Even if the Giants will not be on the hunt for a traditional closer, they still would like the attributes a traditional closer would offer.
Consistency, experience, a guiding voice. And preferably, a big arm.
Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris will be looking to bring in a veteran reliever or two this offseason after lacking one more righty arm burned them in 2020, four implosions from righties (three from Trevor Gott, one late from Sam Coonrod) looming large after a season that would have continued into October with one more win. They never had a closer by name, and while the bullpen overall was excellent by year’s end, it still missed a more grizzled and reliable late-game option.
Their only steady, experienced hand, Tony Watson, will be entering free agency and likely lost. Though there should be conversations, the Giants would prefer righty options with a bullpen that leans heavily lefty. While Reyes Moronta should be back in the fold, the only righty near certainties will be Tyler Rogers and Coonrod (while Gott will be an arbitration decision).
Meanwhile, lefties Jarlin Garcia and Wandy Peralta will be arbitration choices but should return to a bullpen that had Sam Selman, Caleb Baragar, Andrew Suarez and Conner Menez take steps last season. Watson was crucial in helping inexperienced pitchers, especially former minor league starters, adjust to their roles, but a righty vet would make more sense.
The Giants are not a team that believes in spending big on the bullpen, the pieces so fickle from one year to the next. And with the markets that should await established closers/quality setup men like Liam Hendriks, Blake Treinen, Alex Colome, Shane Greene and (gulp) Mark Melancon, it would be surprising for the Giants to pounce on that upper echelon.
What would be less surprising is if the Giants tried to wait out free agency and land a couple experienced relievers in January or February. Or they could go the trade route, which should be active this offseason as a lot of clubs shed salary.
If the Giants pluck from free agency, which righties might be there?
Brad Boxberger: The well-traveled 32-year-old from Southern California spent 2020 in Miami, where he posted a 3.00 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 18 innings. A 2015 All-Star, when he was the Rays closer, he’s been a reliable setup man for two seasons and saw his stuff tick up last year, his average fastball rising back up to 92.5 mph. He walks too many — 4.65 per nine innings for his career — but has been a solid reliever for nine years and should not have an eye-opening pricetag.
Dellin Betances, Keone Kela, David Robertson, Kirby Yates: Let’s group these four together. All have high-octane arms. All are injury risks, all suffering one that either wiped out or severely limited their 2020 season (in which Robertson didn’t pitch at all). With Betances (whose free agency is a toss-up, as he has a player option) it’s right lat tightness; for Kela, it’s right forearm inflammation; for Robertson, 2019 Tommy John surgery; for Yates, elbow surgery. All have large ceilings and low floors, which is why they will be available.
Trevor May: This would cost the Giants, who would not want to overspend on a reliever, but perhaps the depressed market makes it possible. The 31-year-old Twins reliever got hit more than he was accustomed to this season (3.86 ERA) but struck out 38 in 23 1/3 innings.
Yusmeiro Petit: Why not! His fastball dipped a bit more last season, falling to an average of 88.2 mph, but he’s always been able to deal without the power. Petit, who was a Giant from 2012-15, had an excellent season with the A’s this year, posting a 1.66 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings while walking just five.
Trevor Rosenthal: Somehow, after Tommy John surgery and ineffectiveness that followed, the 30-year-old has resurrected his career. He was back to throwing 98-mph fastballs this season for first the Royals and then Padres, notching a combined 1.90 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. He’s earned himself a nice contract and potentially a multiyear one.
Joakim Soria: Another big piece of the excellent A’s bullpen this season, the 36-year-old is still throwing in the low-90s. He doesn’t have the stuff he did when he was a top-notch closer for the Royals from 2007-11, but he hasn’t fallen off a cliff, either.
Josh Tomlin: The Braves righty has been stretched out as a starter at times this season, but his stuff played up out of relief. The 35-year-old, who’s never been a hard-thrower, struck out 24 batters in 18 1/3 innings as a reliever this season, while walking just four; his 11.78 strikeouts per nine as a reliever was 42nd in baseball and better than anyone on the 2020 Giants.