The San Francisco Giants are reportedly interested in acquiring another reliever to bolster their bullpen, despite general manager Brian Sabean previously stating it would be unlikely for the team to pursue additional roster upgrades. According to Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle , the Giants have confirmed having conversation with former Oakland Athletics closer Grant Balfour, who recorded 64 saves in three seasons on the other side of the Bay.
I reported earlier the #sfgiants are not trying to sign fun a closer type, but I can confirm conversations with Grant Balfour. Odds? Meh.
— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) December 24, 2013
Balfour is purportedly seeking a contract that exceeds what the Giants are ideally willing to pay, though. The 35-year-old reliever owns a 3.27 ERA and 514 strikeouts in 473 innings pitched in his 10-year career. Balfour likely perceives this offseason as his final opportunity to earn a sizable contract, which has seemingly deterred the Giants from putting an offer on the table.
San Francisco’s bullpen already features four relievers earning at least $4 million in base salary next season: Javier Lopez ($4 mill), Santiago Casilla ($4.5 mill), Jeremy Affeldt ($5 mill) and Sergio Romo ($5.5 mill). It simply wouldn’t be economical for the Giants to add another aging reliever at top dollar, even though Balfour would help solidify the back end of the bullpen.
The Giants figure to carry seven relievers in their bullpen next season. Hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Heath Hembree will likely earn a roster spot in spring training which would bring the bullpen tally to five. Hembree throws a fastball that exceeds 92 mph and a cutter that eclipses 91. He features five pitches in his repertoire and could ultimately develop into the type of pitcher that Balfour has become, albeit with slightly less velocity.
The most glaring need in the Giants’ pen isn’t at the back end. San Francisco more desperately needs a long man that can fill the void when starters succumb to poor performance and fatigue. Right-handed pitcher George Kontos could potentially earn that job, although he struggled for most of the 2013 campaign.
Kontos was stellar in the Giants’ 2012 title run but posted mediocre numbers last season, recording a 4.39 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP in 55.1 innings pitched. The 28-year-old boasts a candid ability to avoid granting free passes on the base paths, though. He owns a near 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio in 105 innings of work over the course of three big league seasons, making him a reliable mid-game option out of the pen.
The Giants could be forced to take a chance on an unsigned free agent if Kontos gets knocked around next spring, especially considering their lack of depth in the minor league ranks.
San Francisco’s final bullpen spot will likely be determined by an in-house competition between Jake Dunning and Sandy Rosario. Both right-handed pitchers were exceptional for the Giants in 2012. Dunning recorded a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched as a rookie whereas Rosario posted a 3.02 ERA in 41.2 innings of work. Dunning figures to get a better look than Rosario, but the journeyman from the Dominican Republic shouldn’t be discounted.
It’s practically guaranteed that San Francisco won’t break the bank on another reliever, though. The Giants bullpen is already strong enough to help the team contend in 2014.