The Giants will have a new closer next year. While it would be morbidly amusing if they re-signed Santiago Casilla and pretended like nothing was wrong, acting surprised at the public outcry, they’re going to spend money on someone. It might be Kenley Jansen, it might be Aroldis Chapman, which is gross, and it might be Mark Melancon. The new closer might even be Brad Ziegler or Greg Holland. But someone will be walking through that door.
The latest rumor, though, makes one think it isn’t going to be either of the top two guys. From Buster Olney:
Chapman and Kenley Jansen are expected to crush past contract records for closers, and sources say that if the bidding for that duo reaches the expected levels, the Giants will not be in play. Rather, they'll focus on other established relievers, such as Mark Melancon, who met with the Giants last week.
Contrast that with last week’s rumor:
Giants official early this week: "We are getting one of the big closers." Mark Melancon scheduled to be in SF today for an in-person visit.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 11, 2016
So what could possibly happen between “We are getting one of the big closers” and shock and awe that said closers are going to be dramatically overpaid? A bucket filled with cold supply and demand, apparently.
Consider the rational universe and everything we know about closers. The previous record for a closer was set by Jonathan Papelbon, for five years and $60 million (after a vesting option). That was a few years ago, so it would make sense that Jansen and/or Chapman would break that record. Jon Heyman predicted all of the dollar figures for the free agent contracts, and he’s still living in that rational universe, so he’s predicting a substantial but reasonable leap:
Aroldis Chapman, $85 million, 5 years
Kenley Jansen, $75 million, 5 years
Scary numbers for dudes who pitch 80 innings a year, but you can understand the Giants’ desire to not repeat last year. They’ll throw money at the problem, and how.
However, this is an irrational baseball universe, and we have the following teams looking for closers:
Other teams, sure, but those are the main five. Focus on the top three for a moment. They have money. They have a clearly stated desire to get either Chapman or Jansen. And there’s a sense around baseball that a super-closer is something of a cheat code in the postseason. If it takes 99 innings to win a World Series, and a team can have a dominant reliever pitch 15 or 20 of them, maybe the team should move past the simple WAR/$ calculations and build a team expressly for the postseason.
Those top three teams are going to beat each other up. Even if the Yankees are more prudent these days, there’s no way Jansen and Chapman’s contracts won’t be related. One isn’t going to sign without being acutely aware of how the other’s negotiations are going. The Dodgers and Cubs are going to spend and spend and spend, and they’re going to be used against each other.
The Giants just might prefer Mark Melancon after all. And after further review, I would prefer Holland and Yoenis Cespedes to Jansen and anybody else if the price starts getting into nine figures. So if the market is getting absurd, maybe the Giants should bow out.
[pre-writes Brad Ziegler and Josh Reddick posts]
That’s a joke, but it’s only a half-joke, sort of like how this site’s tagline was “Welcome, Mike Morse!” for a month before they actually signed him. And, say, that worked out just fine! So maybe we shouldn’t just prepare for the obvious, but embrace it.
Until then, let’s start ramping down our expectations. The Giants have money, but they also have limits. They’re going against teams that don’t have limits. This is a problem we should have seen coming, so don’t be surprised if the next rumor you hear is about the Giants bowing out gracefully.