George Kontos making it through the trade deadline on the Giants wasn’t much of a surprise. He’s been in a slider-slump, the ERA keeps climbing, and 40-man roster spots are precious at this point. It was a teeny-tiny surprise that no one wanted him, but not much of one.
Apparently the Pirates wanted him, though, and their offer was this: nothing. Not even cash considerations. Not even a player to be named later. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which the Pirates would appreciate if the Giants would put up personally. The Giants put Kontos on revocable waivers, like they do with nearly everyone at this time of year, and when the Pirates claimed him and couldn’t work out a trade, the Giants declined to revoke the waivers.
The Giants gave the Pirates a free Kontos. I think I know why, so let’s talk ourselves through this.
The first is the money, and while $300,000 or so — the money Kontos had left on his contract for this season — doesn’t sound like much, it’s an extra international prospect in July. It’s not nothing. Still, that’s the weakest of the arguments, considering they’re going to have to pay someone at least the minimum to take his slot. There has to be something more.
And I think that something is opportunity cost. The Giants had likely already decided that Kontos wasn’t going to be a part of next year’s bullpen. He was going to make more money in arbitration, and he was probably a candidate to be non-tendered. So their choice at this point was either to keep him on the roster and cut him in December, or let him go right now and free up a 40-man roster spot. Right now, he’s making 25-man room for Chris Stratton, who’s coming off the DL, but later in the month the extra room might also give a new, young reliever like Reyes Moronta or Tyler Rogers a chance. (They still have the Michael Morse 60-day DL move in that case).
As for what the Giants lost in Kontos, that’s open for debate. In the last four seasons, here were his ERAs:
Not bad until the end, right? Reliever ERAs can fluctuate so much because a couple of bad outings can be murder on them, but when it comes to preventing runs, he’s been okay.
On the other hand, here were his FIPs:
My working theory is that his regular hanging sliders/cutters were almost like knuckleballs, moving in such an unexpected way, they induced weak contact. I have no idea how to test that, though, and I do know that a lot of those hanging sliders and cutters went over the fence this year. He wasn’t a reliever I looked forward to watching.
He was a good Giant, though. The Giants traded away a backup catcher they didn’t need to get Kontos, and they won two World Series with him. He pitched six seasons here, and he mixed in more solid outings than poor ones. I’m a little surprised at the move, but if the front office had already decided to revamp the bullpen this offseason, they might as well open up a roster spot and save a hundred thousand bucks or two. As someone who would have argued in favor of a non-tender this December, this makes it less awkward for all of us.
And on the day that Pablo Sandoval returned, the Giants gave George Kontos away. I’ll tell you, 2017 has some supremely bizarre sentences. It’s really impressive.