Heading into last winter, the bullpen was an obvious area for the SF Giants front office to upgrade. They made a pair of notable signings in Taylor Rogers and Luke Jackson. How did this year's bullpen compare after their offseason spending?
Did the SF Giants actually improve the bullpen following offseason spending?
The Rogers and Jackson signings seemed a bit out of character with this front office. For the first several seasons, they relied more on bargain contracts to build bullpens. That strategy can certainly have its benefits as the Giants led baseball with a 2.99 ERA in 2021 thanks to some shrewd signings, including Jake McGee and Dominic Leone.
However, the bullpen is the most volatile area on any roster, so what looked like good additions one year, really looked rough the next season. In fact, both McGee and Leone were released by the Giants before the end of the 2022 season.
The front office has typically searched for bargains, but they switched gears last year by adding Rogers and Jackson. Rogers signed a three-year, $33 million pact, whereas Jackson was added on a two-year, $9.5 million deal with a $7 million team option for 2025. Jackson's deal includes a $2 million buyout, pushing the guaranteed amount to $11.5 million.
Rogers seemed like an obvious fit given the Giants' need and the fact that his twin brother, Tyler, played for the Giants as well. That said, Rogers was coming off of a down season in which he posted a 4.76 ERA in 66 appearances with the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers.
On the other hand, Jackson underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2022, so the expectation was that he was going to miss the first part of this season. So, the Giants committed a combined $43.5 million in guaranteed money to two relievers who were either injured in 2022 or had a down year.
Nevertheless, they felt that those two bullpen additions would help them improve from the 4.08 ERA in 2022, which ranked as the 20th-best number in baseball. Rogers and Jackson were solid additions this past year, recording a 3.83 ERA and 2.97 ERA, respectively.
The Giants bullpen in 2023 tallied a 3.92 ERA, which ranked as the 14th-best mark in baseball. I think one caveat needs to be mentioned. Anyone who watched the 2023 Giants knows that pitching roles got blurred as they leaned aggressively on openers and bulk-innings arms.
The 2023 bullpen completed 705.1 innings compared to 650 innings in the prior season. That would be an 8.5 percent increase year over year, which is not insignificant. This year's bullpen led baseball in innings pitched and they continued to put together quality innings. I just want to focus on the core relievers rather than the bulk-innings pitchers.
The additions of Rogers and Jackson certainly helped in that regard. I guess, if there is one criticism to be made, is that neither of the two truly elevated themselves to either set-up man or closer. Of course, those roles were taken with Tyler Rogers as the set-up man and Camilo Doval as the closer. Doval's role is pretty much etched in stone, but it would have been helpful to have a little more variety in that set-up role.
This is not to take away from Tyler Rogers, who had a very nice season. Rather, to offer a different look at times when the situation warranted. It just never felt like Taylor Rogers or Jackson were at that level of reliability as Tyler Rogers and that is what you hope for when you spend on the bullpen.
The Giants certainly received benefits from those two additions, but I do wonder if they could have gotten a better return on investment. Admittedly, putting together a good bullpen is very tricky.
Though, keeping Shelby Miller might have offered that given that he posted a 1.71 ERA in 36 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers after signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Miller finished the 2022 campaign with the Giants. The same could be said for Gregory Santos, who never truly got an opportunity for the Giants.
Of course, if the Giants were going to spend, Chris Martin should have been their top target. He registered a 1.05 ERA across 51.1 innings after signing a two-year, $17.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox last winter.
The Giants did not necessarily make bad moves with the bullpen additions they made. I should reiterate that both Rogers and Jackson did well. It just feels like better moves could have been made to address a bullpen that struggled so badly in 2022. Hindsight is always 20/20, but even in the case of someone like Miller, you could see his potential value during his brief time with the Giants.