The San Francisco Giants were able to sneak into the 2016 playoffs despite having one of the worst bullpens in baseball. But that problem should be shored up with the signing of Nationals free-agent closer Mark Melancon at the Winter Meetings.
The Giants of course won a World Series in every even-numbered year this decade and they might have done so again this past season if their bullpen didn't implode in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs, who rallied to win in the top of the ninth and eliminate San Francisco.
The team reportedly has agreed on a four-year, $62 million deal with Melancon, who started last season with Pittsburgh but was traded to Washington at midseason. The right-hander posted a 1.64 ERA with 47 saves between the two teams. He also struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings, earning his second consecutive and third overall All-Star nod. It marked the third season in a row Melancon has broken the 30 save mark, leading the MLB in 2015 with 51.
Melancon, who turns 32 in March, isn't the conventional elite closer like an Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, the top two free-agent closers on the market. Melancon's fastball is in the low 90s and he doesn't strike batters out at a high rate. But since 2013, Melancon ranks third in ERA (1.80), fourth in walks per nine innings (1.4), and 30th in hard-hit rate (24.7 percent) among 222 relievers. Washington was hoping to re-sign him and did offer four years but not at the money the Giants did. Will San Francisco's MLB futures odds now get a boost?
Why was a closer priority No. 1 for the Giants? Their 3.65 bullpen ERA was middle-of-the-pack, but their 30 blown saves were most in baseball, while their 58.9 percent save conversion rate was sixth-worst in the majors. The Giants had a 5-2 lead over the visiting Cubs in Game 4 of the NLDS but that bullpen allowed four runs in the top of the ninth. One big rally ended San Francisco's 10-game winning streak when facing postseason elimination.
Currently, San Francisco is +1200 on BetOnline MLB picks to win the 2017 World Series. They aren't done shopping yet as the team is expected to add a corner outfielder.