The San Francisco Giants Bullpen is still a Problem
By Jeff Young
Spring Training is right around the corner. You can smell the fresh-cut grass, and you can still see plenty of incomplete rosters. The San Francisco Giants have a couple of holes on their roster, but none more acute than their bullpen depth.
The San Francisco Giants are making a lot of bets on their bullpen. They are betting on the health of both Mark Melancon and Will Smith.
They are betting on the continued effectiveness of Sam Dyson. Similarly, the Giants are betting on Cory Gearrin to continue to outperform his peripheral numbers. And, they are betting on Hunter Strickland to not throw baseballs at Bryce Harper.
Beyond these bets, the Giants are putting a lot of faith into their farm system to create some bullpen depth. For a farm system that ranks near the bottom, that is asking a lot.
Young relievers such as Derek Law, Reyes Moronta, Josh Osich, and Steven Okert have shown flashes of success. Additionally, D.J. Snelten and Pierce Johnson will join the competition as a part of the 40-man roster.
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Similarly, Julian Fernandez will be battling for a roster spot as a Rule 5 Draftee and Tyler Cyr will be coming in as a non-roster invitee.
The Giants plan to keep seven relievers. Barring a complete meltdown, the first four relievers will be Melancon, Dyson, Strickland, and Gearrin. However, Smith could possibly start the year on the disabled list.
Beyond these relievers, there are a lot of question marks. The Giants have time to add to their Spring Training roster. However, bullpen depth remains a concern.
Why is bullpen depth especially important? The bullpen tends to be the most volatile in terms of performance from year-to-year. Adding more relievers will result in some duds. However, it could result in a Santiago Casilla as well.
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The biggest bullpen issue right now is the lack of left-handed relief options behind Will Smith. Neither Osich nor Okert have shown the consistency to become reliable left-handed options in the bullpen.
This should pressure the Giants to dip into the free-agent market for another left-handed reliever. Tony Watson might be too expensive for the Giants budget.
Fernando Abad and Kevin Siegrist are left-handed relievers the Giants should look at. Both are low-cost options, and have higher upsides than either Osich or Okert.
Many teams filled their bullpen needs from the flooded relief market earlier this offseason. As a result, the demand for either Abad or Siegrist is low. Adding either one would give the Giants more bullpen depth, especially from the left side.
Bruce Bochy likes to play matchups late in the game, and the Giants have been abysmal in high leverage matchups against left-handed hitters since Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez retired.
In addition to a left-handed arm, the Giants are low on bullpen arms with experience. They will be relying on young relievers without a proven track record of success. The Giants can calm some nerves by bringing in one or two more experienced relievers.
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The list of available free agent relievers is not the nicest on the eyes. Huston Street, Tyler Clippard, Koji Uehara, and Joe Blanton remain available. All have experience Major League experience. Their recent track records are not great, but they have a history of being effective. They may not perform well, but as a non-roster invitee, the risk is minimal.
Adding veteran relievers would create a sense of competition with the younger relievers who may need a little extra encouragement. For a team that has some question marks as it heads into Spring Training, the Giants could quell some concerns by bringing in one or two more relievers to build some depth and create competition.