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Guardians Acquire Spencer Howard From Giants

The Guardians have acquired right-hander Spencer Howard from the Giants, per Shayna Rubin of the San Francisco Chronicle on X. The Giants, who designated the righty for assignment recently, will receive cash considerations in return. The Guardians announced that they have designated righty Wes Parsons for assignment to open up a 40-man spot.

Howard, 27, was with the Giants on a minor league deal at the start of this year and opened the season with ten Triple-A starts. He had a 5.90 earned run average in that time, though he probably deserved better than that. His 32.2% strikeout rate was quite strong and his 9.6% walk rate only slightly on the high side. But he had a .406 batting average on balls in play and 66.1% strand rate in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, so his 4.12 FIP was almost two runs better than his ERA.

The Giants added him to their roster at the end of May and he spent just over a month with the club in a swing role. He tossed 24 innings over seven outings, two of those being starts, with a 5.63 ERA. It’s possible that luck played a role again, as his .388 BABIP in that time was well above average, but his strikeout rate also plummeted to 18.4% in the majors. His most recent outing was especially tough, as he allowed six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Since he’s out of options, he was bumped off the 40-man.

The Guardians are perhaps intrigued by those Triple-A strikeout numbers that Howard had earlier this year, or perhaps his past status as a notable prospect. A second-round pick of the Phillies in 2017, he was considered one of the top prospects in the league, with Baseball America giving him the #27 overall spot in 2020 and 2021. He went to the Rangers in the 2021 deadline deal that sent Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy the other way.

Unfortunately, Howard has never been able to find much success in the big leagues. Between his time with the Phillies, Rangers and Giants, he has 139 innings in the majors with a 6.93 ERA, 19.9% strikeout rate and 10.1% walk rate. His work in the minors hasn’t been much better in recent years, as he’s tossed 143 1/3 innings on the farm since the start of 2021 with a 4.83 ERA, though that minor league work has come with a 31.7% strikeout rate.

Since Howard is out of options, the Guards will be hoping that he can quickly start getting punchouts at the big league level, likely in a long relief role. The rotation has lost Shane Bieber to Tommy John surgery and they recently optioned a struggling Triston McKenzie, but they have a starting five of Tanner Bibee, Ben Lively, Gavin Williams, Logan Allen and Carlos Carrasco.

If the Guards can figure out how to get Howard on track, there could be long-term benefits. He’s out of options but can be retained via arbitration for three seasons beyond this one if he holds onto his roster spot for the rest of the year.

Parsons, 31, started the year with the Blue Jays but was designated for assignment in early April and flipped to the Guardians for international bonus pool space. He has spent most of the year in a swing role in Triple-A, with 25 2/3 innings over 12 outings, five of those being starts. He had a 4.21 ERA in that time but may have been lucky to have it that low. He struck out 29.3% of batters faced but also gave out walks at a huge 17.1% clip. Were it not for an 84.6% strand rate, he would have fared much worse, which is why he had a 6.06 FIP for Columbus.

The Guards will now have a week to trade Parsons or pass him through waivers. The recent numbers aren’t too exciting but he is in his final option year and could perhaps appeal to club bit by the injury bug that wants a bit more starting depth in the minors.

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