The SF Giants bullpen posted a 3.92 ERA in 2023, which was the 14th-best mark in baseball. If the 2024 season started today, what would the bullpen look like?
What the 2024 SF Giants bullpen would look like if the season started today?
The bullpen is such an odd area on just about every team's roster. I am not sure if many teams have quite figured out how to put together an effective bullpen. Oftentimes, relievers have volatile career arcs where someone who was reliable last season may be entirely ineffective in the following season. It happens all the time.
Relievers are not often the focal point of any team's offseason, either. If a team has a good bullpen, they will want to tinker with it just enough to avoid too much continuity. Going back to my point above about volatile career arcs, too much continuity can be a bad thing if you do not have insurance to prepare for injuries or ineffectiveness. On the other hand teams with bad bullpens either stay with the status quo or invest heavily to rebuild it.
Most big-market teams will usually budget one or two high-priced relievers in their bullpen. Though, teams do not always get the return on investment by signing high-priced relievers. However, costly relievers tend to not be a realistic option for many of the small-market teams.
I add this background information because the Giants have made one external bullpen addition to the 40-man roster so far this offseason. That was when they claimed Devin Sweet from the Oakland A's. They also added Trevor McDonald, Kai-Wei Tang, and Erik Miller to the 40-man roster. They are not unique in that few teams have made any notable bullpen additions.
That is just how the market tends to go for relievers. They are not normally a top priority for any team. Since Farhan Zaidi took over as team president of baseball operations in November of 2018, they have mostly targeted bargain or cost-effective relievers. If an addition does not pan out, it does not limit future flexibility in terms of building a bullpen. It is not a bad approach when it comes to the bullpen.
That said, the Giants did sign a couple of notable free-agent relievers in Taylor Rogers and Luke Jackson last season. Perhaps, there is less flexibility in bullpen additions this winter than there has been in past seasons. That is not a bad thing either. They still have room to improve a bullpen that ranked in the middle of the pack.
Aside from Rogers and Jackson, the Giants also have Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval firmly entrenched as the team's best leverage options. Ryan Walker also had a promising rookie campaign last year, recording a 3.23 ERA in 61.1 frames.
That gives the Giants a nucleus of five relievers. One of Tristan Beck, Keaton Winn, and Ross Stripling will likely cycle through as bulk innings relievers.
On the other hand, Jakob Junis, John Brebbia, and Scott Alexander became free agents. Junis will likely look for a chance to start elsewhere after a quietly solid year last year. Brebbia is an excellent clubhouse fit and could return, whereas Alexander's local ties could make a return even on a minor league deal a possibility.
If we assume that the Giants carry 13 pitchers on the active roster with eight of them being relievers. Five of six of them can be penciled in right now. That leaves two or three openings. There is an opportunity to improve the back end of the bullpen.
On paper, the Giants have a handful of leverage options, but they should still try to add at least one more potential leverage arm. Phil Maton or Matt Moore are a couple of names that come to mind. Maton has an above-average strikeout rate, whereas Moore has found a second career as a reliever over the past two seasons. Neither would command an unusually large contract for a reliever.
So, if the season started today, the Giants would likely run out a bullpen of Rogers, Rogers, Doval, Jackson, Walker, and one of Erik Miller or Randy Rodriguez. The remaining spots would probably go to Striping and Beck as currently constructed. A lot can change between now and the start of the season and the Giants should, at the very least, tinker with the bullpen.