The Giants made it official after the Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, naming Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito their starters in St. Louis the next two days.
Madison Bumgarner, who took the loss in Game 1 after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings, will spend the rest of the NLCS in the bullpen.
Lincecum pitched two scoreless innings in relief in Game 1, and the Giants made it pretty obvious afterwards that their preference was to pitch in Game 4. It’ll be his first postseason start after three relief appearances in which he’s allowed one run and amassed a 9/1 K/BB ratio in 8 1/3 innings.
Zito will be making his second postseason start. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up two runs in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Reds, yet the Giants won anyway. They’ve prevailed in each of his last 12 starts.
With Lincecum starting, it will be interesting to see what the Giants do behind the plate Thursday. Hector Sanchez was Lincecum’s primary catcher throughout the second half, with Buster Posey often shifting to first base in Lincecum’s starts. However, the Lincecum-Posey pairing has worked out great so far during the postseason relief appearances. If Posey moves to first, then Brandon Belt, who is 3-for-11 with a double and an RBI in the NLCS, will take a seat.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.