Giants

How will Giants narrow down their bullpen options before Opening Day?

How will Giants narrow down their bullpen options before Opening Day?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first free agent signing of the Farhan Zaidi Era was a reliever. One of two Rule 5  draft picks was a reliever. Two of the three players added to the 40-man roster before that draft were relievers. The Giants stockpiled non-roster options and even had Nick Vincent, who has plenty of big league success, walk into the clubhouse once camp had already started. 

You can never have too many relief arms, and on the last day off before they return home, the Giants are still evaluating plenty of them. They have 12 pitchers still in camp who could claim they are vying for bullpen jobs, and it's likely to be just an eight-man group on Opening Day. 

Zaidi and the staff have nine days to figure it all out, and less time in some cases where veterans might have opt-outs looming. Here's a look at how the bullpen race is shaping up as camp nears an end ... 

Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta

We're grouping them together here because they're locks to be at Petco Park a week from now -- unless one of the gets traded. 

Mark Melancon

Bruce Bochy declined to name his closer early in camp, briefly talking up Melancon, who says this is the healthiest he has felt since coming to the Giants. And yet ... he has allowed runs in five of six spring appearances, has given up 13 hits in 5 2/3 innings, and has watched three homers leave the yard. Melancon's stuff just isn't there and hasn't been for two years, and this would probably be a pretty easy decision if you took the contract situation out of it. 

The Giants still owe Melancon $28 million, though, and that would be a hell of a contract to swallow, so he's probably a relatively safe bet to make the roster. At the same time, it should be noted that Zaidi had nothing to do with that contract and won't take any blame if he cuts Melancon loose, either now or during the season. 

Chris Stratton and Ty Blach

Similar in that both have had some success starting for the Giants but now find themselves in the long reliever mix. Stratton is out of options, Blach is not. That usually is what ends up making the decision this time of year. Stratton also could be a trade candidate as teams look to fill rotation holes in the next week. 

Andrew Suarez

Veterans have spent all offseason and spring talking about how unfair the system is to older players. It is more unfair to guys like Suarez, who had a strong rookie year but may begin the season in Sacramento because he's making the MLB minimum and has options remaining. Suarez could be the long man or a third lefty reliever at some point, but that seems unlikely in April. 

Travis Bergen

Zaidi said he will carry three lefties in the bullpen, and the Rule 5 pick responded with a huge spring. He has struck out 10 in 8 2/3 scoreless innings and it's hard to see how the Giants let him get away at this point. "He has the weapons to get big leaguers out," Zaidi said earlier this month. It looks like Bergen, who has a deceptive fastball and good breaking ball, will get that shot after the Blue Jays let him get away. 

Steven Okert

He had a nice September and came to Scottsdale in good shape, but he has allowed five earned runs in seven spring appearances and it's hard to see how he beats out Bergen at this point. Okert is out of options. 

Trevor Gott

Acquired from the Nationals at the start of camp, the right-hander has pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings this spring and struck out 10. He's out of options. 

Nick Vincent

The last man to walk in the room has had an okay spring, but he does have a track record of success in the big leagues. This is exactly the type of reliever you would love to have in Triple-A, knowing that he'll be needed for 30 appearances over the course of the year, but Vincent can opt out of his deal by the end of the week, according to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. In past years that would be a concern, but given the way the free agent market went -- especially for guys like Vincent -- perhaps that's a risk he won't want to take?

Prediction

The Giants are deep enough in the bullpen that on Tuesday morning they could option Ray Black and Tyler Beede to the minors. Black has an option remaining, so guys like Gott and Stratton were ahead of him in line, at least to start the year. He'll be back at some point. Beede looked like Archie Bradley throughout the spring, but the Giants want to stretch him out to start. There are executives in the organization who believe he could be in the rotation in the second half, but Beede also is a nice bullpen option if the Giants need help at any point. 

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This time of year, it's all about keeping your inventory, so if the season started today, the guess here is that the first four guys listed above would be joined by Melancon, Bergen, Stratton and Gott. But Zaidi has hinted strongly throughout the spring that he could trade a reliever. Stay tuned.

