With a handful of closers available on the free agent market, the San Francisco Giants acted quickly at the Winter Meetings to lock up a steady, and “cheap,” closer in 31-year old Mark Melancon. The right-hander started the 2016 season as a Pittsburgh Pirate before a deal at the July trade deadline sent him to the Washington Nationals to takeover closing duties for the struggling Jonathan Papelbon. Between the two clubs Melancon posted a 2-2 record with a 1.64 ERA, tallied 47 Saves, and led the league with 67 Games Finished. His 2016 selection to the NL All-Star team earned him All-Star honors for the third time in the last four seasons.
Melancon immediately supplants Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, and any other slapdash reliever Bruce Bochy throws out there as the closer in San Francisco. The new guy blew just three saves in all of 2016. The Giants blew nine in September alone, and 32 over the course of the season.
While Jeff Samardzija, Matt Cain, and Jake Peavy certainly tainted the dominant campaigns of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, the Giants’ bullpen undoubtedly marred what was shaping into a masterful season for the entire team. San Francisco held MLB’s best record at the All-Star break in July, but were in danger of missing the playoffs in the final games of the regular season. They blanked the New York Mets 3-0 in the NL Wild Card tilt, but folded like a lawn chair against the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS. The series loss to the eventual World Series Champion Cubs includes two blown saves, including an unfathomable four-run disaster in Game 4.
While Melancon’s four-year, $62 million deal does not come off as “cheap” by any stretch of the definition, it’s a tangible bargain in comparison to the deals likely to be struck by other premier closers. After witnessing the success of the Cubs and Indians shortening playoff games with dominant bullpens, the rest of the league is taking [bank] notes. Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) and Aroldis Chapman (Cubs) are both seeking around $20 million per year in any new contract – and they’ll probably get that kind of dough. The Miami Marlins are reportedly prepared to offer a five-year, $80 million deal to Jansen. He and Chapman both throw much harder than Melancon, but both cost much more too. Considering the newest Giants pitcher has 131 Saves (the most in MLB) since the start of 2014, an average annual salary of just over $15 million seems like both sides secured fair market value.
With the signing of Melancon, it appears GM Bobby Evans will not attempt to re-sign veteran relievers Casilla, Romo, or Javier Lopez, all of whom are unrestricted free agents. San Francisco will need to be creative to secure other affordable, reliable relief options in a free agent market fairly flush with relievers. Regardless of Lopez’ status heading into 2017, San Francisco would be wise to sign another left-handed pitcher to pair with lefty Will Smith, the former Milwaukee Brewer traded to the Giants in July. Some realistic left-handed options who can bolster the back end of staff include Mike Dunn, JP Howell, Boone Logan, Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow, Rex Brothers, Phil Coke, and Eric O’Flaherty.
Stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com