Melancon ready to rescue San Francisco bullpen
Mark Melancon stood behind the podium at his new home and buttoned up a jersey with a familiar number: 41.
Bobby Evans acknowledged the passing of the torch from one Giant bullpen anchor — Jeremy Affeldt, in case you forgot — to another:
“Notice the number, quite a legacy to live up to.”
The number-sharing was a coincidence, but signified the truth behind Melancon’s signing. He’d be the Affeldt-like-linchpin the Giants so desperately needed to tie up an otherwise messy ‘pen.
With that ninth-inning guy in place — a role Bochy and his crew scrambled to fill throughout the 2016 season — the other bullpen pieces will fall, said the relieved manager with a smile:
“That closer makes the rest of the bullpen so much better, because you are able to put them in their defined roles. I think with the weapons we have, three good left handers and on the right side, we saw (Derek) Law and his improvement and (Hunter) Strickland. So I’m very confident that we’re going to have a good bridge to Mark, there. It’s just going to stabilize our pen, to have someone on the back end like Mark.”
The bridge, last season, was much too long. A ninth inning man, paired with a rotation hungry for innings, shortens it for a slew of promising young guns the Giants couldn’t quite place before.
Evans said he was open-minded to adding additional arms, though nothing fancy. The Giants would drop money on a left fielder before another arm, for now it seems they are done splashing. The Giants are OK with the arms they have, said Evans:
“It’s a good core, and we have a lot to work with.”
The presumed late-inning pecking order is already starting to take shape. Law, Strickland and lefty Will Smith could own the eighth inning. Lefties Steven Okert and Josh Osich are up in line for late-game matchups. George Kontos moves up the ranks as an early-to-late inning bridge.
Affeldt and Lopez, particularly, were known as the clubhouse sages; the young arms openly acknowledged times they sought advice and reassurance from the two vets. Osich even called a retired Affeldt during a rough patch for some guidance, at one point in the dark second-half days of 2016.
Melancon is known to have a similar clubhouse presence — the Nats are said to be reeling from the abrupt rejection. Perhaps No. 41 is the perfect one for him.
So we know the Giants are feeling like they got the good end of this deal. What does Melancon get out of this? Aside from the whopping $62 million/ four year deal, the decision was pretty simple, he said:
“I felt like this was the best fit. From day one, this was such an attractive organization. And after meeting everyone, solidified that more.”
“Those two guys up the middle, being a ground ball pitcher, that’s kind of an attractive thing to have two Gold Glovers and having to throw to Buster is icing on the cake. When you put things together on paper and you think who do you want to throw to and have back you up, this team stands out.”
Wilson Ramos’ imminent departure from Washington could have slid a few more chips to the Giants’ side, too. Not that Posey is compensation — he’s the icing because of his superior framing capabilities. He leads the MLB, according to StatCorner.
Melancon incurred a 54 percent groundball rate in 2016, which is light work for the pair of infielders up the middle.
At the end of the day, though, Melancon cited Bochy, the overwhelming outpouring of support from players like Hunter Pence (they did yoga together), George Kontos (were drafted to the Yankees together):
“That was one of the more impressive things that I’ve witnessed, is how many guys have reached out to me in such a short period of time.”
The Giants’ winning attitude, he said, was the ultimate draw:
“I didn’t consider anyone that didn’t want to be in that position or wasn’t going to do everything they could to get in that position. … It was just so impressive how they were all about winning, they were all in.”
For Baer, this signing marked a mission accomplished:
“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he’s meant to be a Giant. …We’re looking forward to a lot of success with you in the ninth inning. “