Jan. 29, 2017
Help Wanted, Please Apply
The Giants 2016 campaign consisted of a team and fan base riding the even year voodoo spell the Giants had cast on baseball. In 2010, the Giants came out of nowhere to break a 56-year drought of World Championships backed by rookie sensation Buster Posey and his merry band of misfits which consisted of journeymen Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, and Aubrey Huff to name a few. In 2012, the young core of the Giants consisting of shortstop Brandon Crawford, first baseman Brandon Belt, third baseman Pablo Sandoval, catcher Buster Posey and a stout pitching staff that included Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum carried the Giants to a second World Championship. In 2014, the pitching was the entire story and all the pitching was done by one man, Madison Bumgarner, who threw a total of 52 innings in the postseason including 5 innings in game 7 of the World Series to clinch the 3rd Championship in 5 years. 2016 was the next even year for the Giants who began the season as the best team in baseball finishing the first half with a better record than the Chicago Cubs, the unprecedented World Champions. But in the second half the Giants bullpen faltered drastically. Santiago Casilla lead the N.L. with 9 blown saves before he was replaced by Sergio Romo. Hunter Strickland blew 5 saves; Cory Gearrin blew 4 before getting hurt. The Giants had 72 save opportunities this season and converted only 43 of them (Baseball-Reference.com). They also blew a 3-run lead in the 9th inning of game 4 of the NLDS. The Giants finished the season in the second wild card spot after having one of the worst second half records in 2016. Thanks to Madison Bumgarner and a clutch hitting Conor Gillapsie 3-run homerun in the top of the 9th in a 0-0 tie of the N.L. wild card game the Giants beat the Mets 3 - 0 and moved on to play the Cubs in the NLDS. In the NLDS the Cubs took advantage of the Giants’ glaring weakness. In game one, a pitcher’s duel between Jon Lester of the Cubs and Johnny Cueto of the Giants, the Giants manager Bruce Bochy trotted Cueto back to the mound in the 8th where he promptly gave up the only run of the game: a homerun to Javier Baez. If the Giants’ bullpen had been good down the stretch, you would have probably seen a reliever in the 8th. Instead, Bochy opted to take his chance with his starter and lost the gamble. Then in game 4 after a walk off win in game 3 the Giants were leading 5 - 2 heading into the 9th inning. Matt Moore of the Giants had pitched a gem for the previous 8 innings. Instead of sending Moore out for the 9th inning, Bochy took his shot with the closer Sergio Romo who had replaced Santiago Casilla and previously closed out the 2014 World Series until his ineffectiveness lost him his job in 2015. The bullpen then proceeded to blow said 3-run lead and the Cubs celebrated on the mound in AT&T Park. The Giants have since declared that straightening out their bullpen is a priority for 2017. In addition, their starting left fielder Angel Pagan is heading to free agency this season. However, there are a couple of options for the Giants to address those needs in left field and in the bullpen before the 2017 campaign begins.
The outfield free agent market is slim. With the Giants “expanding resources as necessary” (Mlb.com from Bobby Evans the Giants General Manager) they will likely dabble in every part of the free agent market. Let me throw out the name everyone wants me to mention as we cover the outfielders first.
There, I said it; are you happy? Yoenis Cespedes is easily the biggest free agent name on the rather weak outfield market this offseason. Cespedes’ stat line for 2016 was phenomenal. He batted .280/.354/.494 after taking a three year 75-million-dollar contract with a 2-year player option after 2016. Cespedes made 27.5 million dollars in 2016 but chose to opt out of the rest of his contract with the New York Mets (MLB.com). Though the Mets are still in talks with Cespedes many doubt they have the payroll to take on the much larger contract to which Cespedes is entitled. One of the best defenders in the game; Cespedes is known for his cannon from the outfield. The 2016 All Star outfielder was 9th in the N.L. in slugging percentage at .530 while he was 3rd in the N.L. with 15.5 AB per homerun. Cespedes was also 9th in the N.L. with 31 homeruns while also placing 10th in the N.L. in win probability added. Defensively, Cespedes was better than ever ranking 3rd in the N.L. with 4 errors in left field: his lowest total since 2013. He placed 5th in total zone runs as a left fielder with 8 (Baseball-Reference.com). Cespedes will seek out the longest, most profitable contract possible; therefore he may not be able to fit into the Giants payroll. However, Cespedes’ talent is obvious. If the Giants decided to sign the 31-year-old, I wouldn’t complain. Now can we please move on to the more fun names on the list?
I don’t think I have ever witnessed a player’s value fall faster than Josh Reddick’s has. Josh Reddick was a coveted right fielder who was hitting .296/.368/.449 in 68 games before being traded at the deadline to the Dodgers. After the deadline, Reddick struggled, hitting just .258/.307/.335 in 47 games with LA. He made 6.575 million dollars during the 2016 campaign. Reddick is a career .255 hitter with a .316 on base percentage and a .430 slugging percentage. If the Giants keep their expectations at that level and reap the benefits of a player that has averaged 8 stolen bases, 71 RBI’s and 20 homeruns per year (Baseball-Reference.com). Reddick is a very good option for the Giants. The next name on my list might give Giants fans a flashback to the 2007-2008 seasons.
