The San Francisco Giants typically are not big spenders in free agency, but after seeing their 2016 season collapse due to bullpen issues, they knew they had to address the situation in a big way.
In came Mark Melancon on a four-year, $62 million deal, and out went veterans Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez, who have been vital to the team’s previous World Series runs, but had down seasons in 2016.
Melancon is a player the Giants have coveted since last season’s trade deadline; after not acquiring him, general manager Bobby Evans told WestCoastMLB.com that the team regretted not pulling the trigger on a deal involving Melancon.
The Giants’ interest in him was reciprocated. He wanted to be a Giant.
“Obviously, you need to have the team be interested in you and the Giants were definitely at the top of my list,” Melancon told FanRag Sports at the team’s Spring Training complex. “I was excited to know that they were interested in me; I had a great visit out there, things just seemed to flow really well.”
Melancon weighed the pros and cons of each interested team, and when considering the Giants, he realized there weren’t many cons.
They are a contending team, something Melancon said was “at the top of the list” when contemplating his next destination. His familiarity with Hunter Pence — his teammate in Houston in 2010 and ’11 — helped make his decision easier.
“Having played with Hunter, I knew what [kind of] a teammate he is on and off the field and the type of competitor he is. I know if he resonated with other guys in this environment that this clubhouse would be incredible.”
Pence isn’t the only influence that made the closer’s decision easy. It’s a team with a contender tag that’s far from rebuilding, coupled with manager Bruce Bochy, who’s entering his tenth season in the Bay Area and spent time with Melancon at an MLB All-Star event in Taiwan.
“One hundred percent,” Melancon said when asked if the core group of players helped influence his decision. “That was a huge factor. Stable environment, Bochy is a standout manager and really good with the bullpen. I’ve had some really good experiences with him, which was exciting and comforting at the same time.
“Given their history of winning, the core group of guys that they have, I thought I’d fit really well.”
Of course, Melancon also had 62 million reasons for signing with the Giants, but because of the vast interest in him, money never became a priority.
“It was obviously put into account,” Melancon said, “but when you have multiple teams right there, it’s not a factor. It is kind of where you want to be and I was really fortunate and blessed for the decision not to have to come down to money.”
Now in the place he wants to be, Melancon is fitting right in with his new teammates just how he anticipated; the chemistry is continuing to grow, especially with Buster Posey, with whom he’s excited to work.
“You can’t pick another team that has Buster,” Melancon said, adding that their “relationship is already growing like I thought it would.”
And if everything goes as the Giants think, the door will be closed on last season’s late-inning issues with Melancon in town.
By Robert Murray