Let’s not mince words here: the San Francisco Giants lost last season because their bullpen let them down. Not only the NLDS complete meltdown (lest we forget, five pitchers, 24 pitches, four earned runs in the ninth inning). The Giants also blew 30 saves this season, the most since the Cardinals and Mariners blew 31 each in 2008. The bullpen was a nightmare and Bruce Bochy’s insistence on including Santiago Casilla in the bullpen rotation certainly didn’t help matters. With tens of millions of dollars coming off the books this season, and very little coming in the way of increasing obligations, Aroldis Chapman to the Giants is a clean fit. However, the Giants shouldn’t take that dance with the devil.
If you don’t already know, Aroldis Chapman was suspended last season for a domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend. He served his suspension as a member of the Yankees and was later traded to the Cubs. As a fan of a team that has domestic abusers in the past (the 49ers had Ray McDonald, the Kings have Darren Collison), it is a tough go to try to cheer for someone who has done something horrible. The Niners eventually learned their lesson and kicked McDonald to the curb, thankfully. Collison has shown remorse and atoned for his actions, and he remains a King, though one it would be difficult to cheer for. Acquiring a player with an awful incident in his past is a road too far, especially for a progressive city and fan base like San Francisco. By acquiring Chapman, the Giants would be sending the message that domestic violence is something that is acceptable in their locker room, which is the absolute wrong message to send.
Even without the domestic violence in his past, Chapman is projected to be the most expensive reliever this free agency period, with Spotrac.com projecting his annual contract value in the $14 million range. That is projected to be one of the most expensive closer contracts of all-time. If the Giants just needed to replace Casilla as closer, maybe it could be a smart move, but the Giants need two relievers, and with Brett Cecil getting off the board for $40 million over three years on Saturday, their options are waning. Instead, the Giants should leverage the backend of the first tier and get Mark Melancon.
Melancon doesn’t have the dazzling 100 MPH fastball that Chapman has, but he has a better strikeout-to-walk rate, walking about half as many batters as Chapman (since 2010). Melancon is also a whiz at inducing weak contact, which means the Giants’ Gold Glove laden infield can support him and get him the outs. Adding this to spacious AT&T means that paying up for a strikeout master like Chapman is a waste of money. The Giants going after Melancon makes far more sense, as he can play to AT&T Park and the Giants’ strengths at a projected 2/3 the cost of Chapman.
While it would be the flashier move to get Aroldis Chapman, the Giants should instead condemn his violence by not paying him over $14 million a year and go for a player more suited to their team and ballpark tendencies that will cost only $10 million a year. Getting Melancon would make for a better move all-around for the Giants, and it would give them the flexibility to go get Wade Davis, who is on the rebound, to bolster their bullpen, as well.