Ah yes, we like to hear familiar names. Rajai Davis is certainly that to fans of the Giants, who traded for Rajai Davis in 2007 and then traded him away in 2008. Davis accomplished little as a member of the Giants organization, but the 36-year-old was a spark plug in 2016 for the A.L. Champion Cleveland Indians. In 2016 Davis batted a .249/.306/.388 but the stat that makes him an intriguing figure is that Rajai Davis lead the A.L. with 43 stolen bases with an 87.76% success rate: 2nd in the A.L. Another astounding stat for the aging journeyman was a power-speed of 18.8: 8th in the A.L. He also hit 12 homeruns - a career high - including a big 2-run homerun in game 7 of the World Series to tie the game at 6 in the 8th inning (Baseball-Reference.com). Davis’ production is bound to go down, the soon-to-be 37-year-old cannot be expected to have these same numbers next season. However, if Davis’ contract is at the right price, the former Giant should be considered at the very least as a platoon option or a speed replacement. Davis’ clutch ability is unquestionable. His ability to lead by example was shown in game 7 of the World Series. If the Giants are looking for a possible added platoon with Mac Williamson or Jarret Parker, Davis should be strongly considered as a piece of the puzzle.
Now of the three outfielders the Giants have the most chance of landing Rajai Davis or Josh Reddick to fill their left field hole. Though Cespedes may be an option, the Giants history says Davis and Reddick are much more likely. Let’s move on to the biggest hole the Giants have on their roster: the closer. There are only three names on the market but I’m going to add a fourth for intrigue.
It’s time to talk about one of the only strong free agent classes, unlike the outfield and starting pitching markets this offseason, the relievers on the market are in perfect quantity and quality. Aroldis Chapman is the headliner, though Kenley Jansen is a close second because he received a qualifying offer which, for this season, is a one year 17.2-million-dollar contract that can be offered to a player that was not traded mid-season. If a team decides to issue a qualifying offer to a player and that player signs with another team, the team that issued the qualifying offer obtains the highest unprotected draft pick of the team that signed the player. Chapman does not cost a draft pick; a qualifying offer cannot be extended to a player traded midseason. “The Cuban Missile” began the season as a Yankee but when the Yankees decided to sell off some of their pieces at the deadline they sent Chapman to the Cubs – the eventual World Champions. Chapman dominated the entire 2016 campaign with a 100+ mph fireball and a nasty slider. Chapman finished the season with 36 saves to go with a 1.55 ERA: his lowest since 2012. Chapman allowed a total of 10 earned runs and 18 walks; Both marks are the lowest in his career (Baseball-Reference.com). The 4-time All-Star would have had an even better campaign had he not missed the first 30 games of the season due to a suspension from the league for a domestic violence issue with his sister during the 2016 offseason. Chapman will be on the market without a qualifying offer; a team can sign him without losing any draft picks during next year’s draft. Jansen doesn’t come with that luxury.
The former Dodgers closer has received a qualifying offer from his former team. Therefore, the team that signs him (unless he returns with the Dodgers) will lose a pick for the upcoming draft. Kenley Jansen, in my opinion, is the most attractive closer in baseball. Jansen’s 2016 campaign was nothing short of flawless. Jansen was a first time All Star in 2016. Jansen also won the N.L. Trevor Hoffman Award for best reliever in 2016. During the 2016 campaign Jansen threw for 47 saves: a career high and 2nd in the N.L. He finished 63 games, placing 3rd in the N.L. (Baseball Reference.com). Featuring one of the nastiest cutters in the game, many view Jansen as the next Mariano Rivera; he certainly pitched like him in 2016. Jansen is more attractive to me then Chapman because he relies on his movement instead of his fastball velocity. However, Chapman ranks higher: he does not cost a draft pick to sign.
Like Chapman, Melancon was traded midseason and therefore does not cost a draft pick. Melancon was dealt at the deadline from the Pirates to the Nationals and has now become a free agent. It is likely that Melancon will look the Giants direction. Jansen and Chapman will both be big money contracts; Melancon wouldn’t be as costly. Melancon had a very good 2016 season. Named to the N.L. All-Star team, Melancon converted 47 saves, tying Jansen for second in the N.L. Melancon also had 67 games finished: good for most on the N.L. Melancon also had a win probability added of 3.4 and 75 games played, earning 7th and 8th in the N.L., respectively (Baseball-Reference.com). Melancon had a salary of 9.65 million dollars last season and will likely receive a bigger deal this offseason. However, Melancon will likely receive less money than Chapman and Jansen due to his age (31) and his lack of astounding stuff. Melancon doesn’t blow you away with his fastball like Chapman; he doesn’t have an unhittable pitch like Jansen. He gets the job done. That’s all you can ask.
The Giants would be smart to shell out some money to one of these three guys to shore up the back of their bullpen. To keep you on your toes, I have an interesting name up my sleeve.
I threw Timmy in there just to get a reaction. The guy that everyone seems to have forgot about is Greg Holland. It’s funny considering it was just last year he had 32 saves for the then World Champion Royals. Holland also had 47 and 46 saves in 2013 and 2014. He tore a ligament in his right elbow at the end of the 2015 campaign and then had Tommy John surgery that ended his 2016 campaign before it began. The 31-year-old held a showcase this week that the Royals, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, and Giants all attended. These days; pitcher returns from Tommy John are stronger than ever. If Holland can show he still has his skill and bulldog mentality, he may get his shot at closing again with the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants don’t have many holes in their roster. But left field and closer are the two roster spots the Giants must address this offseason to contend for another World Championship in 2017. Whether the Giants choose to fill the left field role with a platoon of Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker or go out on the free agent market there is no doubt what the number one priority for the Giants is this offseason. That would be a closer because as we all know; it doesn’t matter how many runs you score if you can’t finish the game. Written by Jacob (J.T.) Taylor, Edited by Rachael Vega.