Thursday, October 20, 2016

Scouting the Offseason: Closers

After the debacle of their 2016 bullpen, which cost an otherwise very good team a shot at another championship, making sure that does not happen again in 2017 will be the Giants #1 offseason priority.   When you look at possible in-house options, you find several pitchers who might be able to handle that responsibility, but no sure things.  There are no flamethrowers on the farm who are ready to graduate and assume the role.  The Giants closer next season will come from outside the organization, which means a free agent signing or a trade.  Let's take a look at the options.  Depending on how they want to allocate their money, the Giants can afford to make a serious run at any of the available options.


Aroldis Chapman LHP, 29 yo.  We all know who Chapman is.  He is the single most dominant closer, heck maybe the most dominant pitcher, in all of baseball.  His FB runs 99-104 MPH and sits at 102.  He is able to command it.  He has secondary pitches that are at least good enough that you cannot found on the fastball in any count.  he can get a wild hair up his nose, but not very often.  His is big and strong enough to go more than 1 inning at a time.  He will be expensive as several big-money teams will be after him including the Cubs and Yankees and possibly the Dodgers.  What it would take to sign him:  $5 years/$90 M.

Kenley Jansen RHP, 29 yo.  The second best closer on the market.  Can blow a Save here and there, but will generally get the job done about 90% of the time.  Has proven he can go more than 1 inning in this postseason.  Dodgers will offer him a QO, but we don't know what penalties and rewards will be attached to a QO in the new CBS due out any day now.  What it will take to sign him:  4 yrs/$60 M.

Mark Melancon RHP, 32 yo.  The 3'rd of the big 3 closers on the market.  He's 3 years older and not quite as dominant as Chapman and Jensen and will therefore come a bit more cheaply.  The Giants made a run at him at the trading deadline and are publicly kicking themselves for not getting a deal done.  The Giants have a history of repeatedly pursuing players they like until they finally get them, one way or another.  Everybody is saying Melancon is the guy they will go after, and that might be right.  What it will take to sign him:  3 yrs/$45 M.

Brad Ziegler RHP, 37 yo.  Not a classic closer, but surprisingly effective with a sidearm/submarine delivery that gets a whole lot of groundballs. Giants and their fans know him well from his years with the Arizona D'Backs.  What it will take to sign him:  2 yrs/$16 M.

Greg Holland RHP, 30 yo.  Holland is coming off TJ surgery, but was one of the top closers in baseball prior to his injury with the KC Royals.  You may remember him from the 2014 WS.  Will come cheaper than other closers of similar talent and will probably be looking for a 1 year rebuild-value contract.  Will probably turn out to be  tremendous bargain for some team, but the Giants are probably looking for more certainty.  What it will take to sign him:  1 yr/$4 M with incentives.


Wade Davis RHP, 31 yo, KC:  Davis has a team option for $10 M with a $2 M buyout.  The Royals would definitely pick up the option, but they also might not want to pay the $10 M.  Davis is rumored to be on the trading block.  He's an elite closer, though, and there will be plenty of teams trying to trade for him.  He will cost a frontline prospect or two.  Chances of him coming to SF:  10%

Andrew Miller LHP, 31 yo, Cleveland:  Cleveland traded for Miller for the stretch run and it's definitely paying off bigly for them.  Question is do they want to take his contract into next season?  Again, if he is available at all, it would take a huge haul to get him.  Chances of him coming to SF:  5%

Cody Allen RHP, 28 yo, Cleveland:  Maybe Cleveland decides to keep Miller but trade the Arbitration eligible Allen whose salary will rise significantly above the almost $5 M he made this year.  Chances of him coming to SF:  5%

Francisco Rodriguez RHP, 35 yo, Brewers:  He's more guile than power now, but he can still close out a game.  Brewers hold option for $8 M.  They are clearly rebuilding and K-Rod would be a nice trade chip to get back some more prospects.  Chances of him coming to SF:  20%

David Robertson RHP, 32 yo, ChiSox:  Robertson still racks up Saves but also blows a few.  Probably still an upgrade from what the 2016 Giants and he has 2 years left on a big contract that the White Sox would almost surely be open to trading.  Chances of him coming to SF:  20%.

Kelvin Herrera RHP, 27 yo, KC:  Elite setup man who could move into the closer role.  Arbitration eligible but how much will his salary go up from the $2.6 M he made this year?  KC may want to keep him to replace Davis as the closer.  Chances of him coming to SF:  Less than 5%

Alex Colome RHP, 28 yo, TB:  A commenter brought up Alex Colome.  I doubt TB would trade their closer with 1 year of minimum salary left, but they may decide to sell high on him.  Would cost some prospects, but would not add anything significant to payroll.

Who do you think will be the Giants Closer in 2017?


  1. Melancon. His save success rate for the past three (2014 - 2016) years: 89.2%, 96.2%, 92.2% -- Simple average 92.5%


    Chapman: 94.7%, 91.7%, 92.3% -- simple average 92.9%
    Jansen: 89.8%, 94.7%, 88.7% -- simple average 91.1%

    Additional factors for consideration -- defense matters to pitching. Melancon played (mostly) withe Pirates during those three years. The Pirates defense was (cumulatively) ranked 30th in MLB per FanGraphs. Chapman had two years with the Reds (7th) and one year with the Yankees/Cubs (18th & 6th). Jansen had three years with the Evil Empire who, over that time, ranked 9th.

    In the end he's done nearly as well as Chapman despite having the lousy Pittsburg defense to back him up. And better than Jansen who has played in a pitcher's park with an excellent defense behind him for his closer career. Further, he is likely to be cheaper than either one of them because he's older. And the luxury tax is an issue.

