MLB free agency: How post-Will Smith bullpen market looks for Giants

MLB free agency: How post-Will Smith bullpen market looks for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- The best reliever on the market came very close to being a Giant in 2020. 

Will Smith told teams that he would sign the one-year qualifying offer and return to San Francisco if they did not come up with better offers, and he came pretty close to holding true to that statement. Ultimately the Atlanta Braves stepped in, giving Smith a three-year deal just before the deadline to accept the qualifying offer. 

That move left the Giants with a massive hole in the ninth inning, but the bullpen issues go beyond the closer role.

The Giants had one of the National League's best bullpens in the first half last season, but Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon and Drew Pomeranz were traded and Trevor Gott and Reyes Moronta got hurt. Of the six Giants who made at least 40 appearances out of the bullpen last year, only Gott and Tony Watson will be on the active roster on Opening Day. 

That leaves a lot of room for newcomers, and Farhan Zaidi has said he likes his young depth and believes in some of the rookies who got a chance late last season. Shaun Anderson, Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers and Jandel Gustave are among those who could be in the mix for high-leverage jobs. 
But you can expect the Giants to add plenty of experienced arms to the spring training mix, too.

Here's a look at the bullpen market now that Smith has left for his hometown:

The Top Tier 

Yeah, it's uhh ... not a good offseason to be looking for a closer. You can make a strong case that Drew Pomeranz -- who signed with the Giants in January as a starter -- is the best reliever left out there. Pomeranz showed flashes of brilliance when the Giants moved him to the 'pen and they turned that promise into Mauricio Dubon. In Milwaukee, Pomeranz made himself a lot of money, striking out 45 batters in 26 1/3 innings while sitting in the high 90s with his fastball. 

Will Harris, who had a 1.50 ERA last year for the Astros, is the top right-hander left on most boards. He has just 20 career saves but should pitch in the last couple innings for a contender next year. Daniel Hudson has had a rough few years but ended up as the postseason closer for the World Series champs, so he should be in for a nice raise. 

The Giants have a need, but they also shouldn't pay for high-end relief pitching given their current roster situation. 

The Former Giants

The Giants need good PR right now, and there are plenty of options if they want to go the #ForeverGiant route. 

Sergio Romo, Cory Gearrin and Dan Otero are all free agents, along with a few relievers who pitched for the Giants in 2019: Kyle Barraclough, Fernando Abad, Nick Vincent and Derek Holland. 

None of that moves the needle too much.

The Likely Answer

Zaidi wants flexibility in his bullpen, and he never spent much on free agent relievers in Los Angeles other than the Kenley Jansen contract. Want to know how the Giants will fill out their 2020 bullpen? Last year's model gives us a good starting point. 

The Giants traded cash considerations for Gott, a hard-throwing right-hander they believed could be pretty good in a different situation. You can bet they're looking for the next opportunity to scoop up a similar player. 

They gave a non-guaranteed deal to Vincent well after spring training had started, taking advantage of a market that has become cruel to veteran relievers. There will be plenty of options again as the offseason winds down.

There are a lot of familiar names out there -- Cody Allen, Carl Edwards Jr., Jeremy Jeffress, Hector Rondon, to name a few -- and a few veterans are going to be sitting around in early February looking for an opportunity. Zaidi should be able to add a few experienced arms to the spring mix and do so without spending much. 

[RELATED: How GM Harris' love of transactions made him right fit for Giants]

Finally, there's the method the team turned to late in the year. The Giants went young, and while the results were sometimes ugly, the front office does feel good about some of what was seen. Rogers was a revelation, Anderson showed a desire to pitch the ninth, and Coonrod had some big moments.

The Giants know they're in a situation where they can continue to give young guys a shot, with the hope that a year from now a few of them will look like foundational pieces for the 2021 bullpen. 

