NASHVILLE — Right-handed reliever Joakim Soria agreed to a three-year, $25 million deal with the Royals on Monday, and it was later reported that the Giants were a finalist for his services and possibly the runner-up.
That characterization was a stretch, team officials said Monday night, but general manager Bobby Evans confirmed that the Giants were in touch with Soria and liked the player. The brief flirtation with Soria would seem to indicate that the Giants, even with so many players locked into their bullpen, need to add one more late-innings guy. That’s not necessarily the case, Evans said.
“The timing wasn’t good for us (with Soria) because the pen wasn’t the thing we wanted to focus on (right now),” Evans said. “The bullpen is an area of strength for us in our system.”
The Giants would seem to have a set bullpen, with Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez handling the back end, Josh Osich and Hunter Strickland getting bigger roles, and George Kontos returning as a valuable middle-innings guy. That’s six players, with the seventh spot open for a long reliever.
Evans likes the group, but he won't lock it into stone in December.
“You want to set the bullpen in spring training,” he said. “If we see a situation where we can take advantage and add an arm, we’ll be open to that.”
Soria was viewed as the type of talent who could make an impact, but the Giants aren’t expected to chase the remaining top-of-the-market guys. It’s more likely that they add a veteran later in the offseason and let him compete with the current crew.
That player could end up being a familiar one. Evans said he hasn’t ruled out bringing Yusmeiro Petit back if the long reliever, non-tendered last week, doesn’t find another opportunity he prefers. The Giants let Petit loose because they didn’t want to predetermine the long reliever spot so early in the offseason. If they sign a second starter, that could be the ultimate home for Chris Heston.
As for Hector Sanchez, who also was non-tendered, Evans said the Giants would be open to bringing him to camp as a non-roster invite. He could win the backup job that way, but they didn’t want to commit four 40-man roster spots to catchers.
--- Evans had stayed in touch with Nori Aoki’s agent but “ultimately he found an opportunity that was still before we could do anything.” Aoki signed a $5.5 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, with an option for a second year.
--- Kelby Tomlinson may get some time in the outfield during spring training, but for the most part he’ll be the backup at second base and shortstop. He may also do work at third base to stay sharp at a third position. Tomlinson played some outfield in instructional ball in October but it didn’t seem like a seamless transition.
--- Brandon Belt returned to Pittsburgh a few weeks back to see a concussion specialist and he has been cleared to go through his normal offseason routine.