SAN FRANCISCO -- This offseason has not been one for additions. Somewhat surprisingly, it also has not featured many familiar players headed out the door.
The Giants spent a lot of time talking to teams about Will Smith and Tony Watson, their two dominant left-handed relievers, but a day from FanFest, both are still on the roster. For an organization that won three titles in part because of left-handed relief, that makes this position group one of the few where the Giants can match up with any team in the league.
It’s a deep group, and it’s the last to be profiled in this series of spring training previews. If you missed it, here are the catchers, corner infielders, middle infielders, outfielders, starting pitchers and right-handed relievers. Now, left-handed relievers …
Returning: Will Smith, Tony Watson, Ty Blach, Steven Okert, Josh Osich.
Smith excelled as the closer last season and should open the season in that role if he makes it through camp in orange and black. Watson, signed late last offseason, was one of the bargains of that market and had a huge first year with the Giants. He’ll be back in that late-innings role, helping to get the ball to Smith.
Blach has made 39 starts over the past three years, but his future now seems to be entirely as a long reliever/swingman. It’ll be interesting to see if Farhan Zaidi and new staffers have a different plan for Blach, who has proven to be a versatile and durable piece. If the Giants ever do go with an opener or piggyback starters, Blach could be part of that mix.
Okert and Osich had opposite seasons in 2018. Okert wasn’t seen until late, but was really sharp in 10 September appearances. He was someone who stood out to coaches during that brutal final month. Osich might have been the most dominant reliever in camp in March, but had a rough April after making the Opening Day roster. He was sent down and never made it back up.
There’s only one left-handed pitcher who took the mound at any point of the 2018 Giants season and is not returning: D.J. Snelten -- The Big Snelt -- who threw 4 1/3 innings early in the season before getting let go.
Additions: Pat Venditte, Travis Bergen.
Venditte, the switch-pitcher, goes down as the first free agent signing of the Zaidi Era. He has been better from the left side, holding left-handed hitters to a .583 OPS.
Bergen is a Rule 5 pick, so he has to make the Opening Day roster to stick, but he has an intriguing background. With a fastball in the low 90s and deceptive delivery, Bergen struck out 12 batters per nine innings during his minor league career with the Blue Jays. He has a 1.27 minor league ERA, but was slowed by Tommy John surgery in 2016.
None for this group.
Bruce Bochy loves to play the matchups, and if this group stays intact through the next seven weeks, he’ll be a happy man on Opening Day. Smith and Watson are a strong duo at the back end, and just about everyone else in this group is capable of winning a bullpen job. The Giants plan to have at least three left-handed starters, and should have that many southpaw relievers. It’s possible they’ll open the year with four, too, if you count Venditte. And this doesn't even account for the fact that Andrew Suarez could begin the year in Triple-A or the bullpen.
Of course, like with many of the other position groups we’ve looked at, this one could be torn apart if the Giants get the right trade offers. They’ll continue to listen on Smith and Watson, and if this team isn’t contending, Smith -- a free agent at the end of the year -- is a lock to go. For now, he’s the last line of the defense for a group of relievers that looks to be in good shape.