Kapler calls new Giant McGee ‘nice candidate' to be closer


Tony Watson's free agency was remarkably quiet until Wednesday morning, when it was revealed that the former Giant will be in Phillies camp as a non-roster invitee. About three hours later, the Giants officially announced the deal with the man who looks poised to take Watson's role. 

The Giants had to wait a few days to announce the two-year contract with Jake McGee since the veteran lefty took the roster spot of rehabbing right-hander John Brebbia, who couldn't be put on the 60-day injured list until camp started. But once they did, manager Gabe Kapler reiterated what seemed clear last week: McGee will get a lot of those late innings that went to Watson, including save opportunities. 

"Jake has a great chance to earn opportunities to pitch high-leverage innings for us late in games," Kapler said. "He's a nice candidate to close games for us, based on how many strikes he threw last year, how many bats he missed -- he just did the things that you expect out of a late-inning guy, like miss bats and throw strikes.

"He's dependable. He's been doing this for a really long time."

McGee, 34, is entering the 12th season of a career that has had plenty of ups and downs. He was one of the AL's best relievers at times in Tampa Bay, and had 15 saves in his first year in Colorado. But McGee struggled in 2018 and 2019 and was released by the Rockies last summer. He caught on with the Los Angeles Dodgers and took their advice to basically throw his mid 90s fastball on every pitch, posting a 2.66 ERA and striking out 33 in 20 1/3 innings. McGee ranked in the 99th percentile in baseball last year in strikeout rate, 96th percentile in walk rate, and 87th percentile in whiff percentage.

The Giants were intrigued by McGee's pitch characteristics and McGee was equally eager to continue digging into the numbers. He said he had a few offers in free agency but was drawn to the Giants' young and numbers-based staff. 

"I like the younger staff they have and the direction they're going," he said. 

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That staff includes a pitching coach -- Andrew Bailey -- that McGee faced plenty of times earlier in his career and a bullpen coach -- Craig Albernaz -- who was a teammate in Tampa Bay. McGee already is familiar with two of the organization's bigger stars, having played with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford in the World Baseball Classic, and he said that during multiple offseasons at the Driveline facility in Washington, he worked with current Giants coordinator of pitching sciences Matt Daniels. 

There were a lot of connections for the Reno resident, and during the recruiting process McGee hit it off with his new manager, who used a variety of options in the ninth in his first year but has since said he wants a more set-in-stone closer in 2021. McGee, who has 45 career saves, said he's ready to take on that role if that's Kapler's decision at the end of camp.

"I think my stuff is back to where it was after last year with the Dodgers," he said. "My stuff played really well and I have everything to keep it that way."

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