AT&T PARK — Flanked by Larry Baer to his left and Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy to his right, Bobby Evans made it clear that there will be not closer by committee for the San Francisco Giants in 2017.
“I think that the bullpen performs at a much higher level when you know who your ninth-inning guy is,” the Giants general manager said, as he sat on the stage during the team’s end-of-year press conference on Thursday at AT&T Park.
“It puts everybody at ease. It helps Boch as he defines roles. I think with ambiguity, it creates tension and unknowns that can detract from performance and ultimately lead to struggles. So, we’ve got to do everything that we can do to make sure we’re clear on who’s finishing our games.”
Just days after Bochy sent five relievers to the mound in the ninth inning of the club’s epic collapse in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Evans insisted that the Giants will “explore all options” to find their new bullpen ace.
The brass whiffed on that goal back at the trade deadline, while competing in what Sabean — the executive vice president of baseball operations — called a “seller’s market.”
“There were times early on where you mentioned a name [of a closer] and there were instances where you were told you just don’t have enough,” Sabean explained.
This time around, the circumstances have changed, as the team has the payroll flexibility to chase one of the top names on a free-agent market boasting a talented crop of high-end closers.
“We have every commitment for 2017 to return to a championship caliber club,” said Baer, the team CEO. “Resources will be expended, as necessary, to get us there.”
Evans said the payroll will be even higher than the $172 million figure from 2016. With the closer’s spot and left field standing out as the club’s only glaring needs, there will be plenty of cash to reel in one of the top-end relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen.
— With Angel Pagan one of the six Giants set to hit free agency, the team will almost certainly have a new left fielder next spring. Evans sounds inclined to give Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker a crack at winning that job.
“I think Parker and Williamson deserve our due diligence,” Evans said. “But we can’t limit ourselves to internal options. We have to look at all scenarios.”
Evans said the team projects Parker and Williamson to offer more power than ex-Giant Adam Duvall, who left the park 33 times for the Cincinnati Reds in 2016. The GM added the caveat that AT&T is no Great American Ball Park.
As for external options, Yoenis Cespedes is positioned to be the most sought after outfielder.
— The Giants will have a couple of new coaches as both third base coach Roberto Kelly and first base coach Billy Hayes were removed from their respective posts. Evans said it was still to be decided if the coaches would be reassigned elsewhere in the organization.
“We feel like we just need to grow our leadership on the field in terms of how we approach our base running and our overall efforts first to third and second to home,” Evans said. “We want to look at some different leadership there. I feel like we can get stronger.”
— Evans said he’s been in touch with Madison Bumgarner’s agent regarding the left-hander’s contract situations. Bumgarner makes $11.5 million in 2017 has $12 million club options for the two seasons after that.
Baer hedged when asked how big of a priority it is to re-work the deal.
“I think that remains to be seen,” Baer said. “It will be the product of conversations going forward. He’s signed for a few more years. His value to the Giants is sort of incalculable. He’s been a tremendous asset for us. He’s done historic things.”
— Following Tuesday night’s loss, Bochy said he made a point to single out the contributions of the team’s pending free-agents when he addressed the squad.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s baseball,” Bochy said. “But what they’ve done for us and our success, I couldn’t thank them enough. So, I made the point to thank all of them at that point and I talked to all of them after things settled down.”
The list includes Pagan, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Gregor Blanco and Santiago Casilla. Bochy didn’t have the chance to talk with Casilla — his deposed closer — but he plans to in the coming days.
“This guy really helped us put some rings on our fingers and I’ll never forget that.”
— Bochy also said he’s feeling great health-wise after missing an August game in Miami due to an overnight stint in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat.
“I’m fine,” Bochy said. “Trust me, I’m fine.”
“My health really has nothing to do with the stress of this game. I did happen to get a bad gene from my dad and I’ll thank him for that when I see him, but I work out everyday.
“It’s not a situation where I’m thinking about, ‘Well for my health I need to take a break whatever.’ No. I’m hungry. I’m hungry to get back to the World Series and win another one. I couldn’t feel better to be honest.”Bobby EvansBrian SabeanBruce BochyLarry BaerMLBSan Francisco Giants