It’s the first known link for Giolito, who is one of the more difficult evaluations in the class. It wasn’t that long ago that the longtime White Sox hurler looked on his way to a nine-figure deal. Giolito sported a 3.79 ERA with a strong 25.8% strikeout rate over 21 starts at the time of the trade deadline. He had turned 29 in July, making him one of the younger starters in the class. A midseason trade to the Angels rendered him ineligible for the qualifying offer, removing draft pick compensation as a factor.
His market has since been muddled by a dismal final couple months. Giolito was rocked for a 6.89 ERA in six starts as an Angel. The Halos plummeted from playoff contention and put him on waivers. The Guardians claimed him and gave him the ball six more times to close the year. Giolito had an even tougher run in Cleveland, posting a 7.04 ERA. In his final 12 appearances of the season, he was tagged for a 6.96 ERA and surrendered a staggering 21 home runs in 63 1/3 innings (just under three homers per nine).
Giolito concluded the year with a 4.88 ERA overall. That marked his second straight season allowing nearly five earned runs per nine innings. It’s a notable drop from the mid-3.00s marks he posted each year between 2019-21, although that’s mostly a reflection of the season’s last two months.
To his credit, the former All-Star took all 33 turns through the rotation. It marked his third straight season surpassing 30 starts and continued an exceptional run of durability over the last six years. Giolito is tied for fifth in starts and ranks eighth in innings pitched since the 2018 season. He isn’t missing bats as he had at his 2019-20 peak, but he has fanned more than a quarter of opponents over the last two years.
Giolito certainly won’t continue allowing home runs at the clip he had in Anaheim and Cleveland. Teams can anticipate some amount of positive regression in that regard, but it’s still hard to draw up a much worse finish to a pitcher’s platform year short of injury.
That leaves him in an interesting spot as a free agent. If he simply wanted to maximize his earning potential, he could still look for three or four years. Jameson Taillon and Taijuan Walker secured four years with an average salary in the $17-18MM range last winter despite some inconsistency in their career track records. Yet Giolito is also young enough to potentially prioritize a chance to get back to free agency within a season or two. MLBTR predicted he’d go the latter route, estimating a two-year, $44MM contract that allows him to opt out after the first season.
A shorter-term pact of that nature could be particularly appealing to the Dodgers. They have shied away from long-term investments in free agent starters. A pitcher-friendly home park could mitigate some of the homer concerns, while Giolito’s track record of absorbing innings would be welcome for a young staff. It’d be similarly easy to see the appeal from the player’s perspective. The Dodgers have a strong reputation for developing pitching. That Giolito is an L.A. native who attended Harvard-Westlake is an added bonus.
While there’s a sensible fit, Giolito may need to wait until some of the top starters come off the board. Harris notes that the Dodgers are essentially in a holding pattern as they await clarity on their chances of adding Shohei Ohtani or Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Los Angeles has an estimated $70MM available before even reaching the first luxury tax threshold, so they’ll surely add multiple players, but they’ll presumably have various offseason plans contingent on whether they land either of their top two targets.