The Giants have a weird bullpen. The principals have been paid handsomely to stick around the organization, yet the bullpen wasn't very good last year. These are the hand-picked relievers, the guys the Giants want. But last year was kind of a litter box.
When you go through the names individually, it's not like your stomach roils. Sergio Romo? Outstanding. Javier Lopez? Tremendous at what he does. Santiago Casilla? Better than he gets credit for, even if he's not a top-tier setup man most years. Jeremy Affeldt? Pretty bad last year, but … okay, the stomach roils just a little bit, there. Even Jean Machi was much better than the Giants had a right to expect, considering he started the year in Fresno completely out of the picture.
Basically, everything was Jose Mijares's fault. I feel comfortable confirming that without any analysis, research, or supporting evidence. Without Mijares, the Giants would have won 85-90 games or so. Pretty sure. Everyone glare at Jose Mijares.
And, get this, the Giants' plan is basically to jettison Mijares and expect better things from all of the guys who weren't so good. You might be surprised at the Giants' stubborn hope-things-are-better?-I-dunno strategy. And if you're surprised, you might also be from Belgium and are on this site because of a "Ricky Schroder Barry Bonds fan fic" Google search, because you shouldn't be surprised. The plan is to try again.
Then, before the holidays, a wild rumor appears:
I reported earlier the #sfgiants are not trying to sign fun a closer type, but I can confirm conversations with Grant Balfour. Odds? Meh.
Alright, that's not really a rumor. It's more of a tidbit. Once you get past the entertaining and angry Australian you've heard of, the lede is probably that the Giants might be interested in another reliever. Might be interested in paying just a little bit for one. Wouldn't rule out picking one up.
At the risk of repeating this, the givens in the Giants' bullpen:
That's not including Machi, who didn't play his way out of a spot. It doesn't include the eventual Gulliermo Mota or Chad Gaudin-type, which will probably be played by Yusmeiro Petit. And it doesn't include Heath Hembree, who was "hella impressive" last year, according to Northern California scouts. If you include those three, you're at a full bullpen. Any free-agent signing would have to push one of those three out.
I'm not okay pushing Hembree out because, again, he was hella impressive in his cup of coffee. Like that guy a lot.
Not okay pushing Petit out because the Giants need someone to absorb three or four innings when a starter gets knocked out early. It doesn't have to be the actual Petit, but he seems to be the best Petit available.
Which means it's Machi (or George Kontos or Jake Dunning or …) on the bubble. So if the Giants sign someone, they have to figure it like this: Is this reliever better than Jean Machi and extra millions? I'm not sure what the Giants would do with those extra millions if not spend them on a reliever. Maybe use them at the trade deadline. Maybe roll around in the stacks of money like they're high on catnip. But looking at the list of still-available relievers, it's hard, even in the it's-not-my-money mindset, to say, "Yes, that guy is much better than Machi or Kontos or Dunning or Derek Law or a minor-league free agent. Millions better."
Balfour would qualify, I'd think. Because he's rather good, and he's been healthy for a longer time than you might realize. On a two-year deal, I'm thrilled with him. Don't worry about the Orioles' physical. The scuttlebutt around the industry is those dudes are kinda weird.
Anyone else, though? Not seeing a fit. Impact arm or bust. The Balfour tidbit was surprising at first, but it makes sense when you figure what it would take for the Giants to add another reliever. It would take someone worth it. There aren't a lot of worth-it relievers available.