Now this is the story all about how the Giants’ bullpen got ... another ... left-handed pitcher. Which they probably needed. According to Jeff Passan, the Giants have acquired left-handed reliever Will Smith from the Brewers. The price was steep, however, with the Giants giving up Andrew Susac and top prospect Phil Bickford.
If you wanted to know the price of relief pitching at the deadline, this will give you a pretty good idea.
Before freaking out too violently, note that Smith is not a rental. He will be a man in orange and black through 2019. And that’s at below-market prices, at that. So you almost have to include the money saved. That’s money the Giants won’t have to pay for a left-handed reliever this offseason. You can apply that money to the next hot international prospect the Giants sign. Or the hot new free agent next offseason. Or ... okay, they’re probably getting Melky Cabrera back with the money, whatever, it’s not important. Just don’t forget that Smith is underpaid and probably will be for three more years.
He’s also pretty good. Look past the 3.68 ERA or 4.27 FIP. That’s in a sample of 22 innings. The three seasons before that, he was one of the best left-handed relievers in baseball when it came to missing bats. He struck out just over 12 batters for every nine-innings he pitched from 2013 through last season. The list of leaders in K/9 for left-handed relievers during that stretch goes like this:
- Aroldis Chapman (16.34)
- Andrew Miller (14.61)
- Will Smith (12.2)
So he’s a talented pitcher. He throws in the mid-90s, and while his control wavers, he can throw strikes around a league-average rate. All things being equal, I’d be thrilled to have him. For a substantial package, even.
Giving up both Bickford and Susac, though, hurts. You knew it was going to hurt. When Smith was brought up the first time, we knew it would hurt.
I’d probably pass on all of them except for Smith, really, and then only if the price wouldn’t be exorbitant, which it should be. Welcome to the 2016 trade deadline!
It’s not that I was sold on Bickford being a major league star — his fastball was more deception than velocity, and that’s worried me since his pro debut. It’s that he was the Giants’ best trade chip. This isn’t it as far as transactions go, but it certainly hurts their ability to acquire a starting pitcher in the offseason, or a (random position you don’t think they need now but will next year). Bickford was a top-100 prospect, and he was sent for a lefty reliever, not a top starter. (Edit: The original post called Smith a LOOGY, but he's been pretty steady against right-handed and left-handed hitters0.
The worst part is that this was supposed to be avoidable. The Giants had Josh Osich and Steven Okert. One of them was supposed to refine the power arm enough to be a second left-handed option out of the bullpen. One of them was supposed to be the future of post-Affeldt bullpennery. And if both of them stepped up, hey, that’s a good problem to have.
Instead, the Giants traded a strikeout monster and fascinating first-round pick for a left-handed reliever with platoon splits. Under contract, but still.
That’s before we get into Susac, who was dealt at his lowest value. We’ll always have 2014, when the Giants had an overqualified backup catcher, and I was filled with 100s of witty rejoinders to every dumb suggestion that Buster Posey should move to first. Susac has had a rough, injury-marred couple of years, and I don’t think this represents his proper value.
On the other hand, I’m very, very happy he’s going to an organization that can use him right away. The Brewers are going to trade Jonathan Lucroy soon, I’m assuming, which clears a path. Susac is right to think, "I mean, Buster was very nice, but ... dude."
I’m happy with the pitcher. I’m not happy with what the Giants gave up. What that means is, like with the Eduardo Nunez deal, we all get to enjoy an improved roster while worrying about what the team will need in two or three years. That’s a risk worth taking most of the time. I just hope the Giants can still make a deal happen that’s more substantial than this one.
As long as it doesn’t kill their chances to do something else, whether right now or in December, I can handle it. It’s just a very, very costly deal.
I guess we all knew any bullpen trade would be expensive. In the wild, wild NL West, the Giants needed to put six degrees of separation between them and the Dodgers, who are the enemies of the state and when it comes to the pursuit of happyness the oh screw this I have work to do.