Giants Designate Jake McGee, Reinstate Luis Gonzalez, Place Zack Littell On 15-Day IL

The Giants announced a quartet of roster moves, including the news that veteran left-hander Jake McGee has been designated for assignment.  Right-hander Zack Littell was also placed on the 15-day injured list due to a left oblique strain, while outfielder Luis Gonzalez was reinstated from the 10-day IL and righty Yunior Marte was called up from Triple-A.

McGee signed with San Francisco in the 2020-21 offseason, inking a two-year deal worth $5MM in guaranteed money — $2MM in 2021, $2.5MM this season, and a $500K buyout of a 2023 club option worth $4.5MM if exercised.  That contract paid immediate dividends for the Giants in 2021, as McGee posted a 2.72 ERA, 24.3% strikeout rate, and an elite 4.2% walk rate over 59 2/3 innings.  With 31 saves, McGee was the Giants’ primary closer, though Tyler Rogers and (later in the season when McGee was sidelined with an oblique injury) Camilo Doval also stepped in for some ninth-inning situations.

Unfortunately for McGee, his second season in the Bay Area hasn’t been nearly as smooth.  His strikeout rate has plummeted to a career-worst 11.5%, and he has a 7.17 ERA over 21 1/3 innings (also missing two weeks on the IL due to back tightness).  With Doval taking over as closer, McGee hasn’t been able to perform effectively in a set-up role, and right-handed batters have been crushing McGee’s offerings.

The Giants had clearly seen enough, and could now be on the hook for the remainder of McGee’s salary (roughly $1.12MM) if he isn’t claimed off the DFA wire or acquired in a trade.  If McGee clears waivers and is released, then another team would owe only the prorated minimum salary for his services, with the Giants responsible for the rest of his guaranteed salary.

Despite McGee’s struggles this year, his past track record could generate some interest on the trade front.  The left-hander has been a quality performer for the majority of his 13 MLB seasons, and after it seemed he was winding down after a couple of tough years with the Rockies in 2018-19, he rebounded in 2020 to contribute to the Dodgers’ world championship team.  McGee is still very effective against left-handed batters, so an interested team could try to use him in as much situational work as possible (given the three-batter rule), or perhaps a new club might feel a change of scenery in general will get McGee back on track.

Littell is another reliever who was excellent in 2021 (2.92 ERA over 61 2/3 IP) but has had some bumps in 2022, posting a 5.04 ERA over 30 1/3 frames.  A 3.32 SIERA indicates that Littell has been a little unfortunate this year, hurt in particular by a spike in his home run rate.  Littell also spent 10 days on the COVID-related injury list, and was optioned to Triple-A in late June before being recalled just two days ago.  That means the 26-year-old will at least bank Major League service time while on the IL, and depending on the severity of his strain, Littell could be in for a fairly lengthy absence.

Gonzalez has been out of action since June 23 due to a lower back strain, and he’ll now look to resume what has been a semi-breakout year.  The 26-year-old has hit .302/.361/.447 with three home runs over 180 plate appearances, getting regular work against right-handed pitchers even in a San Francisco lineup that is already heavy in left-handed hitting outfielders.

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