Could San Francisco Giants add to bullpen rather than subtracting?
By Brennen Rupp
The San Francisco Giants have leaned heavily on one of the best bullpens in baseball this season. Could they consider adding to what is already an area of strength at the deadline?
With a 3.78 ERA, the San Francisco Giants bullpen has been the best in the National League, and it trails only the Cleveland Indians (3.25) leaguewide.
That stellar work from the relief corps is a big reason why the Giants find themselves in the thick of the NL wild-card race. With a 54-52 record, they are just 2.5 games back for the second NL wild-card spot.
A 17-5 record in July has left president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi with a tough decision to make on whether to buy or sell ahead of the July 31 trade deadline.
If Zaidi does opt to sell, he’ll have plenty of attractive bullpen arms to dangle on the trade market. However, he could instead opt to follow the same blueprint that another Bay Area team did in 2018.
Last season, the Oakland Athletics made the playoffs for the first time in four years. A big reason why was the work of their relief corps, which finished third in the majors in ERA (3.37) and propelled the team to a 70-2 record in games that they lead after the seventh inning.
Despite it already being a strength, the A’s further reinforced their bullpen at the deadline with the additions of Jeurys Familia and Shawn Kelley.
The Giants could take a similar approach in their pursuit of a wild-card berth. Instead of trading Will Smith, Sam Dyson or Tony Watson, Zaidi could opt to add to what is an already a lockdown bullpen.
One potential target is Texas Rangers right-hander Chris Martin.
The 33-year-old is a free agent at the end of the year and likely wouldn’t cost the Giants a top prospect. Over his last 15 appearances, he has pitched 14.2 innings and given up 10 hits and three runs while recording 21 strikeouts. For the season, Martin has a 3.08 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 38 appearances.
Martin backs a lively fastball that is averaging 95.9 mph this season with a cutter, a splitter, and a slider. He has shown impressive command of his power stuff with just four walks in 38 innings this year.
In Smith, Dyson, Watson and Reyes Moronta, the Giants already have four good late-inning options to lean on. One could even throw Mark Melancon into that category thanks to a 1.04 ERA and 0.58 WHIP in his last seven appearances.
Now imagine Martin being added to that mix.
If the Giants do reach the Wild Card Game, they could hand the ball to Madison Bumgarner for six or seven innings, then pass the baton to a lights-out late-inning contingent.
So if the San Francisco Giants do decide to buy at the deadline, don’t be surprised if it’s a move to further upgrade a bullpen that has already played a major role in their success thus far.