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Giants trade rumors: Matt Moore is interesting, Jeremy Hellickson not so much

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Do the Giants want a starter for the rest of the year, or are they thinking long term?

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

There are boring trade rumors. And there are fun trade rumors. The universe is forever kept in perfect balance, and this is just but one of the ways. Our job, here, is to present one boring trade rumor and one fun one to keep that balance.

The boring one is that the Giants were "among the top contenders" Jeremy Hellickson, starting pitcher for the Phillies. While Hellickson is a former rookie of the year, he is not an exciting pitcher. He’s having a fine year, but he errs on the side of average, and he’s a pending free agent. You give up prospects for him if he’s a solution for next year, or if he’s an unambiguous, reasonably priced upgrade for this year. He’s neither.

Later in the day, Jerry Crasnick tweeted that those rumors were overstated. His avatar is a picture of himself with Morgan Freeman, so you know he’s trustworthy. The idea that the Giants would be interested in a rental pitcher didn’t track. Not unless they were extraordinarily down on Cain. Which, wait, maybe they do make sense.

But we’re burying the lede! There is a fun trade rumor, and it goes something like this:

Now that’s a spicy rumor. Let’s recall what we know about Matt Moore:

  • One of best prospects in baseball, with a billion-mph fastball (2011)
  • Postseason sensation (2011)
  • Synonymous with "bargain team-friendly contract" (2011-2014)
  • All-Star (2013)
  • Tommy John patient (2014-2015)
  • Struggling pitcher with a less-than-billion-mph fastball (2015)
  • Solid pitcher with a homer problem (2016)

He’s still just 27, and he’ll make $26 million over the next three years if his options are picked up, which is about a third or fourth of what teams would pay on the open market for a 4.00 ERA and 180 innings.

If this is all Moore is now — a younger Jake Peavy with a fancier fastball — the Giants could still use him. He would be underpaid by quite a bit, and the Giants will still need at least one, probably two, starting pitchers this offseason. They won’t have a lot of money to spend because of the incumbents already in the rotation, so this would be a hedge against the future. Even if Moore has been reinvented as a middle-class Scott Kazmir, that’s kind of a big deal.

And then there’s the potential. Just like Jeff Samardzija! Can’t go wrong betting on potential.

Ay, here’s the rub from the original tweet:

Might not have prospects to get him.

Probably not. It might surprise you, but the Giants are not the only team that will be in the market for a starting pitcher this offseason. If he has two good months, Moore suddenly becomes the hottest pitcher on the market, and the Rays will name their price. If he goes right now, they’re selling low. A team would have to believe in him enough to make the Rays feel like they’re getting at least something close to a sell-high return.

That is, the Giants would have to trust their scouts. They already do, I’m sure, but this would be an absolute gutting of the farm to get an average pitcher with an iffy injury history. His potential and current contract make it a reasonable risk with substantial reward, but he won’t be cheap.

It depends on what the Rays fancy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they focused on Matt Duffy and a mess of prospects. They have the leverage. They can ask for the moon during the season, and the stars in the offseason, even if Moore hasn’t been exceptional for a long time.

Perspective: Duffy has been worth as much this year according to WAR as Moore has been worth over the last three years combined. And that’s when Duffy isn’t hitting. The Giants would probably take their chances with Duffy. I know I would. But the Rays also tend to focus on players they value more than other teams. It’s why they ended up with Steven Souza as one of the prizes in the Wil Myers deal instead of just taking Trea Turner. Maybe they like some specific Giants prospects more than the industry does.

I give it a 3.8-percent chance of happening, but look how much we’ve talked about it. This is a fun rumor. That other one, nah, but now I’m thinking about Matt Moore on the Giants, which is way better than some of the alternative rumors. That’ll do, rumor mill. That’ll do.