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The San Francisco Giants need to bolster their bullpen with a top tier closer
- Updated: November 13, 2016
This year’s free agency class features some great closers with the likes of Kenley Jansen, Mike Melancon, and Aroldis Chapman headlining the group. Acquiring one of theses top tier closers should be a key priority for the San Fransisco Giants, after their bullpen struggled mightily throughout the 2016 campaign.
During the regular season, the Giants blew 30 regular season saves – the most by any team to make the playoffs since saves became an official stat in 1969. The Giants’ bullpen also finished with the 15th highest ERA in the Majors, allowing an average of 3.65 runs per game. Despite their bullpen issues during the regular season the Giants still finished with a Wild Card spot, but it was evident that their struggles would end up becoming a factor as they progressed into the playoffs.
It didn’t take long for the bullpen to collapse on the Giants, with their most flawed moment coming in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs had a 2-1 series lead, and were looking to close it out in San Francisco. Heading into the top of the 9th inning, the Giants had a solid 5-2 lead with reliever Derek Law on the mound. After Law quickly gave up a single to Kris Bryant, Giants manager Bruce Bochy started to play the matchup game – choosing to put in Javier Lopez. Things would end up getting worse for the Giants, with Lopez walking Anthony Rizzo after 5 pitches; putting 2 men on base with zero outs in the bottom half of the inning.
That’s when Bochy finally elected to put his main closer, Sergio Romo, into the game. Unfortunately for the Giants, the Cubs were just getting started with Romo giving up an RBI double to cut the Giants lead to 5-3. After Romo gave up the double, Bochy found himself in a tricky situation with a pair of runners in scoring position. Giants reliever Will Smith would come into the game, only to give up a 2-run RBI single to tie the score at 5. A throwing error by Brandon Crawford, followed by an RBI single by Javier Baez, would finish the collapse while giving the Cubs their series-clinching run and a 6-5 victory.
The Giants’ Achilles heel caught up with them, and eventually cost them a chance at forcing a series-deciding Game 5 in Chicago. Clearly, the Giants need a fix in their bullpen – but it won’t be easy. If the Giants want to get back to the Championship level that they were at a few years ago, they’ll need to get a major upgrade within their relieving core.
The most linked reliever to the Giants this offseason, Mark Melancon, is considered to be one of the safest set-up men in all of baseball. It seems like the Giants have shown some interest in the breaking ball-throwing right-hander, and it isn’t surprising considering Melancon’s fantastic 2016 campaign.
The 31-year-old had a career-year with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals last season, posting an ERA of 1.64 with a 2-2 record, to go along with 47 saves, and 65 strikeouts. Melancon didn’t have any memorable moments during his squad’s NLDS battle against the Los Angeles Dodgers, but he was pretty efficient; finishing with a single save, 5 strikeouts, while not giving up a single run in 4 appearances.
Melancon visited San Francisco last Friday, and it seems like he could be a great fit; considering his ability to be both a set-up man and a closer for the Giants.
The Giants have a chance to get a former divison rival onto their squad, with Kenley Jansen available on the free agency market.
The former Los Angeles Dodger might’ve been the best closer in the MLB last season. In his 71 appearances with the Dodgers, Jansen posted an ERA of 1.83, to go along with 47 saves, and also finished 5th in the MLB amongst relievers with 104 strikeouts. He was incredibly reliable, an even had a streak where he posted 25 consecutive saves throughout the regular season.
Even with his amazing regular season, Jansen showed off his resiliency and precision in the postseason. After a shaky NLDS against the Washington Nationals, Jansen stepped up against the Chicago Cubs in a losing effort; only allowing a single hit, while finishing with 10 strikeouts and a single save in 6.1 innings of work.
The Giants lacked toughness in their bullpen for the majority of the 2016 campaign, making Jansen a solid fit for a San Francisco squad that constantly finds themselves in tough situations.
The Chicago Cubs loved Aroldis Chapman’s services en route to their first World Series title in 108 years.
During his tenure with the New York Yankees and the Cubs, Chapman constantly put pressure on opposing batters with his ridiculous 100-mph fastball. During the 2016 campaign, Chapman finished with an equally ridiculous 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and 39 strikeouts, to go along with a 4-1 record.
Chapman was also pretty sharp in the postseason, finishing with a 3.45 ERA, to go along with 4 saves, 21 strikeouts, and a 2-0 record in 13 games. The 28-year-old was consistent, with his best moments coming in Game 5 of the World Series. With his Cubs in a 3-1 series hole, Chapman stepped up and completed a clutch 8-out save against the Cleveland Indians.
Similar to Jansen, the 28-year-old has been one of the most consistent closers in the past few years. If the Giants want to pursue the hardest throwing pitcher in baseball, they’ll also need to be ready for his expensive price tag. After looking at his resume, it’s safe to think that he’s worthy of the $100 million he’s currently asking for this free agency.
All stats for this article are from MLB.com and baseball-reference.com
You can follow Peter Ash on Twitter @peterash_
Poll: Which closer should the San Francisco Giants go after during free agency?
— Rollin' In The Rye (@rollinintherye) November 14, 2016