Fans may remember the San Francisco Giants bullpen superhero of 2018. If there was trouble, hard-throwing right-hander Reyes Moronta was called on to “put out the fire.” Should the Giants reunite with him, given that their bullpen could use another addition?
Could the Giants Reunite With Moronta and Improve Their Bullpen?
Moronta has just signed a minor-league contract with the Texas Rangers. But that does not rule out the possibility of the Giants trading for him. Teams typically do not hold on to their minor league signings too tightly. Moronta may well be within reach for the Giants if they want him. After all, our Tony Travisano thinks that the Rangers may be playoff contenders.
At one time, he could easily have been projected as a highly-paid superstar closer of the future. But now, after experiencing setbacks, he will have to fight for his opening-day roster spot for the second year in a row.
The idea of an extra flamethrower in the pen would be an attractive one to the Giants for sure, if they could find a way to reunite with him. It’s likely that chills have often run down hitters’ spines when they stepped into the box against Moronta. His powerful delivery combined with the velocity on his fastball and break on his slider has just killed hitters.
However, if his weaknesses would outweigh his strengths, then this is not a good idea. If his velocity would only serve to add force that could be used against him by a hitter after making contact, and if he didn’t have a way to execute and get hitters out, then all of his stuff could hardly be called useful. As mentioned, he isn’t quite the pitcher he was before.
At the same time, a player’s tools shouldn’t be ignored even when he is struggling. Take New York Mets reliever Edwin Diaz as an example. Diaz pitched to a very bad 5.59 ERA in 2019. It’s not that his fastball wasn’t fast or that his slider couldn’t be filthy. But, when a pitcher cannot command his pitches, there is always a problem whether in the short or long run.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Like a recessive allele in biology, Diaz’s great stuff stuck with him although it was negated by the dominance of his lack of command. And eventually, he improved and became an elite closer, recently signing a five-year, $102 million deal.
So don’t give up on Moronta yet. It becomes necessary to take a close look into his performance in the three years in which he had the most major league playing time.
Moronta was the ultimate fireman. He posted a 2.49 ERA, but even this number does not account for the rallies that he killed. He wasn’t in the all-star game only because of the ridiculous, meaningless prejudice against non-closer relievers.
He blew hitters away with his fastball-slider combo, posting a strikeout percentage of 30.2%. Why he wasn’t a finalist for the Reliever of the Year award is a good question. More specifically, why did Wade Davis get ahead of him? Davis posted a 4.13 ERA in 2018. Now it is true that, as a Colorado Rockies pitcher, he pitched often at Coors Field, and his ERA+, which is a statistic that is normalized for factors like that, was 115. But Moronta’s was 153, so that still doesn’t justify it.
It appears to be largely because Davis led the NL with 43 saves. Shame shame shame. That’s even worse than using RBI to measure a player’s performance. Context and opportunity are the determining factors, and they are beyond a player’s control.
Moronta would have been a great candidate for Reliever of the Year, but it must be admitted that Josh Hader, the actual winner, was also extremely dominant.
The 2018 season was a powerful one for Moronta. He proved himself to be an ace reliever that any team should want to have, and looked like the next flamethrowing closer of the future.
Moronta’s first outing of 2019 was one in which he pitched two innings and struck out five batters. Another time, he struck out the side against the Rockies after starter Madison Bumgarner departed when a double was hit off of him to start the eighth inning. He had a red-hot streak of dominance that lasted quite a while and posted a 2.86 ERA over the course of the season.
But he had a weakness. On the whole, he was charged with seven losses. There seemed to be something about clutch situations that messed him up at times, and that was costly. It may seem contrary to good sabermetric thinking to make any judgment based on the game situation, especially since he can be identified as a clutch pitcher in 2018 as mentioned previously. But, if Moronta’s 2019 mishaps point merely to bad luck, suffice it to say that it would have to have been some extreme bad luck. And it is true that control and command were issues for him.
The injury to his labrum that he had in September was a disaster. The recovery process was long, and he did not throw as hard on his return in 2021. That year, he appeared in only four games for the Giants, spending a lot of time on the IL and in the minors.
Splitting the season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, Moronta posted a 4.30 ERA. This was a significant decline from his former performance. According to the article listed, his fastball and slider have both lost some of their life.
But this may not be a permanent condition. While his labrum injury was a serious thing, it may not continue to cripple him for the remainder of his career. One never knows if he will return to being the flamethrower that he was in 2018. It could even be that he will be the key to a World Series championship.
So, should the Giants reunite with Reyes Moronta? If he were still a free agent, I would immediately say go for it. After all, it would be a low-risk investment. Were he to pitch well, it would be excellent. Were he to pitch poorly, the Giants could keep him in the minors, or in the majors as a low-leverage arm.
At this point, the answer totally depends on what it would take to trade for him. And who knows? He may become available on waivers at a later time. To have the Giants reunite with him could very well be a good thing