Giants Start to Reassemble Baseball’s Best Bullpen

When baseball people speak of off season “rebuilding” it is usually in reference to a team at a complete dead end, staring off into a storm-clouded future of bleak nothingness. Kind of like how I felt while doing my taxes last year. 

A team knows it’s reached the abyss when even the .500 teams briefly reanimated and smacked them around the previous season. Last place ballclubs with little hope of moving up in their division the following year (or the following three years) use the term “rebuilding” to reassure their fan base that the team’s front office is at least doing something, anything, to give the impression there’s some semblance of command and control still in play.

But there’s another side to the traditional rebuild, and the San Francisco Giants are in that process right now. Call it “some reassembly is required” as the Giants take the necessary steps to ensure their outstanding 2010-11 bullpen will be in place for the 2012 campaign.

ball-in-gloveSan Francisco started by signing impending free agent lefty specialist Javier Lopez, 34, to a two year $8.5 million deal– a well-earned raise from his $2.375 million 2011 salary. There is little doubt Lopez could have angled a bigger payday in the open market where the number of above average left-handed power assassins are always a rarity. But apparently being happy in the workplace and the promise of another World Series ring meant more than making an extra $300,000 a year. Very cool.

The Giants immediately followed up by exercising their $5 million option with another leftly in the pen, Jeremy Affeldt. Affeldt is not currently in the $5m value range but San Francisco needed to lock him up quick; look for both sides to agree on a two year deal somewhere south of Lopez’s range in the next month or so.

If anyone still doubts the 2010 Series champs are all in with pitching, find me another team with two non-closer left-handers in their bullpen pulling down $9.25 million a year.

Closer Brian Wilson’s two year $15 million deal concludes in 2012, leaving three pieces of the bullpen left to reassemble: arbitration-eligible pitchers Sergio Romo, Ramon Ramirez, and Santiago Casilla. Romo is the team’s set-up man and is indispensable– look for a two-year deal and Romo’s $1.3 2011 salary to snap into the $5+ million a year range. Ramirez and Casilla should fit comfortably into the 2012 budget.

In particular, Casilla has been a huge contributor to the team’s bullpen success and has put up remarkably consistent numbers the past two years:

S. Casilla WHIP SO/per 9 innings BB/per 9 innings ERA  IP
      2010 1.19  9.1 2.1 1.95 55.1
      2011 1.12  7.8 1.8 1.74 51.2

The bullpen, along with starting pitching and run scoring, comprise the three critical components of a winning team. San Francisco is putting its bullpen house in order and the team’s premier starting pitching got even better with the arrival of Ryan Vogelsong last season. What remains is that very large honking elephant taking up so much space in the room, continually bellowing about scoring runs.

Will Carlos Beltran please stand up…

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