Sep 28, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; during a pitching change San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) and second baseman Joe Panik (12) and first baseman Brandon Belt (9) and third baseman Conor Gillaspie (21) talk at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco Giants’ even-year magic ended in 2016 with a deflating ninth-inning collapse against the Chicago Cubs in Game 4 of the NLDS. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for the Giants in 2017.
It was a tale of two halves for the Giants in 2016. Before the All-Star break, the Giants owned the best record in baseball at 57-33 and held a comfortable 6.5-game lead over their division-rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
Following the All-Star break, the offense went stale and the team struggled through the Dog Days of Summer. They went 30-42 after the Mid-Summer Classic and finished with an overall record of 87-75. The Dodgers passed the Giants and won the NL West. San Francisco clinched the second Wild Card spot, after edging out the St. Louis Cardinals by one game in the final weekend of the season.
A big weak spot for the 2016 Giants was their inability to close out games. As a team, they led the league in blown saves during the regular season with 30. This issue was never more evident than in Game 4 of the NLDS. The Giants entered the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead. Bruce Bochy sent out four different pitchers in the ninth but none could record three outs before the Cubs took a 6-5 lead. The blown lead knocked the Giants out of the 2016 playoffs.
Flash forward to 2017 and the Giants look like one of the best teams heading into the regular season. The Giants hope that their offseason adjustments can lead them back to the playoffs, a possible NL West title and potentially another World Series title.
Here’s a breakdown of the Giants’ offseason moves and how they fare against their competition in the 2017 season.
Feb 25, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Mark Melancon throws in the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
With plenty of closers on the free-agent market in the offseason, the Giants didn’t struggle signing one. They struck a deal with former Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals’ closer Mark Melancon. The two sides agreed on a four-year, $62 million deal.
In the past three seasons, Melancon has proven that he is one of the best closers in the game. He has 131 saves in that span. In 2016, he finished tied for second in most saves in MLB and in 2015 he led all of baseball in saves with 51.
Melancon holds a 2.60 ERA in his eight-year career. He also has 168 saves and 407 strikeouts. Unlike most closers, Melancon isn’t a big strikeout pitcher. He succeeds as a pitch-to-contact pitcher and that shouldn’t change with the Giants. AT&T Park, a big-time pitcher’s ballpark, works out great for a closer like Melancon.
It’s only a matter of time before Buster Posey becomes a full-time first baseman because of his leg problems. That won’t happen this season or for the next few. The Giants need to preserve Posey behind the plate for as long as possible.
The Giants added former Rockies catcher Nick Hundley in the offseason. They signed him to a one-year, $2 million deal. The addition gives the Giants some depth at catcher and allows the team to use Posey at first more often if the need arises.
In his career, Hundley owns a slash line of .250/.303/.404 with 72 home runs and 305 RBIs. He spent a majority of his nine-year career with the San Diego Padres. Hundley’s also played for the Baltimore Orioles and most recently the Colorado Rockies.
The Giants signed a few veteran players in the offseason to minor league deals with spring training invites. Those veterans include former 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, utility infielder Aaron Hill and 2012 World Series champion with the Giants Michael Morse.
It’s uncertain if the any of the three will make the Giants roster in 2017. As the Giants know well from their three World Series championships since 2010, a team can never have too much veteran leadership. Any or all of the three would bring a great presence to the clubhouse.
Apr 18, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo (54) smiles during the 2014 World Championship Ring Ceremony before the start of the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Two Veteran Outfielders:
Both Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco were vital parts of the Giants’ 2012 and 2014 championship teams. The team declined to sign either during the offseason. This resulted in Blanco signing a minor-league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks while Pagan remains a free agent as he suits up in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico.
The departure of these two leaves the Giants without a current answer in left field. Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker are looking to take over the duties their this coming season.
In 129 games last season, Pagan hit .277/.331/.418. He also hit the most home runs in his career with 12 and drove in 55 runs. Health was always an issue for Pagan, though.
Blanco struggled in 2016. He hit .224/.309/.311 with just one home run and 18 RBI. Nonetheless, the Giants lost two veteran players in their outfield.
Three Bullpen Pieces:
One main emphasis for all three of the Giants’ championships was a great bullpen. Without their strong bullpen, the Giants might not have won a ring at all. The Giants lost reliever Jeremy Affeldt to retirement after the 2015 season.
Three more Giants’ relievers are no longer with the team heading into 2017. Those three guys are Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo. Lopez retired, Casilla signed with the Oakland A’s and Romo signed with the Dodgers.
The Giants possess the talent to compete with the Dodgers for the NL West title in 2017. They could easily find themselves battling for the World Series trophy in 2017, as well. They’ll need players to step up, but expect big things in San Francisco this season.