Giants Should Sign 2 of Chapman, Jansen and Melancon to Chase 2017 Title

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants need to bolster their bullpen.

The Giants know it. Every other team knows it. Your second cousin who's wrapped up in the election and doesn't really follow baseball knows it.

Luckily for San Francisco, there are a handful of elite closers available in an otherwise-tepid free-agent pool. The Giants, conventional wisdom suggests, will make a strong push to sign Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon.

Here's a thought: What if they signed two of them?

No, it won't be cheap. Chapman is seeking a deal in the $100 million range, per Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago. He probably won't get it, but it gives you a sense of where negotiations will begin.

Is it worth it for San Francisco, or any team, to blow most of its offseason capital on a couple of relievers?

Yes, if they are the right relievers.

The Giants have other needs, to be sure. They hit the third-fewest home runs (130) last season and scored the fourth-fewest runs after the All-Star break. They've also got an impending hole in left field. 

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They could address both issues by signing Yoenis Cespedes, who opted out of his contract with the New York Mets.

The Cuban slugger would instantly upgrade San Francisco's offense, no argument there. He's also 31 years old and could command $150 million. 

Really, the Giants lineup isn't in terrible shape. The team has a homegrown infield core of catcher Buster Posey, shortstop Brandon Crawford, first baseman Brandon Belt and second baseman Joe Panik.

Right fielder Hunter Pence missed more than 50 games to injury in 2016. If he can stay healthy, his reliable 20-plus-homer pop will provide a boost.

The Giants also have hopes for the young duo of Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, who have shown promise in limited action and could take over in left.

In the rotation, meanwhile, San Francisco is stacked with ace Madison Bumgarner, co-ace Johnny Cueto, lefty Matt Moore, righty Jeff Samardzija and last year's surprise rookie, Ty Blach.

Which brings us back to the bullpen. Overall, Giants relievers ranked exactly in the middle of the pack in 2016 with a 3.65 ERA. But closer Santiago Casilla wilted as the season progressed and finished with an untenable eight blown saves.

Santiago Casilla melted down as the Giants' closer in 2016.
Santiago Casilla melted down as the Giants' closer in 2016.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

By the time the playoffs rolled around, San Francisco was counting on an ill-defined committee, which collapsed in spectacular fashion in Game 4 of the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Giants enter 2017 in need of reinforcements. Casilla is a free agent, along with setup man Sergio Romo and lefty specialist Javier Lopez, all of whom were key parts of San Francisco's 2010, 2012 and 2014 title runs. 

San Francisco recently met with representatives for Chapman, Jansen and Melancon, per MLB Network's Jon Morosi

That's no shock, but it doesn't explain why the Giants would go for more than one of them.

For that, you need to look to the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians, who proved in 2015 and 2016 how far a loaded bullpen can carry you.

In 2015, Kansas City rode the trio of Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis to a title. This year, the Indians overcame a depleted rotation and made it to Game 7 of the World Series thanks to the 1-2 bullpen buzzsaw of closer Cody Allen and super-setup man Andrew Miller.

It's the new model. The secret sauce for clubs seeking October success. 

The Giantswith their competent lineup, strong starting rotation and No. 2-ranked team defense—could replicate it.

Imagine, for a moment, if San Francisco inked Jansen and Melancon. The former was an All-Star last season for the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, posting a 1.83 ERA with 104 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. Melancon, meanwhile, put up a 1.64 ERA in 71.1 innings with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals

Mark Melancon posted a 1.64 ERA between the Pirates and Nationals.
Mark Melancon posted a 1.64 ERA between the Pirates and Nationals.Rob Carr/Getty Images

Melancon is 31 and Jansen 29. A long-term commitment to either would carry risk on the back end. Same goes for the 28-year-old Chapman, whose triple-digit heater and 1.55 ERA in 58 innings are offset from an optics standpoint by the domestic violence suspension that cost him 30 games in 2016.

And there's always the issue of convincing a closer to accept a setup role.

Still, there's upside aplenty, as McCovey Chronicles' Grant Brisbee spelled out:

While the Giants will hopefully be active on the Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen market, there's a small, unrealistic part of me that wants both of them. That's how to build a not-so-secret postseason weapon. Have one guy who can lock down the ninth inning (and eighth, too, if it's October), and have one guy who can float around and be an automatic face card to slip in whatever hand you're dealt.

There are other routes the Giants could go. General manager Bobby Evans was in attendance at Holland's recent showcase, as the former Kansas City closer works his way back from Tommy John surgery, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Holland looked healthy, Sherman notes, though he's yet to regain his mid-90s velocity.

His agent, Scott Boras, suggested Holland "would be ideal for a lot of teams who cannot do the five- or six-year commitment it might take for three guys out on the market," per Sherman.

San Francisco could also give closing duties to an in-house option such as Hunter Strickland, whose fastball tickles 100 mph. 

There's wiggle room, and the Giants shouldn't dismiss the notion of targeting a bat like Cespedes. 

But this is a chance to be bold and, yes, a little reckless. Picture Strickland in the seventh followed by Melancon and Jansen. Or perhaps Holland if the Giants believe he's healthy, or Chapman if they can get past his baggage and if his price inches down.

That's the type of pen that could propel a club to glory. For the Giants, it could erase the bad taste of last season's early playoff exit and maybe even bring another trophy home to the Bay.

It'll take a boatload of cash. It'll depend on the pitchers in question spurning other suitors, of which there will be many. 

Why not take a crack, though?

It's an odd year. What have they got to lose?


All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.


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