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SF Giants: How the current bullpen was constructed

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 07: Jake McGee #17 of the SF Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning at Oracle Park on May 07, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 07: Jake McGee #17 of the SF Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres in the ninth inning at Oracle Park on May 07, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 12: Tyler Rogers #71 of the SF Giants pitches against the Washington Nationals during game two of a doubleheader at Nationals Park on June 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)

It may surprise many SF Giants fans, but the bullpen has been quietly on the rise as they have the sixth-lowest ERA (3.36) in baseball. There have been a couple of notable blowups such as on Opening Day when the bullpen squandered a six-run advantage to Seattle or when they lost a four-run lead against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in May.

With that being said, these occasions have been the exception rather than the rule. The bullpen might not be as strong as the ones from the championship runs, but fans have seen far worse from this group as well.

SF Giants: How the current bullpen was constructed

Oftentimes, the bullpen is the most fluid area on the roster as teams cycle through relievers, hoping to find ones who can stick. The Giants have already been through this as they traded away Matt Wisler and placed Nick Tropeano on waivers, who was later claimed by the New York Mets.

This is part of the process and the bullpen appears to be finding its footing. In a lot of ways, the Giants’ current iteration of the bullpen epitomizes how the front office views the construction of this area of the roster. That is, they will get creative as the most obvious solution is the path they will likely not choose. It seems counterintuitive.

When you think about it, the bullpen is also the most volatile part of the roster. Reliever performance can vary widely from year to year. The Giants will want to remain flexible with the bullpen, meaning that they will not want to tie themselves down to any long-term contracts.

The current iteration of the relief core does not include any long-term deals unless you want to include Jake McGee and his two-year deal with a team option for a third season. Outside of him, the Giants have crafted the bullpen through a bevy of minor league signings, draft picks, waiver claims, and one other major league deal:

  • Tyler Rogers: 10th round pick in 2013
  • Conner Menez: 14th round pick in 2016
  • Jarlin García: Waiver claim from the Miami Marlins
  • José Álvarez: Signed to a one-year, $1.15 million contract
  • Zack Littell: Minor league deal
  • Dominic Leone: Minor league deal
  • James Sherfy: Minor league deal
  • Sammy Long: Minor league deal

In a way, the Giants’ offseason approach to building a bullpen was like investing in an index fund. Some stocks within the fund won’t hit but others will and the Giants are seeing that as Littell and Leone are quickly earning leverage roles. Furthermore, Long looks to be building up for a bulk innings role.

The front office has built a bullpen that is performing well at preventing runs without committing much in the way of future roster spots or salary commitments. They have the flexibility to add and subtract relievers depending on who performs. On that same note, they hold team control over many of the relievers listed like Menez, Rogers, Littell, and Sherfy. So, performance will dictate a roster spot and it has up until this point.

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San Francisco has gotten surprising contributions from the bullpen despite some notable subpar performances. They have thought outside of the box to add quality depth to a group that was thin on quality and depth in 2020. It may not always work out, but there seems to be a method to the madness, and Giants fans are seeing it on a nightly basis.

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