By Michael Klopman
Peace of mind in the late innings is costly these days.
With Kenley Jansen reportedly re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday, each of the big three free agent closers are off the board. Aroldis Chapman signed with the New York Yankees last week for five years and $86 million, a shade higher than Jansen's reported five-year, $80 million deal. Both of those make the San Francisco Giants signing of closer Mark Melancon during the Winter Meetings on Dec. 5 to a four-year deal worth $62 million look like a bargain.
Which is a good thing, because the Giants would be wise to add another relief reinforcement or two.
It's old news by now, but worth a refresher: San Francisco had the best record in baseball heading into the All-Star Break, and still nearly missed the playoffs thanks to a spectacular collapse by the 'pen, especially in the final month of the season.
Santiago Casilla had a 5.87 ERA in September, which included three blown saves. Sergio Romo had a 4.91 ERA in his first eight appearances that month, before throwing four shutout innings in four appearances to make his September as a whole look a little more respectable. Javier Lopez made 12 appearances and pitched 4.1 innings only to record a 4.15 ERA. And in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs, after starter Matt Moore had thrown eight masterful innings having only given up two runs (only one was earned), five of San Francisco's relievers failed to protect a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning. The first three -- which included Lopez and Romo -- failed to record a single out, and the Cubs rallied back to win 6-5 to eliminate the Giants.
The trio of Romo, Casilla and Lopez will not be on the 2017 Giants roster. Melancon will be their closer, which is a good start -- but let's look at what other options are out there to support him.
- Joe Blanton. Having rejuvenated his career as a reliever, Blanton proved to be an important factor in the Dodgers' five-game NLDS win over the Washington Nationals. The 35-year-old righty threw five innings while giving up zero runs with a .63 batting average against. (He didn't pitch nearly as well against the Cubs in the NLCS, but few could stop Chicago's potent lineup.) And Blanton likely wouldn't be too costly.
- Brad Ziegler. The righty recorded a 2.25 ERA and 51 ERA-minus in 68 innings in 2016 with the D-Backs and Red Sox. It was Ziegler's second straight solid season; He threw 68 innings in 2015 with Arizona, posting an ERA of 1.85 and ERA-minus of 45.
- Joe Smith. The veteran (who spent time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Cubs in 2016) had a strong finish to the regular season, recording a 0.84 ERA in 10.1 innings over September and October. He's on the wrong side of 30, but he's just a couple of years removed from his best season ever in 2014 when he threw 74.2 innings and put up a .80 WHIP and 50 ERA-minus.
- Boone Logan. If the Giants wanted to add another lefty to help out Steven Okert and Will Smith, they could see what Logan could do outside of Coors Field in Colorado. His ERA might not please them, but his 75 ERA-minus in 2016 and a strikeout-per-nine-innings rate over 11 in each of the last three seasons might.
Relievers are out there. Melancon was a certainly necessary signing, but he alone probably can't fix San Francisco's relief issues. There's power in numbers, in even years and odd ones too.
Michael Klopman is an associate producer for Sports on Earth.