San Francisco Giants Potential Free Agent Target: Wei-Yin Chen


The Winter Meetings are in full effect and the hot stove is getting hotter, and the San Francisco Giants are going after more targets. Though he may not be on the radar right now, one target they could consider is Wei-Yin Chen.

The San Francisco Giants have shown interest in a reunion with pitcher Mike Leake, a right-hander that they acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline, in exchange for Adam Duvall and Keury Mella. Even though Leake has expressed his desire to stay on the west coast, the process has dragged on, and some, like CSN Bay Area’s Giants insider Alex Pavlovic, don’t think Leake will return to the Giants.

If Leake does wind up signing elsewhere, another pitcher on the market that the Giants could target is left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. After signing with the Baltimore Orioles ahead of the 2012 season from Nippon Professional Baseball, Chen is a free agent for the first time.

From a stylistic standpoint, Chen and Leake are two fairly similar pitchers. Neither are big strikeout pitchers, as Leake strikes out 6.1 per nine innings over his career, and just 5.6 in 2015, while Chen strikes out seven per nine innings, including 7.2 in 2015. On the other hand, neither pitcher hurts himself much. In 2015, Leake walked 2.3 batters per nine innings and struck out 2.7 batter per walk, while Chen tallied 1.9 walks per nine innings and 3.7 strikeouts per walk.

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As a result, they both rely heavily on the defense behind them. While Leake is known mostly as a groundball pitcher, which he did show off in his short time with the Giants, Chen is more of a flyball pitcher. In 2015, Chen recorded 1.05 air outs to every ground out, a bit down from his career rate of 1.22 air outs per groundout. The crafty left-hander can also get a groundall double play when he needs one, averaging a double play induced every 12.1 innings.

Also like Leake, Chen has spent all of his career in a hitter’s park. Camden Yards, where he has made 59 of 117 career starts, was rated as the third-best hitter’s park in baseball in 2015, according to Park Factors. Despite that, Chen led the Orioles’ rotation with a 3.34 ERA, 1.218 WHIP, and 124 ERA+. All were the best totals of his career.

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In addition to playing in Camden Yards, Chen has also spent a lot of time in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, both of which were among the top-10 hitter’s parks last season. 76 of Chen’s 117 starts have come in those three parks.

Another enticing factor with Chen is his ability to eat some innings up, which was the Giants’ rotation’s biggest weakness in 2015. Chen pitched at least six innings 21 times in his 31 starts, and went seven innings 12 times, both the best totals on the Orioles’ staff. Among Giants’ pitchers, only ace Madison Bumgarner surpassed those totals. Bumgarner went six innings 26 times, and went seven innings 19 times.

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Miami Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen to remain in Japan for 2021
Miami Marlins: Wei-Yin Chen to remain in Japan for 2021 /

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  • A move to San Francisco could be just what it takes to propel Chen to the next level, as it would be for a lot of pitchers. A move from Baltimore to San Francisco would take Chen from the third-best hitter’s park to the game’s best pitcher’s park. For a flyball pitcher, like Chen, he would benefit from the spacious outfield grounds, which could kill some balls that would be home runs in smaller parks.

    At 30 years old, Chen will likely get a four or five-year contract, worth between $15 and $18 million per season, which is close to what Leake is expected to get. For that price, the Giants could add another solid, durable pitcher, along with Jeff Samardzija, to the rotation that they are attempting to rebuild.

    Next: Giants Sign Samardzija, Have Sights Set on Others

    Reports have been few and far between so far for Chen, but he has been linked to the Chicago Cubs very briefly. The market has been slow to develop, as it has been for a lot of players available, but with a lot of time left to go in free agency, things should heat up for Chen soon.