Will Smith

With Smith likely out until May, Giants looking for lefty help

will_smith.jpg
USATSI

With Smith likely out until May, Giants looking for lefty help

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of hours after they were connected to a free agent reliever, the Giants gave their most definitive Will Smith update in months. The two are connected. 

Smith’s target date for a return to the big leagues is May 1, manager Bruce Bochy said, leaving the Giants without their best left-handed reliever for potentially the first 28 games. With little else in the way of established lefty relief on the roster, the Giants are reportedly chasing veteran Tony Watson. Bob Nightengate of USA Today reported that the Giants and Watson are involved in “serious contract talks,” with Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports adding that the Phillies and Red Sox are also after Watson. 

A longtime Pirate, the 32-year-old Watson has a 2.68 ERA in seven big league seasons. He had a 3.38 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 71 appearances for the Pirates and Dodgers last season. Watson would immediately became Bochy’s go-to lefty early in the season, but it’s unclear how the Giants will be able to slide him under the luxury tax. The Giants have only a couple million to spend before reaching the limit, and Watson is certainly worth more than that. On the other hand, camps opened Tuesday and he has been caught up by a market where teams simply aren’t spending. Plus, Bobby Evans has consistently proven to be creative at structuring contracts to lower the tax hit. 

Regardless of what happens with Watson, the Giants will need Smith to be a big part of their bullpen at some point, and he said he’s optimistic about his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Smith has already thrown seven bullpen sessions and is close to facing hitters. He said he has had no setbacks during the process, but the training staff is being cautious. The Giants at some point hoped to get Smith back by opening day but May 1 is more realistic. 

“If you’ve already waited this long, what’s another three weeks?” Smith said. “One of the worst things would be to rush back for opening day and then have to take three weeks off in the middle of the season. That would kill me. That would suck.”

Giants sign five to one-year deals

panik-joe-us.jpg
USATSI

Giants sign five to one-year deals

SAN FRANCISCO — Joe Panik spent the first half of the offseason hearing his name in trade rumors. On Friday, his winter became much more enjoyable. 

Panik was one of five Giants to sign a one-year deal and avoid arbitration, joining relievers Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, Cory Gearrin and Sam Dyson. Financial details were not immediately available for all the players, but Panik got a raise to $3.45 million according to Beyond the Box Score, and Smith got $2.5 million per USA Today. 

Friday’s deadline gave the Giants some clarity as they continue to try and fill roster holes after a 98-loss season. Team officials said trade talks slowed in recent days as teams exchanged figures with their arbitration-eligible players. The Giants found the process to be a bit more complicated than in past years, but they now have five projected members of the Opening Day roster locked up and a better idea of exactly how much room they have under the luxury tax. Per a source, the Giants remain about $15 million under the $197 million tax line as they continue to seek one or two new outfielders. 

Healthy Melancon and Smith expected to bolster Giants' bullpen

smith-will-giants-gray-night.jpg
AP

Healthy Melancon and Smith expected to bolster Giants' bullpen

ORLANDO — There were few positive sights down the stretch last season for the Giants, but Will Smith occasionally gave the coaching staff a reason to smile. The left-hander’s rehab from Tommy John surgery in late March went so smoothly that he was able to play aggressive games of catch at AT&T Park before going home for the winter. 

The Giants believe Smith will be ready for opening day, barring a setback in spring training, and he should be fully back to his old self by the All-Star break, allowing Bruce Bochy to use him multiple days in a row or for multiple innings. They are even more confident that closer Mark Melancon, who had a minor procedure on his pitching arm, will be ready when pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale the second week of February. 

In an offseason when there are more holes to fill than answers, those developments could prove crucial. The confidence in Smith and Melancon has allowed general manager Bobby Evans to focus on the lineup here at the Swan and Dolphin Resort. 

“We’re still looking at the bullpen as an area we would like to strengthen, but we don’t necessarily have that as our focal point at this stage of the offseason,” Evans said. 

The bullpen has been an issue for two years, but the Giants feel it will be much better in 2018. Melancon will serve as closer, with Sam Dyson — a 2017 surprise — and Smith giving Bochy two veterans in the eighth inning. If all three find their normal form, it's a reliable trio. The manager would love another lefty addition, but if nothing of significance is done, the Giants are confident that Ty Blach can be a weapon as a reliever. Hunter Strickland comes up in trade rumors but is likely to be back, and Cory Gearrin was tendered a contract last month after a solid season. Kyle Crick showed flashes of dominance as a rookie and there’s still hope that Derek Law — once the future closer — will again become a force. 

Once the dust settles and relievers start signing shorter-term deals, the Giants expect to add to the mix, but they also could get help from a couple of unlikely areas. They expect to use their second pick in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday and they have primarily been focused on hard-throwing relievers who were left off 40-man rosters elsewhere. Any player chosen would have to spend the year on the active roster to remain a Giant, but that’s easier to do in the bullpen, and other teams have pulled it off in recent years.

Another 2018 option could be top pitching prospect Tyler Beede. Evans said he could break in as a reliever, although the preference remains giving him a shot to win a rotation spot. That could happen as early as the spring. 

“Our discussions internally see him as very close to being ready,” Evans said.