Brad Mills, USA Today

Free Agent Class Works in San Francisco Giants Favor

In what is widely considered a weak free agent class, there are a few names that should be courted by the San Francisco Giants this winter.

If we had to point to one factor that led to the Giants second half woes, it would be unfair. The offense surged when starters struggled, while the exact opposite was also true. But down the stretch, the main issue was the bullpen. Santiago Casilla was relieved of the closer role, and Bruce Bochy was unable to find an arm, or a combination of arms, that could close it out. Romo, Casilla and Lopez are set to be free agents this winter, and there are a number of top late-inning options will be available to the masses, and the Giants will have money to spend. 

GM Bobby Evans said in Thursday's press conference that the Giants will not be overhauling the bullpen. Instead, there could be players that are due for a bigger role as their careers get going. Derek Law and Hunter Strickland are two relievers that come to mind. That does not mean that a key late-inning reliever won't be making their way to San Francisco this offseason. 

First on the list is a player that comes with some baggage in the form of a domestic violence incident last off-season. 

Aroldis Chapman

Over a seven-year career, Chapman has an ERA just over two (2.08) and has been throwing the hardest he has in his career this season, averaging triple digits. Adding Chapman to the back-end of the Giants bullpen would likely solve a lot of woes, but the problem with Chapman (aside from the baggage and all of the PR work it would take to sell him to the public, which is a big deal), is that Chapman is likely to be courted by just about every team. We've seen free agents snub the Giants in the past, and if Chapman is coming off of a curse-breaking World Series with the Cubs, he may have his sights set as a reunion with either Chicago or with the New York Yankees, who have also expressed interest. 

His price tag is going to be ridiculous. If you hold by the rule of thumb that a one win player (according to WAR) is worth roughly $8M, then Chapman's 2.7 WAR in a shortened season due to suspension would have him at just under $22M--a season. Chapman will be entering his age 29 season in 2017, and with a reliever that throws that hard, the velocity is going to decrease at some point, and likely before his contract is up. It's unlikely that he'll be as effective when that happens, and that would certainly make him not worth whatever outrageous sum he commands. 

Keep in mind that the Giants will also have to fill an outfield spot or two this winter, and some starting pitching depth would be a nice addition. Spending that much on one player, let alone a reliever, likely isn't in the cards for San Francisco. 

Kenley Jansen

Yes he's a Dodger at the moment, but he would look good in orange and black. The Dodgers will likely ante up to keep their closer, but it could be worth a shot for the Giants to help themselves while also weakening a divisional rival. Like Chapman, Jansen will be in his age 29 season (he's slightly older), but has a career ERA of 2.20, which includes a 1.83 mark this season. He has struck out 13.63 per nine, which is just a shade under Chapman's rate, and walked just 1.44 per nine, which is over one less than the left-hander. 

Again, the price tag could play a role here, as Jansen finished with a WAR of 3.2. That should fetch him a similar price tag as Chapman, but my gut is telling me he'll get much, much less if only for the fact that he doesn't throw as hard, averaging 93.6 miles per hour with his heater. Between the two, Jansen may even be the better long-term investment given his lower walk rates since 2013, along with the ability to sell him to the fan base. 

Mark Melancon

The former Pirate closer was traded to Washington at the deadline in the middle of his age 31 season. Between the two clubs, Melancon has posted a stellar 1.64 ERA, but still doesn't get national acclaim because he has been relegated to a smaller market for the past few seasons, which could help the Giants just a touch. Melancon is far from an unknown in the baseball community, and will be heavily sought after this off-season, but will likely have to wait until the two bigger fish ahead of him sign to see what his market is. Either that, or jump ahead of the market and sign with a team that shows legitimate interest. 

The one concern with Melancon is that he has tossed over 70 innings in each season since 2013, which could lead to a regression in performance down the line. His age doesn't necessarily matter, as he relies on a fastball (91.8 mph), cutter (91) and curve while mixing in a changeup now and again. The cutter gets the majority of the work at a 63.3% rate. Melancon finished the regular season with a 1.8 WAR, and should get somewhere in the $10-12M per year range, if not a bit more. 

Melancon is the kind of player it seems like the Giants would go after. He's not the shiniest tool in the box, but he can certainly get the job done. 

Other Relievers of Note:

Joaquin Benoit is 39 and could be had on a one-year deal, if he doesn't retire. He's likely more of a setup option, but would be another player that the Giants could definitely make a run at. 

Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez had yet another solid season in 2016 with the Detroit Tigers, posting a 3.24 ERA while collecting 44 saves. His implosion in the second-to-last weekend of the season may have cost the Tigers a wild card berth, however. If the other options choose other destinations, K-Rod wouldn't be a terrible choice, but he wouldn't be at the top of the list. 

Luke Hochevar, currently of the Royals, has solid peripheral stats (9.64 K/9, 2.17 BB/9) and had a 3.86 ERA in 2016, outperforming his FIP by a slight margin. Inserted into AT&T Park, he could see those numbers trend downward a bit, and could be a solid bullpen piece, though not necessarily a late-inning guy. 

Joe Smith is a solid buy-low candidate that Dave Righetti could get some usage out of. He has some closing experience, but has generally been a "get you out of trouble" reliever over the last few seasons. He's had a down year as his strikeout and walk rates have trended in the wrong directions, but in 2014 he tossed 74 2/3 innings while holding a 1.81 ERA. 

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