Giants announce changes to Oracle Park, move bullpens to outfield

Giants announce changes to Oracle Park, move bullpens to outfield

On the first day of the Winter Meetings, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi joked that Brandon Belt might often be checking his phone these days for updates on exactly how much the Giants would be chopping out of Triples Alley. On Thursday the Giants finally made their new dimensions official, with changes that aren't all that drastic and still will keep Oracle Park as a pitchers' park with a deep alley in right-center.

It still will be difficult for left-handed hitters to yank the ball out in Triples Alley, but the Giants did change enough that offense should get a slight boost. 

With the bullpens moving from foul territory to the outfield, Triples Alley will be cut from 421 feet to 415. The wall will be five feet closer in left-center and eight feet closer in straightaway center. The bullpens will be situated in center field on either side of the garden that already exists out there. 

"Obviously it's something that started off really as a safety issue with some of what we've seen over the last couple of years, but there's going to be a fun baseball element," Zaidi said earlier this week. "We've done a lot of studies on how we think it's going to impact things but until you actually start playing games and the ball starts flying, you're never quite sure how it's going to go. It'll be a fun and exciting time."

It'll also be a much different look for relievers and fans who sit out in the bleachers. The Giants announced that several bleacher seats will directly overlook the bullpens and they will have two new standing-room terraces out there for fans. The garden in center field will also provide a direct view into the Giants' bullpen. 

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For the players, the bullpens will have padded chain link openings in the wall so they can watch the game. The centerfield wall will also be one foot shorter, going from eight to seven feet, which could aid a hitter or two every year but may also make it easier for the centerfielder to rob an opposing batter. 

The Giants expect a touch more offense from the new look, but as they ran studies in recent months, they discovered that the weather was actually the main factor in knocking down potential home runs. The heavy air will still be there at night, protecting pitchers and frustrating hitters. 

That'll be good news for Giants relievers. The press release continued one more bit of important news for that group. Both bullpens will have their own bathroom for players. 

Giants add interesting arm on way out of Winter Meetings

Giants add interesting arm on way out of Winter Meetings

SAN DIEGO -- It'll be easy to tell when the Giants once again are elite on the field, but when it comes to the health of the minor league system and back end of the 40-man roster, the indicators aren't as clear to the public. One good measure of success will be the yearly Rule 5 draft, which provides an opportunity for struggling clubs to add talent to their big league roster by raiding loaded systems. 

The Astros lost three prospects in the first 10 selections Thursday morning. The Yankees, Nationals and Rays also lost players during the first four picks. That's a sign of health for those organizations, of depth the Giants hope to build. They've made strides but they're still far behind, so on Thursday they once again were on the selecting end. 

A year after they took two players in the Rule 5, the Giants used their lone open roster spot on Dany Jimenez, a 25-year-old right-hander who pitched in the Blue Jays' system last year. Jimenez has a live arm and better command than you usually see from Rule 5 picks. The Giants will throw him in the bullpen mix but must return him to the Blue Jays if Jimenez is not on their big league roster.

"We were happy he fell to us," general manager Scott Harris said. "As we talked about all week, we're trying to find talent. We're trying to find new creative ways. This isn't the most creative way but we got an arm we like."

The Giants selected Drew Ferguson and Travis Bergen last December and later acquired Connor Joe, who was their opening day left fielder. Ferguson was sent back to the Astros during the spring and Joe ended up back with the Dodgers after a few games. Bergen lasted a few months but eventually was sent back to the Blue Jays. 

Jimenez has a strong shot at making the opening day roster and has a better shot than most Rule 5 picks of surviving. It's easier to hide a pitcher in your bullpen all year, particularly with the rosters expanding and the Giants able to carry 13 arms throughout the season. Jimenez also has more experience than Bergen did. He reached Double-A last season and dominated, posting a 1.87 ERA and striking out 46 in 33 2/3 innings. 

Harris said Jimenez has a fastball in the upper 90s. He has averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors and has kept his walk rate on the high end of what's acceptable. That might play in the big leagues, giving the Giants a free reliever at a time when their bullpen is undergoing massive changes. 

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The Giants did not lose a player in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. In the Triple-A phase, they added Brewers catching prospect Bryan Torres to the River Cats' roster.

There was one other pick of note. Starting pitcher Stephen Woods was the fourth overall pick of the draft, going from the Rays to the Royals. Two years ago, the Giants sent Woods to Tampa Bay in the Evan Longoria deal.