Unlike many other MLB teams, the San Francisco Giants tend not to bring too many experienced big-leaguers into spring training as non-roster invitees. There was little exception to the rule this spring, as 32-year-old reliever Kameron Loe was the most experienced player and only major league veteran over 30 to receive an invite.
Unfortunately, a clause included the CBA which went into place in 2012 complicates Loe’s situation with the Giants. The article states that players who qualified for major league deals during the previous offseason but are current non-roster players must be notified by March 26 if they are going to make the Opening Day roster. If they are not in the major league team’s immediate plans, they must be released or paid a $100,000 bonus (in addition to a June 1 opt-out date) to be kept in the organization.
With this in mind, it’s difficult to tell how Loe’s situation will play out. He’s pitched five times this spring, and while he’s been solid he hasn’t really done a whole lot to distinguish himself from the pack. Considering that the Giants already have 40-man roster spots invested in pitchers younger than Loe, such as Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff, it would not seem that Loe’s chances to make the team are too good.
The Giants have had a few different cases of this type under the new CBA, and there is no consistent pattern with which they have gone about things when the players have failed to make the 25-man roster. In 2012, they had veteran right-hander Ramon Ortiz in camp, and they decided to cut ties with him prior to the date specified by the CBA. He went on to join the New York Yankees organization. Last year, they encountered the situation with reliever Ramon Ramirez, who they released before signing him to a more team-friendly minor-league deal. Ramirez ultimately went on to join the big-league team for a while before being designated for assignment at mid-season.
While Loe is a nice, reliable veteran who has seven years of major league experience and would serve as quality depth in the minors, it’s a tossup as to whether he’ll stick around. It would seem likely that he would be released prior to the deadline to avoid the mandatory bonus and opt-out date, but he could be re-signed later as Ramirez was.
With that said, the Giants only have so many Triple-A bullpen spots to go around. Relievers George Kontos, Jake Dunning, Jose De Paula, Erik Cordier, Brett Bochy, Rafael Dolis, Juan Gutierrez, Derek Law, Mitch Lively, Adam Reifer, Sandy Rosario, Dan Runzler, and Mason Tobin all participated in major-league camp but seem unlikely to make the team, and all of them ideally would be stationed at Triple-A to start the year. Huff or Petit could factor into that group as well if one of them ends up being designated for assignment and clearing waivers.
That could be as many as 14 pitchers in the organization who are very qualified to pitch in relief at Triple-A, yet the Fresno Grizzlies will probably only open the season with eight bullpen arms, in addition to a few extra pitchers who will be with the team and be added to the roster as the season goes on. Nine of the 15 pitchers listed above have pitched in the majors before, so the Giants wouldn’t be lacking in big-league tested pitching depth if they decided not to bring Loe back.
With all the established pitchers that are now present in the organization now, it would seem that the odds for Loe sticking around are less than 50 percent, particularly if he finds another team that is willing to give him a shot in the majors. However, it never hurts to have more pitching depth, so don’t be shocked if Loe decides to come back and fight for a spot at Triple-A.