Let’s start with the obvious: We’re not here to talk about potential trades for Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Because a) the Giants value their reputation as a fan-friendly organization too much, b) both players mean more to the organization than they would to another organization, at least right now, and c) get the hell out of here.
When it comes to the other players on the roster, oh, boy, let’s dig in and talk about some sweet, sweet rebuilding. It’s a lot more fun than actually watching the games.
There are a couple problems with rebuilding, though. The first is that the Giants are going to be far more interested in reloading, and 2014 is the only argument you need for that strategy. This is still the team that was supposed to contend, give or take. The Giants are filled with players who could be good in 2018. That’s what makes me twitch the most. That, and all the losing.
The other problem is that the Giants don’t have a lot of players that other teams actually want.
Ignoring some of the young players who won’t be arbitration-eligible for a while (Austin Slater, Ty Blach) because they’re the kind of players the Giants would want back in a rebuild/reload, let’s break the Giants into a few groups:
Zero or negative trade value
We talked about Mark Melancon, and he was a candidate to be traded before last week. The Giants would have had to eat some money, but not too much, and there was a chance another team would be desperate enough to give up a solid prospect.
Then his elbow became a concern and he blew another save, and here we are. The Negative Zone.
If you want a Gorkys Hernandez, he comes free to a good home. This also applies to Aaron Hill and Bryan Morris. Also, Nick Hundley probably goes here, but I could see another team giving up cash or a player to be named later if they’re in a bind.
Matt Cain was really good in 2012, and I want you to remember that.
Hunter Pence is 34, oft-injured, in the middle of a career-worst season, and owed $18.5 million next year. While I could see a classic Pence surge to boost his value — he entered the trade deadline with a modest .770 OPS in 2013 and ended the season with an extension — he probably has less trade value than Cain does right now. Think about that for a second.
Including the $4 million buyout, Denard Span is owed $15 million for next season. While his 97 OPS+ is serviceable, he’s not much of a centerfielder at this point. It’s possible the Giants eat $12 million to someone looking for a fourth outfielder for the next 16 months, but that won’t bring back a prospect we care about.
Derek Law has trade value, but I’m going to drop him in here because something might be wrong with him, and teams would only deal a token prospect for him if the Giants were desperate to move him, which they aren’t.
Limited trade value
Everyone else, just about?
George Kontos is having a much better season than expected with the strikeouts, which is more important to contending teams than his superficially low ERA. But he’s not exactly dominating, and his home run rate is high pitching at AT&T Park half the time. That’s not going to excite the Nationals.
Cory Gearrin has a little value, but his walk rate is weird, and he’s inexpensive enough for the Giants to want around.
Matt Moore is cheap enough for teams to covet, even if he’s forgotten how to pitch, but I can’t see the Giants wanting a B-prospect or two more than they want a low-cost starting pitcher who could turn things around for next year.
Brandon Crawford is a very valuable player, even when he’s not hitting, and he’s owed a reasonable $15.2 million for the next four seasons. In a vacuum, someone would want him.
Except take a look at the contending teams right now. Look for the ones that would need a shortstop. I’m counting the Twins and Brewers, but I might be missing one. Those teams have young shortstop-of-the-future types they’re breaking in, so they might not be in the market for an expensive veteran. That’s before you get to the part where the Giants would want a ton for Crawford if they’re going to turn around to the season-ticket holders and crying youngsters and explain why they traded a fan-favorite.
They’re not going to get a ton, so he’s here. He’s worth more to the Giants than he is to another team.
(Also, there’s the minor issue of a full no-trade clause, which seems important.)
Brandon Belt would be the most tradeable of all the Giants’ homegrown players if he weren’t stuck in the middle of a death slump. He’s owed a reasonable $17.2 million for the next four seasons — not out of line with what he might make in free agency — and other teams know how to evaluate park effects, even if the most vocal Giants fans don’t.
But he’s sure stuck in that death slump. His OPS+ is down to 99, and while I could see the Yankees springing for him (.383/.474/.647 with 17 homers, Aug.-Sept.), it’s hard to find a team that’s going to give up the kind of prospects who would make the Giants amenable to a trade.
Of all the players in this section, I could see Belt moving, if only because the Giants might concede that his value will eternally be muted by AT&T Park, and he would be a more valuable player on another team. That’s a consideration. Bryan has a good exploration of this mess here. But the money he’s owed would make for a very, very modest return. He can also block a trade to 10 teams, but unless any of them play in AT&T Park, that’s probably negotiable.
Some trade value
In which “some trade value” is defined as “prospects who we would care about” or even “pitchers or hitters who might even play for the 2017 Giants.”
Johnny Cueto is pitching so poorly he might opt in to his contract. His strikeout rate is still high, and his velocity is steady. The advanced metrics suggest he’s been unlucky with his home run rate, and it’s not like the Giants’ outfield defense has been his friend, either. Even with the weird contract situation, I could still see teams lining up to trade for him. He wouldn’t require a huge prospect haul, which isn’t something you can write about the other rotation-toppers teams might put on the market.
Jeff Samardzija is one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers, with 200 innings of tantalizing kinda-sorta-okay pitching every season, and his contract actually isn’t that onerous, with just three years and $19.8 million left for each of those seasons. He would get more on the open market because free agency is stupid.
And if he could get more on the open market, that means he has a little surplus value. Teams have to be curious about his bizarre conversion into a hyper-control pitcher, and he’s similar to Cueto when it comes to the xFIP hinting at something more. If the Giants are willing to eat some money, I could see them getting a prospect back who would make the fans of Samardzija’s new team complain an awful lot.
That’s the goal, here. To make the fans on the other side complain.
Samardzija can block a trade to eight teams, and you totally know they’re all the teams that are interested. Welcome to 2017!
Eduardo Nuñez is totally going to slump for the next month — sorry, just got done catching up on Bryan’s recaps, so I’m in a dark place right now — but as of right now, he has about as much value to another team as he did to the Giants last year. Maybe a little less.
The Giants could get Adalberto Mejia back, perhaps. Can’t hurt to ask.
Hunter Strickland hasn’t allowed a homer this year. His reputation is wildly overblown, and teams know that. He is, however, walking more batters than he’s used to and known for being the redass who got suspended for a three-year-old grudge, so he’s not exactly the superstar of the deadline, but teams will want him. And the Giants will be interested in moving him.
He’s cheap and under team control for a bit, too, so you might be surprised by the return.
Joe Panik has raised his OPS by 100 points in the last two weeks, which is a mighty impressive feat. He’s hitting .362/.449/.603 in his last 69 plate appearances, and they’ve been extraordinarily nice plate appearances, indeed. He’s also 26 and cheap, so BACK OFF.
So you’ve read this elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating: Don’t expect a huge bounty at the trade deadline. It’s possible that there are a couple of surprising deals — Samardzija to the Brewers! Belt to the Yankees! — out there. But I’m expecting Nuñez to go for a modest price, a reliever like Kontos or Gearrin to go for a PTBNL, and the Giants holding on to Cueto, 2013-style, because they want him for the future. Adjust your expectations accordingly.