While meeting with the team's reporters on Wednesday, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy was asked if he had a closer in mind heading into spring training and more specifically if Will Smith had done enough the second half of 2018 to earn the gig at the start of camp. True to form, Bochy admitted he won't name a closer just yet but seemed to indicate that veteran closer Mark Melancon is possibly a slight favoritre over Smith if all things are equal. Now in terms of the two "combatants", Melancon has a few things going for him that would give him the edge. The first is that he has the vast experience edge over Smith and he was considered to be on the best stoppers in the game as recently as 2016 when he logged a 1.64 ERA. Additionally, Melancon has two years to go on a four-year deal worth $60 million that won't look so good if it is being operated in a setup capacity. Finally, there is the old adage of Melancon being righthanded as opposed to Smith being a southpaw and that goes back to managers preferring using their top lefty arms for matchups in the late innings.
Now as far as Smith is concerned, he was excellent closing games for the Giants in replacing injured Melancon and later Hunter Strickland in logging a 2.55 ERA and monstrous 12.06 K/9. Long one of the top setup pitchers in baseball, Smith has all the tools necessary to be a very good closer and certainly being the guy in San Francisco. Smith also outpitched Melancon a year ago as the latter had a higher 3.23 ERA and very shaky and below-average 7.15 K/9. Again all things being equal, Smith would be the easy call but Melancon actually has to be considered a slight favorite for all that we discussed prior. At the very least, this is one spring training closer battle which needs to be watched closely once the games get started.