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Why the Giants traded Matt Duffy for Matt Moore

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The heart isn't happy, but there's a way for the brain to understand the risk and reward.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t going to be easy. My whole niche is being a emotion-tinted reactionary fan. Matt Duffy came out of nowhere, and he was one of the very best parts of the last odd year. The season was a disappointment, but at least the Giants had their third baseman of the present and future. And now he’s gone.

He’s gone for a starting pitcher who hasn’t thrown more than 150 innings in the last four seasons. He has a 4.08 ERA right now, with an even worse 4.49 FIP. He was an All-Star in 2013, but so was Domonic Brown. You wouldn’t see the Giants trading starting position players for Brown.

That’s the emotional part of it. There’s logic there, sure, but there’s a ton of emotion, too.

The rational side makes a case for this deal. It’s just tough to cram the emotions down.

Duffy was also never a top prospect. He was always a fringe player, someone with a utility-player ceiling. When he came up, we marveled at his college stats (no home runs!) and reveled in his gap-to-gap power. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting last year, and he was already one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball. You keep guys like that around.

This season, though, his bat was an issue. He hit .253/.313/.358, with just four home runs. It wasn’t a huge deal, considering his glove boosted his value, but there were reasons — are reasons — to wonder if last season was as good as it will ever get for him. Combine the lack of prospect pedigree, the seemingly out-of-nowhere production, and the slow start, and you can see how the Giants might have been wondering just how much they should really expect from him for the next few years.

On the other side, there weren’t going to be a lot of ways the Giants could get pitching help in the next two seasons. Help at third? Sure, with Eduardo Nuñez holding down the position now and Christian Arroyo young and developing in the upper minors. But pitching was going to be a mess, especially if they can’t figure out what’s wrong with Jeff Samardzija. There isn’t enough room for a nine-figure contract this offseason, and I’m not sure if there’s a pitcher who even would be worth an eight-figure contract.

That means there would have been a trade for a pitcher this offseason or next deadline, with more desperate teams jostling for position. If the Giants really valued Arroyo this highly, it would almost seem like Duffy’s days were numbered the whole time.

So what kind of pitcher did the Giants get? A hard thrower. An injury-prone arm with limitless potential and underwhelming recent results. On June 7, Moore gave up five earned runs to the Diamondbacks, boosting his ERA to 5.56. It seemed unlikely that the Rays would trade him without a surge that boosted his value.

The surge happened. Over his last nine starts, Moore has a 2.39 ERA and an improved fastball. If healthy and right, he’s a pitcher with more upside than just about anyone the Giants could have gotten within 30 feet of. He’s young, and if he’s even average, he’ll have his three years of team options (total: $26 million) picked up through 2019. If he’s above average, the Giants will have traded from a strength to address a serious weakness. They'll have filled a hole at a position that won't be restocked for any team in the open market until after the 2017 season.

Add it all up and make the rational case. Pretend you’re a Red Sox fan. C’mon, you arrogant twit, it’s easy. The Giants traded a surprisingly effective young player who came out of nowhere and was in the middle of a season-long slump. They got a left-handed All-Star with a low-priced contract, dormant potential, and underwhelming results, though their scouts were apparently encouraged by his last two months.

That’s a reasonable trade. Doesn’t mean you have to like it. I'm still not sure if it makes a lick of sense. But it’s disingenuous to expect Moore to be a #4 starter for the rest of his life while also assuming Duffy is empirically better than a powerless, glove-first, .250 hitter. That would be unfair to both players.  Both players can reach their peak again. Both players might be as good as they are this season and no better. There’s risk and reward on both sides. The Giants having an excellent starting pitcher for three-and-a-half more seasons is worth about as much as them having an excellent third baseman for five, considering the market and what they could fix internally. They just have to trust their scouts and wait for the excellent to come.

And they can’t screw this up like they did with Samardzija. This is another power arm with unfortunate dinger tendencies that might or might not be related to a juiced baseball that the Giants can’t change. I get why the Giants did it. The logic is there.

But while the logic is there, Matt Duffy isn’t. And that stinks.