’t suggest it. His strikeout rate spiked to 26.6%, well above his 17.8% mark in Washington and nearly twice as high as that of his time in Anaheim. The 27-year-old also made significant improvements as a strike-thrower. His first-pitch strike rate was up to 60.3%, right around league average. Getting ahead early in counts helped him cut down on walks substantially.
Gott has always been a fastball-reliant arm, but he seemingly changed the shape of his heater. Formerly a sinkerballer, Gott pivoted to heavy use of a four-seam last season, per Brooks Baseball. Predictably, his once elite ground ball numbers vanished, but he more than offset that with a jump in strikeouts. His mid-90’s four-seam fastball doesn’t have the spin and life of the game’s best heaters, but it nevertheless proved a better swing-and-miss offering than his sinker. On the surface, it also seems he had an easier time controlling the straighter offering.
So why was Gott’s run prevention mediocre? Sequencing luck, mostly. Despite holding opposing hitters to a .207/.270/.304 slash, he only stranded 62.5% of baserunners in 2019, an abnormally low mark that figures to rebound. If he can strand runners at something approaching the league average rate of 72.3% (pitchers’ strand rates often vary wildly season-to-season), Gott could be a mid-3.00’s ERA type.
The shortened season and potential expanded postseason would give the Giants a better shot of hanging in contention. Even in this environment, they won’t be considered any kind of favorite, though. Gott would make for a solid, under-the-radar addition to the summer trade market if San Francisco struggles. He comes with three additional seasons of team control, and arbitration salaries for middle relievers are relatively modest.
He wouldn’t return any sort of Godfather offer, but three-plus cheap seasons of an average or better reliever would be plenty valuable to a more immediate contender. Subtle breakthroughs like Gott’s are precisely what Zaidi and the SF front office have hoped to achieve with their constant reshuffling at the back of the roster.