Giants

Bruce Bochy not ready to name closer between Will Smith, Mark Melancon

Bruce Bochy not ready to name closer between Will Smith, Mark Melancon

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At the Winter Meetings in December, manager Bruce Bochy was asked about the ninth inning and declined to name Will Smith his closer. At the time, it was easy to understand. The Giants were open about the fact that Smith was a popular target in trade discussions. 

It’s now February and Smith is still here, but Bochy again said he needs some time before naming a closer. 

“I don’t know if we’ll answer that until two or three weeks from now,” he said. 

The latest complication is a good one. It’s unlikely the Giants trade Smith at this point, but the man who was supposed to be the closer for four years is throwing so well that the staff wants to take some time to make a decision. Mark Melancon is fully healthy and had good life on his throws Wednesday, the first day of camp, and he remains in the mix. 

“We haven’t defined that role yet,” Bochy said when asked about Smith. “I’ll add to that that Melancon feels great. He looks like he got over the hump with his situation.”

Melancon’s first two seasons in San Francisco have been wrecked by forearm injuries, and with diminished velocity and cut, he has struggled. Melancon managed a 3.23 ERA last season in 41 appearances, but had a 1.59 WHIP and his strikeout rate dipped to 7.2 strikeouts-per-nine. 

The Giants often saw a good curveball from Melancon last year, but the cutter that made him so dominant has been inconsistent. The hope is that the repertoire returns and they can still salvage plenty from the final two years of a $62 million contract. 

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That’s not to say that Melancon would automatically get the ninth if he returns to form this spring. Smith was dominant for much of his first season back from Tommy John surgery and had a 1.90 ERA before a rough appearance on the final weekend of the season put him at 2.55. The lefty had 14 saves after taking over when Hunter Strickland got hurt. 

The Giants haven’t made a choice yet. They’re hoping Melancon makes it a tough one. 

Ex-Giant Kevin Frandsen describes time Bruce Bochy bashed TV with bat

Ex-Giant Kevin Frandsen describes time Bruce Bochy bashed TV with bat

Not all of us remember what it was like to watch Bruce Bochy hitting as an MLB player. His days wielding a baseball bat ended in 1987.

Or did they ... ?

The former Giants manager once lost his cool and took it out on a clubhouse TV, as former Giants infielder Kevin Frandsen explained.

“My locker was right there, right when you walked into the clubhouse, straight on,” Frandsen said in an interview with KNBR. “Bochy walks in … he’s not graceful when he walks, he just kind of lumbers in there and he was pissed. And we knew he was pissed. We were playing bad."

Frandsen spent five total seasons across his nine-year career with the Giants, including 2007-2009 with Bochy at the helm. Frandsen admitted he had "screwed up" a couple of games before, but this tirade didn't appear to be related to that, making him wonder why Bochy was as mad as he was.

"I’m like ‘Man, I’m good, what’s he all pissed about’ -- he’s walking towards me," Frandsen added. "This is not good. He just goes right by me, into my locker and there’s my bat that’s sitting right there, and he looks at it and gives me like a grunt, the old grunt that he does."

“He walks over to the TV and he gives it one whack. It doesn’t go. It pisses him off even more, and he obliterates the next screen. He walked back over (to Frandsen’s locker), said maybe one little thing, puts the bat back in the locker and walks right to his office."

So what was the reason that Bochy was so upset? Golden Tee, the golf arcade game.

Frandsen, now an announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies, admitted that the players were playing the arcade game in the back until 7:00, for a 7:15 game. All TVs were supposed to be off starting around 6:30 - 6:45.

The Giants didn't have a ton of rules, but this rule was one that clearly couldn't be broken, Frandsen added. 

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After the fiasco, they heard Bochy loud and clear.

“Everyone’s sitting there like, ‘Oh yeah, we got the message! Hey, TVs off 6:45 here we go fellas!’ I mean it was frightening. That’s Boch. There you go.”

Do Giants' Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto have two of worst MLB contracts?

Do Giants' Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto have two of worst MLB contracts?

The Giants ended the 2019 MLB season with the 13th-worst record in the league at 77-85, but the fifth-highest payroll at $178.5 million. A large chunk of that went to a pitcher who only appeared in four games this season. 

Johnny Cueto has pitched in just 13 games the past two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and also has earned $21 million in each of those seasons. Cueto, 33, will be paid another $21 million by the Giants in 2020, too. 

He isn't the only aging Giant that will earn a large chunk of change next season. Michael Ginnitti of the contract expert website Spotrac lists two Giants in his 10 toughest MLB contracts for 2020. Joining Cueto on the list is catcher Buster Posey. 

For the fifth straight season, Posey, who mainly batted in the middle of the Giants lineup this season, saw his power numbers dip to a staggering career low. The former NL MVP only hit seven home runs this year -- actually up from five in 2018 -- but drove in just 38 runs and had a .368 slugging percentage. 

Posey's 149 total bases also was a career low, and his 89 OPS+ -- OPS adjusted to a player's ballpark -- was 16 points below league average. This was the first time Posey finished a season with an OPS+ below 100, which is league average, and a bWAR (0.9) below 1.0. 

The 11-year veteran who turns 33 in March still is an elite catcher, though. His 14 defensive runs saved ranked third among NL catchers, and he threw out 24 baserunners -- tied for third in the league. The Giants hope a healthy offseason can rejuvenate Posey at the plate, but that's hard to predict. 

Oh, and we haven't even gotten to his contract yet. Posey is due $21.4 million next season, the highest figure on the Giants. With top prospect Joey Bart on the way and Posey possibly at the point of no return as a presence in your lineup, that's a whole lot of money. 

For everything he has done for the Giants throughout his career, Posey has earned what's in his bank account. But producing enough to be worth that $21.4 million figure surely will be a tall task.

Right behind Posey for the most expensive contract on the Giants next season is Cueto. He could be in a different position, though. 

Cueto finally is healthy after years of arm issues, and looked like an ace at the end of the season at times, despite his 5.06 ERA. All nine of the earned runs he allowed this season came in his final two starts against division winners in the Braves and Dodgers. 

Having Cueto on a major league mound this season was a surprise in its own right. He attacked Tommy John rehab and lost over 20 pounds. 

“It’s a long process and what I wanted to do was see how I felt,” Cueto said after his final start of the year. “I wasn’t too worried about the results. I felt great so I’ll take this into the winter as a positive.”

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Cueto is confident and excited for next season to start. If he stays healthy, the Giants still have one of the top arms in baseball in their rotation. 

Simply put, it all comes down to health for Posey and Cueto. The pitcher seems better set up than the hitter, but the Giants are banking on big seasons from both of them. Literally.