The Giants haven’t had a set closer since Will Smith departed to sign a three-year contract with the Braves after the 2019 season, but on Wednesday they finalized a deal with another left-hander who could be in line to take over the role.
McGee, whose contract includes a third-year club option for the 2023 season, posted a 2.66 ERA over 20 1/3 innings for the Dodgers last year and has 45 saves over his 11-year career in the Majors.
“He just did the things that you expect out of a late-inning guy, like miss bats and throw strikes,” Kapler said. “He’s dependable. He’s been doing this for a really long time. He’s got one pitch that’s really unique and plays really well. He continues to refine his breaking ball, but he’s got a good chance to be in leveraged spots for us at the end of games.”
McGee, 34, is a fastball specialist, as he threw the pitch 96.4 percent of the time in 2020, according to Baseball Savant. He said that his fastball’s unique characteristics — it features both vertical and horizontal movement and averaged 95 mph last year — allow the pitch to remain effective despite his high usage. He also throws a slider, though he used it only 10 times in 2020.
“They said they did a lot of research and looked at me a lot,” McGee said of the Giants. “They want me to keep doing what I’m doing and stick with my fastball, but still work on my slider here and there. Role-wise, I’m used to doing any role. If I need to close, if I need to throw the eight or seven, I’m comfortable with the role that they put me in.”
McGee said he received offers from other teams this offseason but that he was drawn to the Giants due to their analytically driven coaching staff, which includes pitching coach Andrew Bailey, bullpen coach Craig Albernaz — McGee’s former teammate in the Rays organization — and director of pitching Brian Bannister.
“I liked the younger staff that they have, and the direction they’re going,” McGee said.
Veteran lefty Tony Watson served as the leader of the Giants’ bullpen in 2020, but he agreed to a Minor League deal with the Phillies on Wednesday, leaving McGee as the club’s most experienced back-end option heading into the 2021 season.
To clear a spot for McGee on the 40-man roster, the Giants placed right-hander John Brebbia (Tommy John surgery) on the 60-day injured list.
• Kapler said that right-hander Nick Tropeano, who joined the Giants on a Minor League deal on Tuesday, will get a look as a starter this spring, though he could also be deployed as a long man out of the bullpen.
“The great thing about Nick is he’s open to either [role],” Kapler said. “We’ll certainly give him an opportunity to get stretched out and also to continue to work on his arsenal. But I think Nick just wants to find a way to compete to be on our Opening Day roster. That’s what we’re going to encourage. It might be that he turns out to be a great option for us to start games, but it also might be that he takes down multiple innings out of the ‘pen. He’s a really competitive guy.”
• Another pitcher who will be stretched out this spring is left-hander Caleb Baragar, who has experience starting in the Minors but was used exclusively out of the bullpen in 2020. The Giants have several quality left-handed relief options, including McGee, Jarlín García, Wandy Peralta and Sam Selman, giving them enough depth to try Baragar out as a starter.
“He has asked for and earned the opportunity to be evaluated as a starter,” Kapler said.
• Right-handed relievers Melvin Adon and Raffi Vizcaino were initially included in the Giants’ list of non-roster invitees, but they’ll now report to Minor League camp after sustaining arm injuries while pitching in winter ball. Adon, who was non-tendered in December, underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Vizcaino is recovering from a sprained right elbow.