Giants bullpen strong, but top-heavy heading into 2012

A full season from Brian Wilson should lead to a substantial contract extension from the Giants. (Michael Macor)

With the San Francisco Giants pitching clearly being a strength, there was no question they needed to re-sign the guys in their bullpen. The Giants have signed most, but they traded Ramon Ramirez to the Mets. The rest of the bullpen needs to be shored up quick in order to be as solid as the last two years.

Brian Wilson – The Giants closer dealt with some injuries last year, most notably to his oblique and right elbow. He did, however, get voted to his third All-Star game and got the save for the National League. Wilson finished the season with 36 saves and a 3.11 ERA. The Giants have Wilson locked up through next season, and if it wasn’t for his injuries, they already would have given him an extension. If Wilson preforms next season, he should see a substantial extension.

Jeremy Affeldt – In Affeldt’s three seasons with the Giants, his numbers are substantially better than the first seven years of his career. Affeldt’s 2011 season was cut short after cutting his hand in an accident while grilling late in the year. This didn’t stop the Giants from picking up his 2012 $5 million option though. After giving him this money, the Giants expect him to maintain or improve on his 2.63 ERA from last season. If he gets off to a slow start, the Giants might look to trade him. I doubt the Giants will get much for him; they would probably have to eat most of his contract, so it could end up hurting them in the long run.

Sergio Romo – After one of the best seasons any reliever has ever had, Romo looks to continue his success in 2012, his fifth season. If Wilson continues to have injury problems, Romo could temporarily assume the closer role. Last season, Romo completed the reliever’s version of a perfect game, retiring 27 batters in a row. His 1.50 ERA was fifth-best in the league of all pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched. Romo is arbitration-eligible for the next three years before becoming a free agent in 2015. If he continues on his blistering pace, he should be paid a lot in the next few years.

Javier Lopez – The Giants gave the lefty specialist a new, two-year deal worth $8.5 million this offseason. The last two seasons, Lopez has been a key part in the Giants’ bullpen and has posted an ERA under 2.75 both years. The Giants hope he can continue this streak and be an integral part of the bullpen.

Santiago Casilla – In his final season of arbitration, Casilla will continue to be the dominating force he has been his entire career. Last season, Casilla was the fill-in closer when Wilson got hurt. In his ninth season, the veteran should continue to have electric stuff. His ERA has gone down in the last two seasons since coming to San Francisco, and last season was a very good 1.74. Casilla has had control issues in his past, but he had 10 fewer walks last season than the season before.

Dan Runzler – In his third season with the Giants, Runzler played in only 31 games and had an ERA over six. Not exactly quality numbers. The Giants expect Runzler to be a big-time lefty coming out of the bullpen in 2012. Hopefully, the 26-year-old can fill the void left from the Ramirez trade.

Steve Edlefsen – Playing in only 13 games last season, Edlefsen qualifies as a rookie for 2012, and the Giants hope he can step up and play beyond his years. Edlefsen can’t be just a roster filler if the Giants expect to make it to the big dance. He has to take after Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and dominate in his rookie season.

The Giants pitching is their greatest tool, and they can’t have any weak links in the chain. There are enough of those in their offense. We will get to that in the next installment, though.

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