The San Francisco Giants had an unpredictable bullpen situation in 2013. While there were several guys who really stepped up and delivered spectacular performances, they weren’t necessarily the pitchers that the Giants expected to be their top relievers entering the year.
Furthermore, there wasn’t really any time, save for a brief period in late July and September where the Giants could safely trust everyone in their bullpen. Though they definitely have a solid group of pitchers that they can build around, the Giants will have to do a bit of housekeeping with their relief corps in 2014.
For now, we can take a wild guess and say that the Giants’ Opening Day bullpen will consist of seven pitchers: left-handers Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt, and righties Yusmeiro Petit, Jake Dunning, Santiago Casilla, Heath Hembree and Sergio Romo.
Besides Affeldt, who is virtually locked into a spot due to his previous track record and his three-year, $18-million dollar contract, each of these pitchers were positive contributors to the Giants’ 2013 efforts, and they deserve the chance to build on that success in 2014.
The biggest wild card among this group is Lopez, who is a free agent and could parlay his 1.71 ERA and .156 BAA versus lefties into a big contract. He’s stated that his preference is to remain in San Francisco, but if the Giants spend big in other areas, it’s not a given that they’ll want to spend the money to bring him back.
In the end, though, it’s more likely than not that the Giants will be able to work something out with the lefty who has contributed so significantly to their two World Series wins.
Another interesting thing to watch will be how the closer situation is handled through 2014. Romo was fantastic this past season, converting on 38 of 43 save chances and finishing with a 2.54 ERA. However, prior to this season, he had struggled with elbow problems which had limited his durability. Also he doesn’t really have ideal closer stuff, seeing as he can’t hit 90 mph on the radar gun and relies on his deceptive slider to fool hitters.
Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Hembree, long considered a future closer, made a huge impression in September by allowing just four hits and no runs in nine appearances. He’s more in the mold of a traditional ninth-inning stopper, possessing the ability to light up the radar gun, though he’s also developed an impressive off-speed repertoire.
Hembree surely won’t go into spring training battling for the job, but if Romo falters, the Giants may turn to Hembree sooner than later.
Petit’s status as a reliever on this list will probably come as a bit of a disappointment for the pitcher who was one strike away from a perfect game in September. Ultimately, though, the soon-to-be 29-year-old doesn’t have a lot of positive big-league starting experience to rely on, and the Giants will probably feel more comfortable putting him in a long relief role while adding a more experienced starter to the rotation.
The biggest difficulty with this projection is determining the guys who can’t be part of the team to open the season. Jean Machi and Sandy Rosario both had fantastic stretches during the 2013 season and finished with some impressive stats. Ultimately, though, their age and lack of an impressive repertoire put them at a disadvantage when it comes to making the team.
Rosario is out of options, but if he passes through waivers, both Machi and Rosario would be fine candidates to come up whenever needed.
George Kontos was great during 2012, but struggled a bit in 2013, finishing with a 4.39 ERA overall. He did, however, end the year strong, giving up just one earned run during 10 September appearances. He’s heading into his final option year, and if he doesn’t bounce back enough to make the team out of spring training, he too would be a reliable depth guy.
The two Giants relievers who should be seriously worried about their futures are Jose Mijares and Guillermo Moscoso. They’ll be 29 and 30 respectively next season, and neither of them have minor league options remaining. Due to the Giants’ left-handed depth and Mijares’s 7.71 second-half ERA, he’s a strong candidate to be non-tendered.
Moscoso, meanwhile, likely will get outrighted to create space on the Giants’ 40-man roster for prospects who are subject to the Rule 5 Draft.