Why Giants feel better about right side of bullpen for 2021


The appearance that ended up being Sam Coonrod's final one in orange and black was memorable for all the wrong reasons. In a twist only made possible by the complications of the 2020 season, Coonrod gave up a walk-off homer to Trent Grisham of the San Diego Padres. The walk-off came at home and in the bottom of the seventh, but that wasn't the only reason coaches in the Giants dugout were stunned.

Coonrod didn't have a good year statistically, but there were times when he looked like one of the best relievers in the National League. Just four days before that loss, he entered in the eighth against the Colorado Rockies and struck out the side. A night later, he struck out two more in a 12-pitch inning to record his third save. 

"He certainly had games where he looked like a surefire closer," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said last week. 

There were many others, though, where Coonrod looked like he was headed back to the minors. He'll now try to find consistency in Philadelphia, and Zaidi said he thought those dominant saves motivated the Phillies to make the deal, noting that other teams also checked in on Coonrod's availability. 

The Giants will turn to others to try and fill what was a gaping hole on the 2020 roster. They had four right-handers make at least 15 relief appearances and all had their issues. Coonrod and Trevor Gott's were the most visible. Tyler Rogers ended up being as dominant as the Giants expected late in the year, but he did have some notable early struggles in big spots. Shaun Anderson had a 3.52 ERA but walked 12 in 15 1/3 innings. 

The Giants went into the offseason needing help from the right side, and after dealing Coonrod, Zaidi said he feels pretty good about what has been accomplished thus far. The moves have not been flashy ones, but when combined, the front office feels the right side of the bullpen is ready to match the left. 

The rebuild started with Matt Wisler, who signed a small one-year deal after being a surprise non-tender by the Minnesota Twins. The Giants didn't expect Wisler to be available, but when he hit the market general manager Scott Harris immediately called his agent. The Giants backed Wisler with John Brebbia, who had a 3.14 ERA in three seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. Throw in Reyes Moronta's return from shoulder surgery and the Giants are adding more than 400 games of big league experience to their bullpen.

"We definitely wanted to create a little bit more experience in that group, particularly from the right side," Zaidi said. "Our right-handed reliever group was a little short on experience. Wisler and Brebbia both have some experience but it might be a place where we continue to look to add experienced arms."

The Giants will keep looking for bargains, in part because Brebbia likely won't return from Tommy John rehab until June at the earliest. There are dozens of solid right-handed relievers still on the market, and there figure to be plenty of players who are willing to sign as non-roster invites just to get in to camp somewhere. That seems to be the most likely path forward for the Giants, who have filled their clubhouse with similar types in Zaidi's two seasons and haven't talked much about being in on the higher-end relievers.

Zaidi said he could see more happening on the relief front -- even hinting there's additional trade interest in some current Giants relievers -- but he also said he's comfortable with what the front office has put together. In addition to the newcomers, the Giants are eager to get a look at Rule 5 pick Dedniel Nuñez and are very high on some homegrown options, with Camilo Doval looking like he has a chance to make the club in the spring. 

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The one bullpen question that hasn't been answered yet is what the Giants will do in the ninth. Their group looks improved, but there's not an obvious closer yet. Rogers has three career saves, Wisler has two and Moronta has one. As much as the Giants are into trying new things, they would like someone to separate from the pack and take the traditional closer role. 

"We'll continue to look externally for guys that might fit that role, but as far as the group we have, I think we'll sort of figure that out on the field," Zaidi said. "That's where adding experience helps. Some of the guys we've added already and may look to continue to add could certainly help in that regard."

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