Giants' needs for 2017 quite apparent
A lot has been said about how Bruce Bochy handled that ninth inning Tuesday. Many people, including myself, would have liked to see Matty Moore go out there and at least start the ninth inning. I know the pitch count was way up, but he was pitching on 10 days rest and threw north of 130 pitches just 2 months prior while chasing a no-hitter with the Giants. Plus Moore mowed through the 8th inning and was looking as strong as he was all night. Once the move was made though, I wish he would have had the guts to go with one guy and ride him out. Whether it was Sergio Romo to start the ninth, Derick Law or Will Smith, I would have liked to see Boch go with a reliever and stick with him rather than go into that inning with the idea of playing the match-up game the whole time. In a sense, you can't really blame him, the Giants don't have a true closer, but I can't help but think that had he just left Law out there, maybe the next guy grounds into a double play. As soon as I saw the musical chairs being played with the bullpen I knew it was bad news, and that's all I can say about that game really.
Now, the game is done, the series is over, we've had a few days to mourn and it's time to move on. First off, Matt Moore was awesome in that game. He looked like MadBum 2.0 and in my mind justified the Matt Duffy trade with that outing and showed us that the 2017 starting rotation is going to have an extremely strong front-3, probably as good as any team's in the game. My guess is the 2017 rotation is pretty much set in stone with MadBum your ace, Johnny Cueto the two, Moore the three, Jeff Samardzija the four and Ty Blach the five. Matt Cain is still under contract and may be given a shot at the fifth spot but Blach not only finished the season with some strong outings, he threw very well in two NLDS outings as well which should cement his 2017 status on the roster. So, unless the Giants find some amazing bargain and get a quality starter to take a discount to come pitch for a contender. Maybe they add a lower level third wheel to the fifth starter competition (C.J. Wilson or Jaime Garcia would be interesting on one-year type prove yourself deals) but my guess is they won't even look at the starting pitching market. It's a good thing too cause the only FA starter that's maybe better than current Giants' fourth starter Samardzija is Jeremy Hellickson.
Instead, all of their attention will lay in the relief market as well as the outfield market. The Giants will be losing Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez and will need to replace those three with upgrades. They certainly need a closer and there are going to be some intriguing ones out there this winter. They also need to look at ways to upgrade their offense. Despite their starting rotation being a strong one, they can't bank on winning games 2-1 and 3-2 every night and they need to lengthen that lineup.
Luckily for them, they have upwards of $50M coming off the books and probably won't be retaining any of their own free agents. I could possibly see Romo returning if he takes a discount on a one-year deal but it won't be as a closer and probably not even as an 8th inning guy. He'd be a situational right-handed reliever to face predominantly right-handed batters and I don't know if the Giants will have a strong enough pen to carry one of those. As of now, the only people I'd say guaranteed spots in the 2017 bullpen would be Derick Law, Will Smith and Hunter Strickland. Everyone else will probably have to earn their way on, and that includes Matt Cain (despite his $20M price tag). As far as their outfield, the only two guys they have under contract are Hunter Pence and Denard Span, so they'll need a starting left fielder and hopefully an upgrade to Gregor Blanco as the fourth outfielder. I hope to never see Gorkys Hernandez forced into the starting lineup in a playoff game for this team ever again. I think their infield is pretty much set, with Nunez and Gillaspie both under team control and likely to return to shore up third base. Some are worried about Joe Panik's collapse but they'll keep rolling with him and maybe look to change only if Panik's hitting below .250 again through mid-season.
As far as the guys they could target, it's pretty early to say as we don't know who's going to re-sign where yet and who will or won't opt out of their contracts. Mark Melancon seems to be a popular choice amongst Giants' fans and pundits to be their next closer, but Kenley Jansen, Greg Holland (despite missing all of 2015 recovering from Tommy John surgery) and Francisco Rodriguez are out there as well. Aroldis Chapman is also hitting the market but my guess is he'll be at the top of every team's list and will end up getting the largest contract for a relief pitcher in the history of baseball and the Giants may not want to get into that bidding war. Jansen most likely returns to the Dodgers on a deal similar to what Chapan gets, and Holland is still sort of a crap-shoot because he hasn't thrown since September 2015. This is why the 31 year-old Melancon seems like the best fit. If I had my way, I'd love to see Melancon signed to close and K-Rod brought in as the set-up man, though he probably will still be looking to close, coming off a 44-save season. It would be expensive to get two guys of that caliber but they have the money and the overwhelming need for quality at the back-end of that bullpen.
As far as the outfield market is concerned, that is much more thin and the Giants may need to go the trade route in order to fill that need. Yoenis Cespedes is the name that keeps getting tossed out, but he's going to want something the 3-year, $75M he signed last winter. He's the best all-around outfielder on the market and could easily get a deal similar to the one Jason Hayward signed with the Cubs last December. I wouldn't really want to go more than five years with the 31 year-old but I don't think the Giants would do 5/$150M. As bad as the Giants need one, I don't know that an outfielder with a career slash of .272/.325/.494 and has avoided the DL in just 2 out of 5 seasons in the big leagues is necessarily worth $25-30M per year but in this market he may get that. However, his big arm and bat and gold glove defense in left are pluses and his feel of the strike zone is improving. Also, he's coming off his two best years at the plate, is right in the middle of his prime (turns 31 this month), and his growing feel for the strike zone could mean his best is yet to come (look at how Jose Bautista thrived after turning 30). Add all these things up and you see why he'd be such in intriguing option and fit for the Giants.
Jay Bruce (though the Mets likely retain him), Bautista and Mark Trumbo are the only other big time hitting corner outfielders potentially hitting the market but their value really only comes through their power whereas Cespedes is far better in the outfield and will hit about 20-30 points higher than all of them. Bautista would be the main man if we're talking 4/5 years ago, but he's turning 36 this month and is coming off a very unproductive season. His best bet at this point in his career is to stay in the AL.
It's going to be a big winter for the Giants though, as they have the core guys still here and playing well and that starting rotation set for the foreseeable future, but they need that big bat, another decent role player and somewhat of a bullpen overhaul in order to get back to their championship-caliber level. Had they had a legit closer this year, they probably don't melt down in the second half like they did and probably are still playing right now, so that's certainly where you start if your Bobby Evans. This winter though, they need to cover all facets of the team or else next year it maybe it won't be the closer/bullpen that melts down, maybe Pence gets hurt again and their lack of depth and ability to score runs bites them in the rear. That's why I say never just assume your bench and bullpen will fall into place in spring. If your a team with Championship aspirations, you have to go into the year fully confident in all areas of your squad, from player 1 through 25.
We'll be on a short hiatus here at the Giants Baseball Blog, as there isn't likely to be any Giants' related news until after the World Series ends, but if something does pop up we'll be here. Otherwise, we'll be back in November once the offseason gets rolling and we can really delve into the free agent class and guys who could fit onto this team aside from the big names you've already heard. So enjoy the rest of the postseason if your still up for watching baseball after that. Hopefully the Cubs dismantle the Dodgers and go on to win it all to give us some justification to losing to them. The only way this season gets a little worse for Giants' fans is if the Dodgers are crowned 2016 Champions so I guess there is still something to kind of root for over the next couple weeks. Until then, it was a roller coaster ride in 2016 and I very much look forward to what the offeason has in store for this club with plenty of money to work with.