Will Smith is all but certain to be traded this summer. Who will take over as the San Francisco Giants closer once the All-Star inevitably dealt?
The best player on the 2019 San Francisco Giants has without question been closer Will Smith.
The 29-year-old is a perfect 21-for-21 on save chances with a 2.16 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and a career-high 13.8 K/9 in 33.1 innings of work.
All of that has earned him a trip to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.
While that performance has made him the team’s best player, it has also made him a valuable trade chip, and with free agency looming this offseason there’s a good chance he’ll be dealt before the July 31 trade deadline.
If Smith is indeed traded, who will step into the closer’s role?
There appear to be four in-house options.
Tony Watson (30 career saves) has been the primary eighth-inning guy this year, so he might be the first choice. However, he too is a candidate to be traded this summer, and if he stays put manager Bruce Bochy might prefer to keep him in the setup role where he has excelled.
Mark Melancon (182 career saves) was given a huge contract in free agency to be the team’s closer and he was part of an open competition for the job this spring before the job went to Smith. Even though he’s having a decent year, his well-documented struggles int he ninth inning while wearing a Giants uniform could keep him locked into a middle relief role.
Sam Dyson (58 career saves) might be the safest choice. He has experience closing out games from his time with the Texas Rangers, including a 38-save season in 2016. He’s also having a very solid year with a 2.54 ERA and 12 holds in 37 appearances. He too is a candidate to be traded to a playoff-bound team, and with team control through 2020 he’s an underrated trade chip.
Reyes Moronta (1 career save) makes the most sense given the team’s rebuilding status and his standing as the potential closer of the future. With a fastball that touches triple digits and a lethal slider, he is almost like a hard-throwing Sergio Romo. Heck, he even wears the same number!
Still, if Dyson sticks around, he’s probably the leading candidate.
In a recent game, announcer Duane Kuiper said something to the effect that Moronta needs to get the walks under control if he wants to be a reliable closer in the future.
It’s a fair point. He’s issued 19 walks in 35.2 innings this season, and that’s right in line with his 4.8 BB/9 career mark. By comparison, Dyson has walked just six batters at a 1.4 BB/9 clip.
Speaking of the future, possible second-half call-up Melvin Adon is one to watch as another potential closer of the future candidate.
He has overpowered Double-A hitters this season with 50 strikeouts in 38.1 innings to go along with a 3.05 ERA. His high-octane fastball regularly touches triple digits and he performed extremely well against high-level competition in the Arizona Fall League last year.
However, he too has work to do in the control department. The 25-year-old has walked 24 batters for 5.6 BB/9 rate on the year. If his command takes a step forward, he could be a staple of the San Francisco Giants bullpen for years to come.
Out of all of these options, the two safest and most likely picks to be the team’s next closer are Sam Dyson and Tony Watson. Both veterans are having solid years and have experience closing games.
However, if they are both traded as well or prove shaky in the ninth, don’t be surprised to see Bochy turn to a young gun like Moronta or Adon to get the last three outs.
It’s a time of transition in the San Francisco Giants organization, and the closer’s role is the perfect embodiment of that upheaval.