The 2008 bullpen takes form a little more with the 1-year deal to bring back Tyler Walker. Walker, who served as the Giants closer in 2005 after Armando Benitez went down with an injury, is back for ’08 on a 1-year $750K deal. Walker was traded to the Devil Rays in 2006 but he went down with an arm injury which led to the eventual Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for most of 2007. Walker did some rehab work in A+ and AAA and made it back to the majors by the end of the year and was effective. He only pitched 14.1 innings but he looked good and I was impressed with how quickly he came back from TJ. Walker isn’t going to be a bullpen ace but he’s a decent middle relief option and the Giants might even use him as competition for Brian Wilson in battling for the closers position. Hopefully, the Giants are smart enough to not see Walker as a option at closer but you never know, I think his role will be defined the most by how healthy Chulk is next year, if he is still having health problems, Walker could move into his 6/7th inning role.
Sabean has said as much, in a recent San Jose Mercury News article he stated the club wasn’t planning on dipping into the free agent market for relievers because it’s going to be expensive. I really hate seeing GM’s overspend on relievers when they really aren’t worth it because they tend to bounce around so much between seasons, performance-wise, except for the elite relievers. After Sabean decreed that the bullpen was a concern to be upgraded, I was having nightmares of Scott Linebrink coming to SF (Bochy-connection, check) or an awful potential Benitez-redux in Francisco Cordero. My heart can’t take it anymore.
Here’s the other interesting quote from that article:
The Giants have scouted this year’s crop of relievers from the Japanese League, but they don’t expect to find many good values. The market for Japanese pitchers is expected to soar after the success of Boston’s Hideki Okajima and the Dodgers’ Takashi Saito.
I would really love to get an awesome Japanese reliever, it seems like they’re becoming more and more relevant in today’s baseball bullpen. Depending on price, I’d like to see the Giants pursue Yasuhiko Yabuta or Masahide Kobayashi.
Yasuhiko Yabuta has a career ERA of just 4.03 in his Japanese Baseball career which might seem blah-worthy until you consider that he was a mediocre-to-awful starter for most of his career. It wasn’t until he was turned into a reliever that he found great success. He made that transition 4 seasons ago and since then has been a consistent talent in the bullpen. He throws a fastball in the low-to-mid 90′s but his bread and butter is a devastating forkball that he can throw to either side of the plate.
Kobayashi is the closer for the Chiba Lotte Marines and has expressed interest in playing in the MLB. He throws a fastball in the upper-90′s and an excellent slider. His velocity and slider make him interesting to me. A team looking for closer or setup help could look to Kobayashi to fortify their bullpen.
I’d really like to get either Yabuta or Kobayashi but if I had to pick, I’d probably lean towards Kobayashi just because I like the power fastball + slider combo.