SAN FRANCISCO — There were a lot of trade rumors around Giants relievers earlier in the offseason, but the men who throw with their right arms were kept out of them. Will Smith and Tony Watson were the two most sought after, and there’s still a chance one or both will be moved before Opening Day.
But for the bullpen’s right-handers, there shouldn’t be much change as 2019 begins. It’s a mix of veterans on deals that aren’t easily moved, and younger pitchers the Giants would like to build around. In the latest installment of this preview series — here are the catchers, corner infielders, middle infielders, outfielders, and starting pitchers — I look at the right-handed relievers who will gather at Scottsdale Stadium next week:
Returning: Ray Black, Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Reyes Moronta.
You can bet Farhan Zaidi has talked about sliding Melancon and Dyson’s contracts into trades, but Melancon has a full no-trade clause and Dyson’s one-year deal doesn’t exactly stand out in this depressed market. Dyson has been a durable piece for Bruce Bochy and should be again.
Melancon’s ERA dropped last season but his WHIP was 1.59 and his strikeout rate of 7.2 was a career low. The Giants still haven’t really found a consistent non-closing role for him, but if they do make some moves, it’s possible Melancon gets another shot at the ninth. He would probably be first in line.
Zaidi likes Black and Moronta, who both have shown flashes of dominance. Moronta, in particular, is someone the staff has kept in touch with this offseason. There were concerns about his weight late in the year, but Giants folks who have touched base with him recently are pleased with his offseason work. He could be poised to take another leap.
The departed: Hunter Strickland, Pierce Johnson, Roberto Gomez, Jose Valdez, Derek Law.
Strickland was the closer last Opening Day, but the Giants non-tendered him in November — a bit of a surprise — and he recently caught on with the Mariners. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in his second home; Strickland generally put up good numbers in his time with the Giants, but after the way the last two seasons went, certainly became a change-of-scenery candidate.
Johnson quietly made 37 appearances for the Giants last season but is now pitching in Japan. The Giants didn’t lose much beyond him in terms of innings. Gomez is in camp with the Pirates. Law, DFA’d last week, is currently a free agent.
I broke up the relievers into two groups and you better believe Pat Venditte is going to show up with the righties and the lefties. The switch-pitcher has had more career success from the left side. He’s the only free agent reliever the Giants signed to a big league deal.
Non-roster invitees: Jamie Callahan, Kieran Lovegrove, Carlos Navas, Sam Wolff
Callahan is young (24) and comes with a strong pedigree (second-round pick in 2012), but his 2018 season was shortened by a shoulder injury. He has a 5.51 ERA in seven minor league seasons, averaging 8.8 strikeouts per nine.
Lovegrove, also 24, has one of the most interesting backstories of the newcomers. He was born in South Africa and has been vocal on social media about spreading the game across the world. On the field, he’s coming off his best professional season. Lovegrove posted a 2.73 ERA in 41 appearances for Indians affiliates and his live fastball took him to the Futures Game. He was an early target for the Giants in the offseason, and they’ve had success with guys at the top of their minor league free agent lists (Dereck Rodriguez was one of those guys a year ago).
[RELATED: Get excited for Kieran Lovegrove]
Navas, 26, had a 3.19 ERA in Double-A last season with the Reds and struck out 10.9 batters per nine while limiting his walks. He started his career with the A’s when Zaidi was there.
Wolff, 27, should be familiar to a lot of Giants fans as the pitcher who came back in the Matt Moore trade. He didn’t pitch much last year because he was coming off an injury, but he has a big arm that piled up 44 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings. In 10 Fall League innings, he struck out 14 and walked just two.
It’s been a few years since the Giants had a dominant bullpen, and from the right side, it again looks like an inconsistent group. The non-roster invitees are intriguing and one or two of those guys — or a Melvin Adon-type — could team with Moronta and Black to form a nice core moving forward. For now, it’ll be interesting to see how Zaidi handles the holdovers. He is not someone who likes paying a lot for relievers, and if the Giants are taking a step back, there’s little need to have bullpen depth.