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Inbox: Will Melancon close for Giants again?

Beat reporter Chris Haft answers questions from fans
November 26, 2018

Do you think that Mark Melancon ever will be healthy enough to close again? Was he damaged goods when they signed him and, if so, would that be a way to get out of that contract? -- John K., Portland, MaineMelancon's return to the closer's role is within the realm

Do you think that Mark Melancon ever will be healthy enough to close again? Was he damaged goods when they signed him and, if so, would that be a way to get out of that contract?
-- John K., Portland, Maine

Melancon's return to the closer's role is within the realm of possibility, though I could be in the minority in thinking that. This will be an important offseason for him, because he should be able to train and strengthen instead of rehabilitate. Being fully able to participate at the outset of Spring Training -- rather than endure limitations of some sort -- would be a significant improvement over the previous two seasons.
A reliever's ERA is often deceiving, due to inherited runners and such, but it was still encouraging for Melancon to finish 2018 with a 3.23 ERA -- down from 4.50 in '17, his initial season with the Giants. The status of his four-year, $62 million contract is not an issue. Melancon has said that he encountered forearm trouble in previous years. But if the Giants had any reason to void his contract, they would have done it long ago.
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How long do you think it will take for Farhan Zaidi to turn things around? Is 2020 too optimistic?
-- M. Patel

After striking an upbeat tone in the previous response, I'll ride the pendulum in the other direction for this one. I have no doubts about the intelligence of Zaidi, the Giants' new president of baseball operations. But he faces a monumental task. He must find ways to upgrade not just the Giants' roster but also the Minor League system, which appears to be short on legitimate prospects.
The Giants made rather dramatic one-year turnarounds in 1985-86, 1992-93 and 1996-97. All three, however, involved superior performers. Will Clark and Robby Thompson rescued the Giants from the quicksand of their 100-loss season in 1985; Barry Bonds arrived in 1993 to launch a new era as well as a bunch of home runs; and general manager Brian Sabean bolstered the club for '97 and beyond by acquiring Jeff Kent and J.T. Snow to mesh with Bonds.
Where are the Clarks and Bondses now? Buster Posey is on the level of the aforementioned stars, but he must prove that his hip surgery didn't erode his skills. Unless free agent Bryce Harper decides to take his talents to San Francisco, Zaidi will have to build a winner from an ensemble of complementary players while gradually deepening the talent pool through the Draft.
This sort of thing typically requires more than two years. Remember, the Giants weathered five postseason-free seasons (2005-09) before embarking upon their World Series era.

Which current free agent fits best for the hole in left field? Bryce Harper? Michael Brantley? Carlos Gonzalez?
-- Rafael O., Orem, Utah

Assuming Harper heads for a team that can more comfortably accommodate his contractual desires, Brantley would be an excellent fit, as long as the Giants are satisfied that his injury issues are behind him.

Gonzalez has had a nice career, but it's worth noting that he's put up a line of .232/.281/.357 in 74 career games at AT&T Park.
What team do you think would be a good match for the Giants to trade Madison Bumgarner to, in return for some good young ballplayers? Also do you think the Giants will be a major player for Bryce Harper?
-- Guy Kees, Lewisburg, Ky.

I don't believe the Giants truly want to trade Bumgarner. But if they get to that stage, they should consider doing business with the Braves, who are constantly mentioned as a team with an ample supply of prospects -- and who could use a proven winner such as Bumgarner to elevate them to championship level.
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Will the Giants wear No. 44 on their sleeves to honor the late Willie McCovey next year?
-- Heather, Palo Alto, Calif.

I think it's virtually certain. All that's missing is an official announcement.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.