Let me tell a story about an extremely boring trade, and then let me tie it into the Giants. On the second day of the Winter Meetings, the Padres acquired Chase Headley to be the official team Wooderson. He already knows the wifi password, and they used to have such good times back in the day, and it’s just like old times, seriously, just like old times. Headley is also owed $13 million next year, which is probably too much, even if he’s still a solid player.
To convince the Padres to acquire $13 million in salary and some nostalgia to be named later, the Yankees had to include Bryan Mitchell, a 26-year-old starting pitcher with extensive success in the upper minors but limited success in the majors. He will allow exactly three runs against the Giants in four starts next year, but he’s somewhere between prospect and role player. Think Chris Stratton.
Or, to simplify the deal: The Yankees traded a potentially useful major leaguer and added a younger player to give away a $13 million contract. This will help them get under the competitive-balance tax but still add players to the roster for next year.
To simplify it from the Padres’ perspective: They’re getting a player who still has some value if he’s used right, and they’ll pay him too much. But for their troubles, they’ll get a raffle ticket on a starting pitcher who might work out. Pretend that Mitchell signed a six-year, $9 million contract with performance bonuses, and they’ll get Chase Headley for just $3 million dollars next year, in other words. That doesn’t sound like anything too unreasonable, right?
Now the Yankees can zip around the Winter Meetings and add a pitcher if they want. Lance Lynn, come on down. Yu Darvish? We’re listening. Tall ones, short ones, little ones, big ones, the Yankees can afford them all now that they’re not paying Chase Headley.
The Padres have a better team than yesterday, and they have a pitcher who could be a bargain. Everyone wins. Except the Padres in actual baseball games, but we’re used to that. Except when they play the Giants. It’s complicated.
This is a template the Giants should study. It’s not something they should do necessarily. But it’s something they could do if the more traditional solutions aren’t working out.
For example, here’s a traditional solution: trade prospects for a veteran. The Pirates want to get rid of Andrew McCutchen’s salary and get value back for him before he leaves for free agency; the Giants want an outfield upgrade. To make this deal happen, the Giants would send prospects to the Pirates. It’s a story as old as the sport. The only problem is that they would still be close to the luxury tax, if not already over.
But here’s an alternate solution: The Giants traded Denard Span to another team, but they include a player roughly as valuable as Mitchell. I’ll leave the actual player up to you, but Chris Stratton is still a reasonable comp. Could be Ty Blach, or it could be Austin Slater. Look, I’m not good at this part. The idea is to send a possible contributor along with Span to make a $14 million salary for a useful player seem palatable. Then the Giants would take this $14 million and use it on an outfielder or third baseman in free agency. It would
If you want to go galaxy brain, you could take a different approach. If Span’s salary were traded away with a prospect, the Giants could trade Jeff Samardzija, prospects, and a few million to the Brewers in a deal that nets them Domingo Santana, and then they could use the Span and Samardzija savings on a starting pitcher like CC Sabathia and a reliever like Jake McGee, while still having money left over for Jarrod Dyson.
Are the Giants better in that scenario? I ... I haven’t gotten that far yet. But there’s a way to trade Span and a prospect away and sign a free agent that is essentially the same as trading a prospect away for that free agent and paying him market value. If that sounds counterintuitive, it is. But if it keeps the Giants under the luxury tax, it’s worth it.
Regardless, this is the offseason for the Giants to try something different. I’m not sure if they’ve done a three-way trade in two decades, and they certainly haven’t paid another team in prospects to get rid of a bad contract, but this would be the offseason to get wacky. They don’t have a lot of money, and they don’t have a lot of prospects. It’s time to get on Pinterest and turn that old junk in the garage into a functional entertainment center.
Because if they don’t, the solutions are going to be expensive, boring, and marginally better. After the dreams of Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani, that would be more of a downer than we could have possibly expected. But there are ways around it. The Giants should at least explore those.
Edit: I promise I wrote this Tuesday afternoon and waited until the morning to post it, but Andrew Baggarly confirmed that teams are asking for this exact thing, and the Giants aren’t “focused on making that kind of deal.” Well, as long as you’re not not focused on it.