SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first free agent signing of the Farhan Zaidi Era was a reliever. One of two Rule 5 draft picks was a reliever. Two of the three players added to the 40-man roster before that draft were relievers. The Giants stockpiled non-roster options and even had Nick Vincent, who has plenty of big league success, walk into the clubhouse once camp had already started.
You can never have too many relief arms, and on the last day off before they return home, the Giants are still evaluating plenty of them. They have 12 pitchers still in camp who could claim they are vying for bullpen jobs, and it's likely to be just an eight-man group on Opening Day.
Zaidi and the staff have nine days to figure it all out, and less time in some cases where veterans might have opt-outs looming. Here's a look at how the bullpen race is shaping up as camp nears an end ...
Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta
We're grouping them together here because they're locks to be at Petco Park a week from now -- unless one of the gets traded.
Bruce Bochy declined to name his closer early in camp, briefly talking up Melancon, who says this is the healthiest he has felt since coming to the Giants. And yet ... he has allowed runs in five of six spring appearances, has given up 13 hits in 5 2/3 innings, and has watched three homers leave the yard. Melancon's stuff just isn't there and hasn't been for two years, and this would probably be a pretty easy decision if you took the contract situation out of it.
The Giants still owe Melancon $28 million, though, and that would be a hell of a contract to swallow, so he's probably a relatively safe bet to make the roster. At the same time, it should be noted that Zaidi had nothing to do with that contract and won't take any blame if he cuts Melancon loose, either now or during the season.
Chris Stratton and Ty Blach
Similar in that both have had some success starting for the Giants but now find themselves in the long reliever mix. Stratton is out of options, Blach is not. That usually is what ends up making the decision this time of year. Stratton also could be a trade candidate as teams look to fill rotation holes in the next week.
Veterans have spent all offseason and spring talking about how unfair the system is to older players. It is more unfair to guys like Suarez, who had a strong rookie year but may begin the season in Sacramento because he's making the MLB minimum and has options remaining. Suarez could be the long man or a third lefty reliever at some point, but that seems unlikely in April.
Zaidi said he will carry three lefties in the bullpen, and the Rule 5 pick responded with a huge spring. He has struck out 10 in 8 2/3 scoreless innings and it's hard to see how the Giants let him get away at this point. "He has the weapons to get big leaguers out," Zaidi said earlier this month. It looks like Bergen, who has a deceptive fastball and good breaking ball, will get that shot after the Blue Jays let him get away.
He had a nice September and came to Scottsdale in good shape, but he has allowed five earned runs in seven spring appearances and it's hard to see how he beats out Bergen at this point. Okert is out of options.
Acquired from the Nationals at the start of camp, the right-hander has pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings this spring and struck out 10. He's out of options.
The last man to walk in the room has had an okay spring, but he does have a track record of success in the big leagues. This is exactly the type of reliever you would love to have in Triple-A, knowing that he'll be needed for 30 appearances over the course of the year, but Vincent can opt out of his deal by the end of the week, according to Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic. In past years that would be a concern, but given the way the free agent market went -- especially for guys like Vincent -- perhaps that's a risk he won't want to take?
The Giants are deep enough in the bullpen that on Tuesday morning they could option Ray Black and Tyler Beede to the minors. Black has an option remaining, so guys like Gott and Stratton were ahead of him in line, at least to start the year. He'll be back at some point. Beede looked like Archie Bradley throughout the spring, but the Giants want to stretch him out to start. There are executives in the organization who believe he could be in the rotation in the second half, but Beede also is a nice bullpen option if the Giants need help at any point.
This time of year, it's all about keeping your inventory, so if the season started today, the guess here is that the first four guys listed above would be joined by Melancon, Bergen, Stratton and Gott. But Zaidi has hinted strongly throughout the spring that he could trade a reliever. Stay tuned.