Right-hander John Gant has opted to become a free agent after clearing outright waivers, according to MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park (Twitter link). Because Gant has over three years of MLB service time, he had the right to choose free agency rather than accept the outright assignment off the Twins’ 40-man roster.
The outright essentially serves as an early non-tender for the Twins, as Gant was projected to earn $3.7MM in his third and final trip through the arbitration process. While not a huge sum for a useful swingman, the Twins didn’t see a role (at least at that price point) for Gant on their 2022 squad, despite Minnesota’s needs in the rotation and bullpen.
Acquired from the Cardinals as part of the J.A. Happ deadline trade, Gant posted a 5.61 ERA over his 33 2/3 innings in Minnesota, starting seven of his 14 appearances. Compared to his 76 1/3 frames with St. Louis earlier in the season, Gant improved his strikeout and walk rates while with the Twins, but his homer rate and strand rate both shot upward.
The result was a 4.09 ERA over 110 total innings in 2021 and a pretty dismal set of Statcast metrics for the 29-year-old Gant. Walks continued to be a major problem for the righty, and the increase in missed bats he exhibited over 15 innings in 2020 didn’t carry over to more consistent work last season.
It should be noted that the Cardinals used Gant exclusively as a reliever in 2019-20, and the results were impressive. Gant’s control didn’t get much better, though his strikeout numbers improved and his fastball gained some velocity (up to a 95.9mph average) with the more limited usage, as Gant posted a 3.43 ERA over his 81 1/3 relief innings. While other teams might still take advantage of Gant’s durability by using him as a swingman, he might ultimately be best served working out of a bullpen.