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SF Giants: Making Sense of the Cluttered Bullpen Competition

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 31: Reyes Moronta #54 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the top of the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on August 31, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 31: Reyes Moronta #54 of the San Francisco Giants pitches in the top of the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on August 31, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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SF Giants, Jake McGee
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 13: Jake McGee #41 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers the pitch against Atlanta in Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 13, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The SF Giants have added a lot of bullpen depth this winter, so what is the plan with it all anyway? After adding several relievers this offseason, the Giants seem to still be on the market for even more depth. Earlier this week, Jon Heyman reported that the organization is nearing a deal with veteran southpaw Jose Alvarez. With MLB returning to a 162 game season in 2021, pitching depth is going to play a key role with many pitchers coming off unique workloads in 2020.

It seems that the Giants’ front office is anticipating this and has responded by bringing in a ton of starters and relievers as non-roster invitees on minor-league deals. The relievers included on that list are Silvino Bracho, Dominic Leone, Jay Jackson, James Sherfy, Zack Littell, Nick Tropeano, and presumably Alvarez. Each pitcher has big-league experience and, in many cases, an opt-out clause if they are not on the roster by a certain point.

Making sense of the SF Giants bullpen competition

Yet, the Giants added several relievers to the 40-man roster including Jake McGee, Matt Wisler, Dedniel Nunez, and John Brebbia (60-day injured list) this winter. On top of this, Tyler Rogers, Sam Selman, Reyes Moronta, Wandy Peralta, Jarlin Garcia, and Connor Menez are all returning from last year’s pen. That’s before discussing bullpen prospects in big-league camp like Gregory Santos, Camilo Doval, and Kervin Castro.

This is all to say that the Giants have a lot of options competing for a maximum of nine bullpen spots on the Opening Day roster. It bears mentioning that the emphasis on who makes the Opening Day roster tends to get blown out of proportion. After all, it is just one game out of 162.

That said, teams have to balance out the need for putting the best roster together while maintaining organizational inventory. The latter is a difficult balancing act because if players do not see a path toward making the roster, then they will exercise their opt-out clause, further depleting depth.

The Giants will need to consider this when the season begins. On one hand, they would like to retain as many of the relievers listed above as they could, but does that get in the way of fielding the best team? How does San Francisco navigate through this?

The answer is flexibility. On the 40-man roster, only McGee, Wisler, and Garcia do not have any options remaining, so it is safe to assume that they will make the Opening Day roster. The list below shows how many options each returning reliever has remaining according to Fangraphs:

  • Sam Selman: 2
  • Wandy Peralta: 1
  • Tyler Rogers: 3
  • Reyes Moronta: 2
  • Conner Menez: 1

These five relievers do not necessarily need to break camp with the club. If they do not, then it gives the Giants to chance to carry one or more of the non-roster invitees. However, the difficulty in doing this is creating a 40-man roster spot.

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The SF Giants’ 40-man roster is currently full, so they would need to place someone on waivers (or use the 60-day injured list for an injury) to make this happen. Teams often do this closer to the start of the season with the hopes of sneaking depth options through waivers. The Giants still have a lot of time to figure this out, but the number of experienced, non-roster pitchers is going to be a story to follow throughout spring training.

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