The Giants vs. the Dodgers: Closers/Second Base/Third Base

The San Francisco Giants have made their one off-season move with the signing of free agent closer Mark Melancon.

Several teams (the Nationals, and to a lesser extend the Colorado Rockies) went after Melancon but credit Giants GM Bobby Evans for slamming the lid down in early December with a deal worth $64 million over four years.

thegiantscove_logoLast July the Giants went after Melancon when Pittsburgh made him available at the non-waiver deadline, but San Francisco didn’t have the prospects to get a deal done.

But the Nationals did, and in 30 second-half games Melancon put up a 1.82 ERA, a .9 BB/9, and an .809 WHIP to help lead Washington to the NL playoffs.

People living in rural Estonia were aware that the Giants desperately needed to upgrade their bullpen after 30 regular season blown saves. But as San Francisco Chronicle sports writer Henry Schulman recently pointed out, only 9 of those blown saves occurred in the 9th inning, suggesting the bullpen will require further attention.

The Giants have several youngerlaw-derek-giants arms who should at least move the energy dial up in the final three or four innings next year, led by standout RHP Derek Law (2.13 ERA/0.96  WHIP).

And I doubt Manager Bruce Bochy has lost his touch as a bullpen maester, especially with more flexibility and better weapons to attack the final three or four innings of each game next season.

The Los Angeles Dodgers re-signed free agent closer Kenley Jansen to a five year $80 million contract, picking up the best bullpen asset in a free agent and trade marketplace flush with elite closers.

Now the Giants and Dodgers have to either address or ignore their final needs before Spring Training 2017.

Los Angeles is looking at second base options and maybe an upgrade in left field. San Francisco has no left fielder and is hoping one of two older semi-rookies, Mac Williamson or Jarrod Parker, will magically grab the job.

The Giants also made the shaky decision to leave third base in the hands of Eduardo Nunez. Nunez looks like a cheap, one or two year stopgap until the front office feels top minor league prospect Christian Arroyo can take over the hot corner.

If either of these two gambles don’t work out, theoretically San Francisco can upgrade at the July non-waiver trade deadline, if their W/L record warrants it. But again, the organization’s below average minor league system still won’t be able to provide the trade chips needed to get a quality third baseman or left fielder.

The Dodgers look to turn left field over to 24 year old Andrew Toles (.314/.365/.505 in 48 games last season). They have quality options in 25 year-old Trayce Thompson and veteran Andre Ethier if Toles stumbles.

Second base for LA is intriguing. The Dodgers have been tied to trade talks with Minnesota for Brian Dozier (42 HR, 35 doubles) and with Tampa Bay for Logan Forsythe (.778 OPS).

After spending $192 million to re-sign free agents SP Rich Hill, 3B Justin Turner,  and Jansen it is logical to think that GM Farhan Zaidi will solve his second base problem via a trade.

But still out in the free agent ether is Chase Utley, the Dodgers’ 2016 starting second baseman. It’s interesting to compare 38 year-old Utley’s year with that of the Giants’ excellent 26 year-old second baseman Joe Panik:

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Games: Utley 138, Panik 127
OPS: Utley .716, Panik .695
XBH: Utley 43, Panik 38
GDP (grounded into double play):
Utley 0, Panik 14
BA: Utley .252, Panik .239

Defensively there is little comparison. Last season Utley’s DRS (defensive runs saved) was -3, while Panik was at +3.

To compare, the Red Sox Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler of the Tigers both led all Major League second basemen with 12 DRS each in 2016.

Joe Panik‘s DWAR came in at .6 and Utley was -.1 for the season. Chicago’s Javier Baez was tops in among MLB second basemen with a 2.0 DWAR.

Bottom line here is that Chase Utley was serviceable and only cost the Dodgers $7 million last season. He could probably be signed for a year or two with a modest raise. But going any farther past the MLB luxury tax limit may now be a bridge too far for LA’s front office.

While the Giants will be content to cross their fingers and see how things work out in LF and third base, count on the Los Angeles Dodgers to pull off a trade to fill their second base opening by March.