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Giants closer candidate: Veteran free-agent Brandon Kintzler

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 08: Brandon Kintzler #20 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of game one of a doubleheader at Nationals Park on September 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 08: Brandon Kintzler #20 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Washington Nationals during the second inning of game one of a doubleheader at Nationals Park on September 8, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Giants could wind up going bargain hunting to replace closer Will Smith this offseason. If they do, veteran Brandon Kintzler should be on their radar.

Replacing All-Star closer Will Smith will be one of the main items on the San Francisco Giants offseason to-do list.

The 30-year-old is arguably the top reliever on the market after saving 34 games while posting a 2.76 ERA and 13.2 K/9 in 63 appearances.

Contenders looking to upgrade their bullpens will be willing to pay a premium for the lefty, which means there’s a good chance he’ll price himself out of a potential return to San Francisco.

So where does that leave the Giants bullpen?

Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon were traded at the deadline, Tony Watson is likely headed for free agency and Reyes Moronta will miss significant time to start the year.

Even if the team feels confident in someone like Trevor Gott or young starter-turned-reliever Shaun Anderson filling a late-inning role, finding someone with experience closing games should be a priority.

Enter Brandon Kintzler.

After six up-and-down seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers to start his career, he unexpectedly found himself closing games for the Minnesota Twins in 2016 after joining the team during the offseason on a minor league deal.

He converted 17 of 20 save chances with a 3.15 ERA in 54 appearances that season, despite a middling 5.8 K/9.

Then he followed that up with 29 saves in 35 chances during the 2017 season, joining the Washington Nationals in a midseason trade.

He moved into a setup role following the trade, and he was on the move again in 2018, going to the Chicago Cubs in another deadline deal.

The 35-year-old was one of the few reliable arms in the Cubs bullpen this past season, posting a 2.68 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with 17 holds in 62 appearances.

His strikeout rate ticked up a bit to 7.6 K/9 in 2019, well above his 6.3 K/9 career rate, though still well below what you’d expect to see from a late-inning reliever.

While he’s one of the better relievers on the market this winter, he might have a hard time surpassing the two-year, $10 million deal signed last time he was a free agent, due to his age and lack of overpowering stuff.

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He wouldn’t be the sexiest option to hand the ball to in the ninth inning, but the San Francisco Giants could do a lot worse than entrusting the closer’s role to Brandon Kintzler as a team-friendly free-agent signing.

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