    With that said, the obvious downside is his age. But even then I think he could give the Giants at least two good years as a closer because he's cutter/curve pitcher rather than high velocity fastball. Plus he could probably retain value as long as he had is spot-on control and could then drop-down to 7th/8th inning reliever if he starts to decline as a closer.

    So, yes, Melancon. (And he's been my guy since I started looking at FA closers/closer trades as my annoyance with Casilla grew, so I may be a bit biased...)

    1. Melancon makes sense to me too. Another virtue he has is that he can't come with a qualifying offer, since Washington acquired him during the season. We wouldn't lose a first-round draft pick were we to sign him. Of course neither would any other team in competition with us to hire him, which might add to the cost of getting him.

      I foresee some mindless buoyancy when we get whomever we get, because as Moses' stats remind anyone who needs reminding, a closer is no panacea. The best of them blow about one game every ten: witness Chapman, who blew saves against us in Game 3 and against LAD in their Game 1 (and gave up two runs in an inning of relief in their Game 5), as recent examples of Sir Galahad turning into Goofy in the clutch. They also get injured and erratic, like or maybe more than everyone else. Who can't foresee the blog posts next mid-season that call for the heads of Evans, Baer, Charles Johnson, Sabean, and Bochy, and that demand that the Giants bring back Lincecum as closer, or Nen, Trevor Hoffman, or Amos Rusie?

    2. I agree that there is very little difference between an average Closer and a great Closer, we've just seen a below average Closer destroy a potential championship season. The Giants simply cannot afford to go into 2017 without at least an average Closer. Every acquisition in baseball carries risk, but you have to at least try to go for it if you have the resources and the Giants have the resources.

  2. Giants want and need a guy who's going to lock down the 9th not just for next year, but for the next 3-4. In my mind, that eliminates Wade David & a number of other trade candidates.

    Particularly after emptying the farm at the TD, the Sabean/Evans MO would be to add their talent from Free Agency.

    I have a feeling Chapman is going to seek a destination that's more his high octane vibe - NY, LA, BOS, CHI, etc.

    For a range of reasons, I think it'll be Melancon.

    Second guess: Ziegler on a 2 year deal.

    1. I think the Giants would be very happy to make 1 year run with Wade Davis in 2017.

  3. Way out of leftfield. Probably never happen, but here it is anyways. From MLB Trade Rumors- "Orioles closer Zach Britton is very cognizant of the fact that the team traded former closer Jim Johnson when Johnson’s salary reached a level that Britton is projected to surpass this winter, he tells Dan Connolly of “You saw it with Jim Johnson, once the salary got up to a certain point, he got traded,” said Britton. “I think I’m kind of approaching there. So I don’t know how long I’m going to be here. You see how many relievers are on the move nowadays. But it’d be nice to stay here.” Britton says he’s open to a contract extension and has enjoyed his time in Baltimore since being drafted as an 18-year-old but added that much of the onus to bring those talks about lies on the team. As Connolly writes, the O’s have been reluctant in the past to negotiate with players on the heels of career years, and Britton’s 2016 season was not only the best of his career but one of the best of any reliever in recent history. In 67 innings, Britton posted an unthinkable 0.54 ERA, averaging 9.9 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9 and recording a ridiculous 80 percent ground-ball rate along the way.".

    1. Interesting thought. If Britton is on the block, there will be intense competition for him. Not sure the Giants can outbid teams with higher rated farm systems.

  4. way out in right field, if somehow we landed another starting pitcher , assuming Ty Blach/ Matt Cain 5th starter maybe we could convert Jeff Samardzija into a closer.

    1. First of all, the Giants cannot afford to get too "creative" with the Closer role for 2017. They need to get to as close to a "sure thing" as they can. They simply cannot afford to flush another $190 M payroll because they skimped or went too far off the reservation with the closer role. It's a huge IF whether Samardzija can pitch effectively out of the bullpen. Secondly, the Giants are not paying him $18 M/year to pitch 60 innings per year. They are going to want to get around 200 innings out of him for the duration of his contract as long as he is able.

    2. Doc, its not 190 and after this year it would be 4 at 80 anyway I don't think we'll get Chapman or Jansen so I guess I'm in for Meloncon, I tend to think of a closer as bringing some heat (95) along with secondary pitches, anyways I'm not that familiar with Meloncon , but he seems to be the choice of just about everyone going forward. Keep up the good blog.

    3. ops. you through me with the mention of '90' I guess if we aren't going to get a flame thrower, the preference is a ground ball type pitcher since our infield is above average that should work out pretty good and Melencon and Ziegler seem to fit that bill, not sure 100% I like it.

  5. Here's another one way out in left field, but since Timmy is a free agent, and was awesome out of the bullpen in 12, what're your thoughts on seeing if he can close? I'm not saying to put all our eggs in one basket, but a minor league deal with a ST invite might not be too much. Just a thought.

    1. 2012 was 4 years ago, CDH. Timmy is done!

  6. It's melancon or bust. I'd love to see them sign holland too. That'd be a nice one-two punch.

  7. I would definitely be happy with Melancon. I am wondering if they will look at a left hander, too. Will Smith had some great moments and some terrible ones. Derek Law did well enough in the 7th/8th inning situations, but we need a lefty to face some of the big lefties in the division. I would like to see Osich or Okert step up so that they can spend whatever money is left over on a left fielder with some power, but we have to get through the 8th and 9th innings to win a few more games next year.

  8. Melancon would certainly be my first choice. Davis, Robertson, Hollond, or K-Rod might be OK. Britton would be nice, but I doubt we can make a trade offer that would work. Herrera is another interesting possibility.
    Really, any upgrade would be welcome but closers are such an unpredictable position that anyone we get will be a gamble.
    I don't want Chapman, however. He's a disruptive personality, and I have the feeling that his career will be brief with a dramatic flameout.