It was reported Tuesday that lefty reliever Will Smith may have to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair damage to his UCL if the second opinion he's going in for doesn't provide great news. Even if he doesn't need the surgery, there won't be a quick fix to what's ailing Smith, meaning that opportunities will open up in the Giants bullpen.
Just a couple of days ago, top prospect Tyler Beede was said to be "very close" to joining the staff in some capacity--whether in the rotation or in the bullpen--and that timeframe may have just been bumped up a tad.
While Beede is a right-hander, the presumptive fifth starter, Ty Blach is a southpaw that is familiar with coming out of the 'pen in San Francisco, which he did on a few occasions late last season. There is a chance that Beede could debut in the rotation early on in the season and bump Blach to the 'pen, but the void left by Smith is a late-inning one, while Blach would be more of a long man with his starting experience. He could become an Andrew Miller of sorts, as he has stated in the past that he is willing to do anything to help the club win, but this likely isn't the route the club would take with his experience level.
Beede would be the most logical option within the organization, but if the Giants decided to look to look around the league, there are a couple of proven lefties that will be free agents at the end of the year that could pique the Giants' interest.
First up is Rockies reliever Jake McGee, who struggled in his first season at Mile High with a 4.73 ERA and an even worse 5.29 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). His strikeout rate went from 11.6 k/9 in 2015 with Tampa Bay to just 7.5 in 2016. The chances of his numbers being the product of Coors Field are relatively high, as McGee posted a 2.91 ERA on the road last year along with an 8.3 k/9 rate.
While the Rockies won't be willing to move him at the onset of the season, he could be a name that gets floated no matter how Colorado is performing due to his struggles at home. The Rox were a sleeper team to contend for a playoff spot this offseason, but as training camp has worn on the injuries have been mounting in camp, as David Dahl (back/rib), Chad Bettis (cancer) and Tom Murphy (forearm fracture) will all miss some time in 2017 and could lead to the team moving some soon-to-be free agents for more pieces later on.
The other option for the Giants to consider would be Mark Melancon's former setup man, Tony Watson. The Pirates are going to need to see a lot of things break their way if they hope to compete in the National League, so chances are that someone like Watson will become available at some point this season. While his spring numbers are not terribly inspiring this year, what with a 16.62 ERA in 4 1/3 innings, his even distribution of groundouts and fly outs from a season ago would lead to plenty of scoreless frames with the Giants defense and the spacious expanse of AT&T Park.
Smith's injury shouldn't cause a panic just yet, but if he is officially lost for the season, then the Giants are going to have to explore some options. Trading for a reliever may not work in the timeframe that they need with competition being tougher in the NL this season, and teams that are hoping to compete will first have to fall out of contention or decide to move some of their pending free agents, but a move could still happen. To open the season, an extra right-hander may be brought along from within, then the Beede/Blach option, then finally trading for a reliever.
There are options to fill the void, but this could end up being a big loss for the Giants.