The San Francisco Giants aren’t exactly interested in spending money top shelf free agents — check that — they aren’t interested in spending money on guys they don’t know. Guys they’re familiar with who played key roles in their run to a second World Series win in three years? Let’s just say the Giants value continuity.
The latest example: what is being reported as a three year, $15 million extension for Santiago Casilla, with a club option for a fourth year. Casilla, 31, pitched in 84 games last year including 11 playoff appearances, performed well for a while as the closer and generally has been outstanding ever since joining the Giants as a free agent in January of 2010 after three forgettable seasons with the Oakland A’s.
He was arbitration eligible this year, which means this contract purchases two of his free agency years. And since he was probably going to make around $5 million in 2013 anyway, this just gives the Giants a little budgetary predictability for a couple more seasons.
With salaries continuing to inflate across all positions, even the relievers (thought by many advanced stats aficionados to be one of the more replaceable positions on a baseball team) are getting paid. Everywhere. The Giants hear your complaints about how this incredibly expensive bullpen means there’s less of that $140~ million pie to serve to outfielders so you aren’t forced to hope Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres can form like Voltron, and they don’t give a crap. Sabes likes his bullpens expensive and predictable, and it’s pretty difficult to find fault with the Grand Master of Tommy Bahama Shirts and Gaudy World Championship Rings at this point.
Casilla started his professional career pitching under the name of Jairo Garcia, a fake name he used when falsifying documents that listed him as three years younger than he actually is. But the Giants aren’t worried about that now, as they recently gave a three-year deal for a little more money to Jeremy Affeldt, who’s a year older than Casilla.
It appears Brian Wilson’s return is a longshot, and the Giants don’t trust Sergio Romo’s elbow and knees to handle the rigors of a full season in the closer’s role. So it makes sense that they’d want to lock up a guy who, despite some blister issues, has been pretty durable since coming to San Francisco. He led the team last year in appearances, tied Affeldt for the innings lead among Giants relievers with 63.1, and led the team in saves with 25 (for those who care about that stat … the list is decreasing by the hour).
What are the worries with Casilla? His home run rate skyrocketed to 1.1 per nine innings after allowing 0.3 and 0.2 in 2010 and 2011, respectively. His strikeout rate has decreased from 9.1 K/9 in 2010 to 7.8 in 2012 — the only regular reliever with a lower K-rate was Javier Lopez at 7.0 (Romo’s was 10.2 in 2012).
One thing is trending in the right direction: Casilla’s control numbers. 3.1 walks per nine innings is over a full walk below his rates during the previous two seasons. He only threw one wild pitch in 2012, compared with five in 2011 and 10 in 2010.
Like how auto insurance companies offer persistency discounts, the Giants seem to be offering larger than expected contracts to players who’ve spent some time with the team. Knowing which guy has which locker in the club house is prized, and so is bullpen depth. The Giants were probably going to have to count on George Kontos a little more than they’re comfortable with next season even if they didn’t offer Casilla arbitration, and their minor league system isn’t exactly overflowing with relievers.
Also, with signing Casilla (and you knew this was coming) you get this:
And even sometimes this:
Followed by this: