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Brandon Lyon and the last spot in the bullpen

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The Giants are interested in Brandon Lyon. What does that mean for the rest of the bullpen?

Thearon W. Henderson

The headline, via Andrew Baggarly:

Giants in deep discussions with Brandon Lyon

How about that?

Giants: In 2007, you pitched in seven games against us. In four of those games, the Diamondbacks won by a single run.

Brandon Lyon: Yeah.

Giants: You didn't allow a run. Seven outings, no runs.

Lyon: Yeah?

Giants: The Giants lost six of the seven games in which you faced them. If you had blown one of those holds, one of those saves, the Giants would have won. Which means they would have had a lower draft pick in 2008.

Lyon: So?

Giants: If you're not a shutdown reliever in those games … the Giants don't draft Buster Posey.

Lyon: Oh … my … god.

Giants: And if the Giants don't draft Buster Posey, there's no championship in San Francisco. We're looking for a middle-of-the-order hitter right now. We don't have money for a back-of-the-bullpen reliever. We're not talking right now.

Lyon: Whoa.

Giants: A pitch you made to Omar Vizquel in 2007 is why you're going to say the next words out of your mouth.

Lyon: I need to sit down. This is too heavy.

Giants: Because Omar Vizquel couldn't handle your high fastball six years ago, you just said that.


That part wasn't really in Baggarly's article! The article was about right-handed reliever Brandon Lyon, and how the Giants are working to sign him for the last spot in the bullpen. And that's the key point: "last spot." With Brandon Lyon in the fold, there's no room for Brian Wilson. Which leads us to the binary set of options:

1. Sign Brandon Lyon, who is the absolute archetype of a competent, worthwhile, and completely unexciting bullpen arm, but miss out on the nostalgia/marketing/clubhouse bonus points that would come with Brian Wilson.

2. Sign Brian Wilson, get the nostalgia, marketing, and clubhouse-mirth bonuses, but take a chance that the last pitcher in the bullpen isn't ready, which leads to the Giants relying on someone like Chad Gaudin or Sandy Rosario. (And, oh, minor point, remember that Wilson used to be really, really, really good, and could be again.)

I don't want to minimize the nostalgia/marketing/clubhouse stuff, either. I don't think those are minor points, especially when the competing option is the most boring reliever of our generation. Which is better than the most-hittable or wildest reliever of our generation, don't get me wrong. But Lyon has a boring strikeout rate, a boring walk rate, and a boring runs-allowed rate.

As a last arm in the bullpen, a February signing for a small amount of money, Lyon makes a lot of sense. But remember this is the Guillermo Mota/Clay Hensley memorial spot. These shouldn't be high-leverage innings.

The correct answer might be something internal, actually, like Dan Otero, Gaudin, Dan Runzler, or, heck Yusmeiro Petit. Or Boof Bonser! Don't forget Boof Bonser is probably healthy now.

I have no opinion, actually. Rather, I don't have a strong opinion. I think Wilson, apart from being a mascot, has the best chance of being a substantial help to the bullpen. If we're talking about the last spot in the bullpen, Wilson is the guy who has shown the ability to dominate late innings in the past, and he probably has the best chance of doing it again in the future. But he's also the least likely to provide any value at all, considering what he's coming back from. High risk, high reward. The other options are medium risk, medium reward.

I still go with Wilson, assuming he doesn't get a lot of scratch. Lyon isn't a bad option, though, so he's more like a 1a. And those other players will get a chance anyway because of injury, so this is all for naught. Not. Knot. I just realize I've never typed that phrase before. Huh. The important thing is that I got to write a fake conversation to amuse myself.