As Giants put staff together, they nearly made a historic hire


As Giants put staff together, they nearly made a historic hire

SAN DIEGO -- When the Giants announce their full coaching staff, the group will stand out for being young, with more experience in private instruction and minor league coaching than the big leagues in some cases. That'll be something new for the organization, but it has somewhat become the norm around Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. 

As they put the staff together, though, the Giants did strongly consider a move that would have been historic for the sport. They interviewed Rachel Balkovec, who recently joined the Yankees as a minor league hitting coach and became the first woman to get hired as a full-time hitting coach by an organization. 

The Giants wanted Balkovec, 32, to join them in a hybrid role that would have been something along the lines of a "quality control coach," a job that has popped up elsewhere in recent years. She would have worked on the hitting side but also contributed to the strength and conditioning side, which is her background. Balkovec had been a Yankee for just a few days when the Giants approached, and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that Balkovec elected to stay with New York after interviewing with the Giants, who brought her to San Francisco for the interview. 

This is believed to be the first time a woman has interviewed for a job on a big league coaching staff. Balkovec would have been in uniform for the Giants and working for Gabe Kapler, who said he is looking for "diversity of thought" on his coaching staff regardless of gender. 

"I've known Rachel for a really long time, Farhan (Zaidi) has known Rachel for a really long time," Kapler told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think it was four years ago or so that we first became familiar with her work as a strength coach. Rachel is super-dynamic, incredibly smart, incredibly confident, and I have no doubt in my mind that she's going to make a big impact in baseball for many years to come."

Balkovec impressed Giants officials, who came away thinking it's just a matter of time before she is on a big league staff or takes a position high up in baseball operations. She was in San Diego this week and met with some Yankees reporters on Tuesday, where she outlined her background. Her approach is very similar to much of what the Giants have added to their staff, which will be finalized in the coming days.

“I have a special interest in biomechanics and understanding how the body moves and applying certain things, like for example, if there is a restriction in movement can they spot those types of things,’’ Balkovec said, according to the New York Post. “How is that going to affect their swing mechanics and the ability to get something done in a game situation. Also, the visual side of things, what are the best strategies of things picking up the ball for recognizing a pitch? 

"There are two sides of it, and I am not sure which one is more important at this point, but I am leaning more to the visual aspect not very many people are diving into I think at this point. It’s two-fold, understanding the body from a very base level and how it applies to the swing and action."

MLB rumors: D-backs discussed offering Madison Bumgarner $70M contract


MLB rumors: D-backs discussed offering Madison Bumgarner $70M contract

The Giants' worst nightmare began taking shape on Tuesday night when The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported the Dodgers were shifting their focus to Madison Bumgarner after Gerrit Cole agreed to a record deal with the Yankees. 

But the Dodgers reportedly aren't the only NL West team with their eyes on the longtime Giants ace.

The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro reported Wednesday that the Diamondbacks internally discussed offering Bumgarner a "sizable" deal. Piecoro reported the D'backs "floated the idea of a contract in the range of $70 million" for MadBum. 

These talks according to Piecoro were only preliminary, however, and a formal proposal never was made. 

This isn't the first time Arizona has been linked to Bumgarner, though. MLB Networks Jon Heyman reported Tuesday that the D-backs were one of seven teams outside of the Giants to show interest in the left-hander. This, of course, came before the Dodgers report. 

After the trading Zack Greinke to the Astros last season, the D-backs still are searching for a proven No. 1 starter and the 30-year-old Bumgarner certainly fits the bill. MadBum also has appeared in 20 games -- 19 starts -- at Arizona's Chase Field and is 8-4 with a 3.13 ERA. He also hit two homers on Opening Day in Arizona in 2017. 

[RELATED: How Giants can take advantage of penny-pinching teams]

But $70 million likely won't get Bumgarner to sign on the dotted line. He reportedly is seeking a deal worth at least $100 million over five years, and that seems increasingly likely with the latest moves for starting pitchers this offseason. 

Bumgarner rumors are expected to heat up by the minute, but he doesn't appear destined for the desert quite yet.