Bullpen #1?

Going into the offseason, the main thing that was on Giants' fans minds was the bullpen woes suffered by their beloved team, which ultimately cost them a spot in the playoffs. However, as we look closer into the situation, are the Giants as strapped in the pen as most seem to think?

Like everything in the offseason, nothing is for certain, especially when it comes to the Giants. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how painful it was to watch Felipe Alou signal to the area down the left field line. Some of us didn't even care to watch Jim Brower and Dustin Hermanson load the bases with walks, or Matt Herges give up a three run bomb.

On the other hand, walking away from the Herges experiment as closer fiasco, the Giant relievers did fairly well after that. Of course, this was after the fact that Herges was made the reason for all of the Giants' failures up to that point.

There are mixed feelings about re-signing Hermanson to be the team's closer next season. After suffering from a shaky bullpen that the Giants had last season, fans are demanding a top notch closer... Troy Percival has come up, and even Pedro Martinez's name has been thrown around.

They have the reputation and the name to make most people happy. However, with the name comes a price... A price the Giants' shouldn't be willing to give. Who wants a Robb Nen 2003/2004, part II? Both Percival and Martinez have had their moments of fame, and both have suffered from injuries recently. Is it a risk the Giants should take?

Granted, Percival and Martinez are two of the best arms in recent history. There is no doubt that they can probably help the Giants, but how much and how long are the Giants willing to invest in a closer? Especially since GM Brian Sabean mentioned finding a center fielder and shortstop of the future. Those don't come cheap either.

The answer lies within the organization. Don't give Hermanson more than $2mil a year, and don't sign him for more than two years, but make sure he's here next season. This will give young arms like David Aardsma, and maybe eventually Jesse Foppert (who belongs in the pen), a chance to develop into a possible closer of the future for the Giants.

That should solve the big closer issue. Now, it'll be ridiculous to say that the Giants don't need to find another reliever off the market this offseason. We saw what happened last season when we traded away Joe Nathan and let Tim Worrell go without replacing them.

Brower would serve as a solid set up man, and despite being part of a deteirating bullpen, did fairly well. The ideal thing would be for the Giants to get a lights out set up man, but how "lights out" do you want a reliever to be? All relievers have their bad days and good days. If it's one thing Sabean's been good at, is finding good contracts for solid pitchers (see Scott Eyre and Brower).

Moments of failure will always stand out over moments of success, which is the case with Tyler Walker. Walker is a young arm, and his first year in the majors was a solid one. He was able to come into games as a long reliever, and in tighter situations. Alou depended on him whenever he needed a guy who was willing to do anything to help his team.

Herges is probably one of the Giants fans blame for last season. However, if Herges, and that's a big if, returns back to his dominate set-up/middle relief form of the second half of 2003 to help the Giants of 2005, all, or most, would be forgotten. One of the most important things for Herges to recover is his change-up, which was flat during his closer stint, but seemed to re-emerge towards the end of the season.

Eyre had the best numbers last season in stranding inherited runners. The key to Eyre is not to use him against righties. The one thing Eyre has trouble doing is inducing a groundball, which Jason Christiansen could do, but the Giants do have Wayne Franklin waiting in the wings, although Franklin did have more moments of failures as opposed to moments of success.

Still not satisfied? Of course not. We will never be satisfied until Carlos Beltran is batting behind Barry Bonds, and Pedro is our closer. Dream on. Let's get back to reality. The Giants need to stop doing what they've been doing in the past few years, and start thinking more intelligently. Stop drawing up ridiculous contracts for mediocre players (or bad players), and start making offers players can't refuse.

Sara Kwan is a writer and co-publisher for SFDugout.com. Got a bone to pick? Just want to say hi? Hit me up: kwanchino@alpha-q.net.

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