The Giants have a manager who admitted he is starting in a hole. A lineup and pitching staff filled with those divets. And now their bullpen has one, large pit.
Will Smith, in rejecting his qualifying offer and signing with the Braves on Thursday, leaves the Giants with a bullpen that has plenty of options but barely any locks. The most reliable reliever returning from last season will be Tony Watson, who did not test free agency and will enter the last year of his contract. Watson closed games in 2016 and ’17 but lost that gig with the Pirates. Beyond the lefty, there’s some talent and little experience.
After the bullpen-depleting trade deadline last season and without Smith available, the Giants turned to Shaun Anderson, a former starter and college closer. Anderson, though, still views himself as a rotation option and will enter spring training as a starter, he told KNBR, though that is not permanent.
Jandel Gustave was solid last season, and Sam Coonrod has ninth-inning stuff. Trevor Gott and Tyler Rogers are both nice weapons to have, but figure to be used earlier in games.
Reyes Moronta won’t return until August — if everything goes well following labrum surgery. Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson and Drew Pomeranz are gone — unless Pomeranz can be had again. Who are the free-agent options?
Pomeranz: Farhan Zaidi bought low last offseason and it paid off, Pomeranz showing glimpses in a relief role that helped the Giants flip him for Mauricio Dubon. Those glimpses became lasting success for Pomeranz, who was brilliant for Milwaukee, with a 2.39 ERA in 26 1/3 innings, in which he struck out 45. With Smith off the market, Pomeranz is elevated into the upper echelon of free-agent relievers, and a team will give him a nice deal. But it probably won’t be the Giants.
Will Harris: The Astros stopper will be in high demand, which probably means he will be too costly for the Giants. San Francisco is still talking about progress and not playoffs, a 35-year-old won’t be the direction it takes. That figures to disqualify options such as Sergio Romo, Chris Martin and Brandon Kintzler, too.
Trevor Rosenthal: Zaidi has shown a belief that bullpens can be tinkered with and constructed, allowing other areas of the team — like the rotation — to be purchased. Buying low on a talent like Rosenthal, whose velocity returned but control did not last season following elbow surgery, is the more probable eventual signing. Also in this category, of guys with intriguing arms but questionable markets, are Dellin Betances, Francisco Liriano and Tyler Thornburg.