The San Francisco Giants will have a big decision to make regarding the free agency of standout reliever Will Smith this offseason.
In his first full season filling the closer’s role, Smith has enjoyed a career year, notching 31 saves in 35 opportunities. That trails only San Diego Padres All-Star Kirby Yates (39) for the NL saves lead.
The 30-year-old has been lights out dating back to his return from Tommy John surgery last season. In 110 games since his return to action, he’s posted a 2.77 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 12.4 K/9 while converting 45 of 53 save opportunities in 110.2 innings of work.
However, there’s a twist that Farhan Zaidi and Co. will have to consider when deciding whether to pursue a new contract this winter. While he’s been brilliant overall during this two-year stretch, he’s struggled since this year’s All-Star break.
Take a look at the stats:
- 1st Half: 37 G, 23/23 SV, 1.98 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 13.1 K/9, .168 BAA
- 2nd Half: 20 G, 8/12 SV, 4.37 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 12.7 K/9, .250 BAA
Despite those second-half struggles, Smith still leads the San Francisco Giants in Win Probability Added (WPA) by more than double the next pitcher on the team. His 3.98 WPA easily bests the 1.34 WPA of fellow reliever Tony Watson.
If Smith were to walk in free agency, Reyes Moronta is the only pitcher on the roster with the profile to step into the closer’s role. However, his 2019 season came to an end on Aug. 31 when he suffered the following injury:
He was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and is expected to miss significant time.
So where does that leave the Giants as far as the ninth inning is concerned?
Zaidi has stated on multiple occasions since taking the reigns last November that the Giants are still looking to contend in the near term.
The Giants do not have the luxury of experimenting with the closer’s role next season if the plan is to play “meaningful baseball” in 2020.
There are alternatives on the free-agent market. Arodys Vizcaino, Hector Rondon, Greg Holland, and Cody Allen are among the guys with ninth-inning experience that will come relatively cheap.
However, there’s little question that Smith is the best late-inning option in this year’s free-agent crop, and bringing him back would keep the bullpen a strength going forward.
Final Prediction: The San Francisco Giants re-sign Will Smith to a three-year, $39 million deal.
There will be no shortage of teams with interest in Will Smith this offseason, so time will tell if he’s wearing a San Francisco Giants uniform again next year.