MLB Free Agency: How Brandon Lyon to the S.F. Giants Would Impact the NL

Ian Casselberry@iancassMLB Lead WriterJanuary 18, 2013

Brandon Lyon is reportedly ready to sign with the Giants.
Brandon Lyon is reportedly ready to sign with the Giants.Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants signing reliever Brandon Lyon would not be the most head-turning move general manager Brian Sabean has made this offseason.

But bringing in the 33-year-old right-hander could make the Giants bullpen even better than it was last season, which could be bad news for the Los Angeles Dodgers or any other team looking to challenge San Francisco for the NL West title or National League pennant.

According to CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly, the Giants are in contract discussions with Lyon. The two sides might have even reached an agreement by now, if not for San Francisco being preoccupied by signing its arbitration-eligible players before contract figures have to be exchanged between player and team by Friday (Jan. 18). 

Last year, Lyon appeared in 67 games between the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays. He compiled a 3.10 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 61 innings. Lyon was limited to only 15 games in 2011 after undergoing surgery to repair a biceps tendon. 

Any thought that Lyon might have been benefitting from facing lesser competition in the NL Central was likely disregarded when he performed well against AL East opponents.

In 30 appearances with the Blue Jays, Lyon struck out 28 batters in 25 innings while posting a 2.88 ERA. Though he pitched what amounts to only a half-season for Toronto, his rate of 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings was the best of his 11-year MLB career. 

If Lyon were to bring that level of performance to the Giants bullpen, his strikeout rate would be the third-best among San Francisco relievers. Only Sergio Romo and Jose Mijares had a slightly higher rate at 10.2 K's per nine innings last year.

However, Lyon's ERA would actually be higher than the Giants' top relievers, which indicates how excellent the overall unit has been. 

Perhaps most important for San Francisco is that Lyon looks to be a better option—or at least a more solid bet at this point—than former closer Brian Wilson, who wasn't tendered a contract by the Giants after the season. 

It appeared that the Giants were interested in bringing back Wilson, but at a much lower price. As explained by the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman, the Giants would have had to offer Wilson a contract worth 80 percent of his 2012 salary before the non-tender deadline.

Since Wilson made $8.5 million last season, that would equal a $6.8 million offer for 2013. For a pitcher coming off the second Tommy John surgery of his career, along with a bullpen that no longer needed him as its closer, that was more than the Giants were willing to pay. 

Wilson is reportedly bitter about being cut loose from the Giants, believing the team should have shown him more loyalty after seven seasons in San Francisco. As a result, he intends to sign elsewhere. 

The team currently showing the most interest in signing Wilson is the New York Mets, who could use a right-handed reliever to go with Bobby Parnell and Frank Francisco at the back end of their bullpen. USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported that Mets GM Sandy Alderson watched him throw last week. 

Yet according to the New York Post's Mike Puma, the Mets weren't very impressed with what they saw from Wilson. A source told Puma that the Mets don't think he's ready to pitch right now, but are willing to take another look at him in spring training to see if there's any improvement. 

What it might come down to is whether Wilson is willing to accept a minor league deal, tweets ESPN New York's Adam Rubin. The Mets would sign him at that rate and offer him more if he makes the team out of spring training.

Wilson apparently wasn't interested in accepting that sort of arrangement from the Giants and would prefer a major league deal from the Mets. 

However, the Giants appear ready to move on as well, if they're offering a contract to Lyon. As Baggarly explains, this would probably be San Francisco's last move of the offseason.

While team vice president Bobby Evans wouldn't close the door entirely on re-signing Wilson, he acknowledged that there are only so many spots on the roster. Signing Lyon would take the last opening available in the bullpen. 

Presuming the Giants carry a 12-man pitching staff during the season, their bullpen would likely be comprised of closer Sergio Romo with Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt as the primary setup men. Along with Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares would give the relief corps three left-handers. The final two spots would be filled by George Kontos and Lyon.

Would that collection of arms improve upon the 3.56 ERA the Giants' bullpen posted last season? The group of relievers' ERA was 15th among the 30 MLB teams—squarely in the middle. Their opponents' batting average of .255 was 25th in baseball in 2012. There is definitely room to get better.


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