The Giants announced they’ve reinstated first baseman Darin Ruf and right-hander Johnny Cueto from the injured list before this evening’s game against the Diamondbacks. In corresponding moves, left-hander Tony Watson landed on the 10-day injured list due to a strain in his throwing shoulder, while fellow southpaw José Quintana was designated for assignment.
The transactions series likely ends Quintana’s time in San Francisco after just a few weeks. The Giants claimed Quintana off waivers from the Angels at the end of August, absorbing the approximate $1.5MM remaining on his contract to add him just before the deadline for players to be eligible for teams’ postseason rosters.
Picking up Quintana didn’t work out quite as planned. He made five relief appearances with San Francisco, working 9 2/3 innings of five-run ball. The 32-year-old punched out twelve batters in that limited time, but also issued six walks and was tagged for three home runs. Evidently, the front office determined they were content with their other lefty bullpen options — even as Watson lands on the IL — to let Quintana go before the start of the postseason.
Quintana will almost certainly wind up hitting free agency in the next couple days, either via release or rejection of an outright assignment. He’ll hit the open market coming off a disappointing season. Signed by Los Angeles to a one-year, $8MM deal in free agency, he was bumped from the rotation after posting a 7.22 ERA through his first nine starts. He didn’t find much more success in relief, posting a 5.52 ERA from that point forward between the Angels and Giants.
It was an atypical season for Quintana, who has offered quality production over the course of his career. He was quietly one of the game’s better starters for a few seasons with the White Sox, leading to a blockbuster crosstown deal that sent him to the Cubs in 2017. That trade — which sent Eloy Jiménez and Dylan Cease to the South Siders — quickly proved regrettable for the Cubs, but Quintana did at least offer consistent innings and useful production for much of his time in Wrigleyville.
He lost most of last season due to injury, though, and his 6.43 ERA this year is by far the highest of his career. That’s been driven by personal-worst walk and home run rates, but Quintana has curiously been better than ever before at missing bats. He’s punched out 28.6% of opposing hitters on the strength of an 11.9% swinging strike rate; both marks are career-highs and above the league average. That extreme production came into play even before Quintana was moved to the pen, as he’d fanned 30.1% of batters faced over his first nine starts.
With Quintana and Watson out of the picture, the Giants look likely to enter the playoffs with Jarlin García and José Álvarez as lefty relief options. Manager Gabe Kapler didn’t rule Watson out for the entire postseason when speaking with reporters (including Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area), but it at least seems he’d miss the Division Series if the club advanced to that point. Acquired from the Angels at the trade deadline, Waston has posted a 2.96 ERA over 24 1/3 frames with San Francisco.
Ruf looks likely to assume the bulk of the playing time at first base moving forward. Brandon Belt fractured his left thumb after being hit by a pitch over the weekend, and that injury could cost him most or all of the team’s playoffs. Like so much of the roster, Ruf has excelled when given the opportunity this year. Through 300 plate appearances, he owns a .268/.387/.512 line with fifteen home runs. Belt’s injury could force the Giants to deploy Ruf more against right-handed pitching than they have so far, but he’s more than held his own in limited action against righties while absolutely mashing southpaws.