Santiago Casilla’s latest blown save, which ended with a walk-off balk/stumble in extra innings on Saturday, made things seem clearer and murkier at the same time. Casilla hasn’t been bad this year from a raw numbers perspective, but watching him attempt to close games is one of the most uncomfortable experiences a Giants fan can have during this otherwise surprisingly fun season. So just think of how Bruce Bochy, Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean feel when he’s tasked with holding a lead through the final out.
Yet, what are the other options? Sergio Romo just got back from a long absence that included what the Giants termed a “setback” in his rehab from a right elbow injury. If the Giants make Romo the closer — which seems awfully tempting, given his experience in the role and his effectiveness since returning — and he suffers another setback soon after, the Giants then have to either hand the job back to Casilla or figure out another solution. Not ideal.
Cory Gearrin looked like that dude for a few months, but then he got hurt. There are reasons to both trust and be wary of Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich. Javier Lopez is a LOOGY who’s in the midst of his worst full season since 2005, and George Kontos doesn’t have the overpowering stuff and/or experience as a closer that Bochy prefers.
Derek Law is an interesting candidate. He’s the only Giants reliever other than Casilla who strikes out more than one batter per inning, and he and Romo are tied for the lowest walk rate on the team. He also has 46 minor league saves. Those are all good things, but he wasn’t even on the Opening Day roster. Bochy isn’t going to ask Law to close games, during a pennant race, at this point in his career, unless the Giants are forced into a corner. And with Casilla and Romo currently healthy, that isn’t even close to being the case.
The Giants’ bullpen isn’t quite as disastrous as their league-leading 18 blown saves would normally indicate, but it’s ragged. The brass knows they need help in the form of a late-inning reliever who can complete an entire inning, but it’s not going to be easy in this climate.
- Too many teams are buyers.
- Too many teams need relievers.
San Francisco’s cupboard isn’t empty, but one has to wonder if they’re willing to part with anyone who another team would actually want for one of their top relievers. To give us an idea of what the Giants’ conversations with other teams might sound like, Baseball America just published their list of top midseason prospects.
- RHP Phil Bickford (No. 50 overall)
- SS/3B/2B Christian Arroyo (No. 56 overall)
- RHP Tyler Beede (No. 81 overall)
- 1B Chris Shaw (No. 83 overall)
- LHP Adalberto Mejia (No. 91 overall)
- RHP Sam Coonrod
- LHP Andrew Suarez
- SS Lucius Fox
- RHP Joan Gregorio
- OF Steven Duggar
Bickford just turned 21 and has been killing it since the Giants drafted him in the first round a year ago (2.48 ERA, 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings). The Giants almost certainly wouldn’t part with him for a reliever, seeing as their system hasn’t produced a good, healthy starting pitcher since Madison Bumgarner. The same probably goes for Beede, who according to Baseball America is back to “touching 97” on the radar gun this season. Mejia missed the first 50 games of 2015 due to a PED suspension, but he was recently promoted to Triple-A after dominating in Richmond. It’s likely he’ll compete for Jake Peavy’s spot next season.
The Giants wouldn’t want to deal their middle infielders for bullpen assistance either, not with Matt Duffy taking a step back this season and Joe Panik — fair or not — inching ever-closer to the dreaded “injury prone” label. Arroyo, 21, was their top prospect heading into this season, and they gave Fox a signing bonus of around $6 million last year when he turned 18.
The obvious player the Giants wouldn’t mind dealing is Shaw, with Brandon Belt recently signing an extension and Buster Posey looking at a position change at some point in the next 2-5 years. Any one of the bottom five players on BA’s top-10 list other than Fox could be available. Or, maybe not. It’s impossible to know what the Giants think of these guys, or who they believe could be a higher injury risk than other guys in their system.
Do any of these teams need catching help? Andrew Susac was the golden child after getting called up in 2014, but now he’s a 26-year-old hitting .240 with a .708 OPS in Triple-A.
Where the Giants may set their sights
So, yeah … the chances of getting one of the Yankees’ Big Three (Miller, Aroldis Chapman* and Dellin Betances) look slim. Same with getting Tampa Bay to part with their All-Star closer, Alex Colome, who’s under team control until 2021. The A’s seem awfully nice these days when they decide to part with talented players (just check out what the Padres got for Drew Pomeranz), but that generosity would surely subside if the Giants called asking about a guy like Ryan Dull.
*The Giants probably aren’t interested in Chapman, and that has very little to do with the fact that he’d be a 3-month rental.
At best, the Giants could hope to convince the Phillies to part with Hector Neris for Shaw. (“Now that you’re finally enjoying Tommy Joseph’s power, we’ve got another Ryan Howard replacement for you!”) Or, getting the Brewers to deal Will Smith for Andrew Susac and pocket change. (“We know you’re looking to trade Jonathan Lucroy, and this guy’s just as good … we swear!”)
These possibilities seem rather unlikely as well. Far-fetched, even.
I always assumed the Giants would end up with Neftali Feliz, but the Pirates won 13 of their last 19 to climb back into the Wild Card race. So, maybe Evans and Co. will target Twins lefty Fernando Abad instead. Abad was incredible for the A’s in 2014, mediocre for the A’s in 2015, and incredible again for the Twins this season until mid-June (0.79 ERA through June 14, 9.00 ERA in his last eight appearances). However, even someone like Abad might have too many suitors in this market. Or, the Giants could be more willing to part with a top prospect for the *right* reliever (translation: dominant, not a rental or a domestic abuser) than I’m assuming. It is an even year, after all.