The Giants might very well be 39-40 by the end of the weekend, which would fall right in line with the prediction I made about a month ago. It’ll be like this most of the season. The team is hoping that it starts to break one way or the other following the non-waiver trade deadline. Which means, if they’re right around .500 at the deadline, they’re going to make a move to improve their chances of things breaking positively for them the rest of the way.
You might look at the outfield and say, “Hey, maybe Alen Hanson shouldn’t be playing out of position in left field” or “maybe Gorkys Hernandez is better as a 4th outfielder”, and I might agree with you, but if you’re a true Giants fan, then you’ve gotta think like the Giants; and buddy, there’s no chance in hell the Giants will trade for an outfielder.
They’re going to target starting pitching because they need at least one more arm that can reliably go 7 innings and they’ll need to use their logjam in the outfield to both help them get what they need and stay under the competitive balance tax. I don’t have any of this on good authority or have read any trade rumors that might suggest this is the course of action. I’m just putting on my Giants fandom hat and trying to think how they think. With that in mind, there are very few trade partners available to them.
Their recent go-to teams have been Tampa Bay and Texas, but looking over both of those rosters doesn’t turn up any realistic leads.
The few good players on the Orioles, Tigers, White Sox, and Royals are either out of the Giants’ price range or talent those teams want to keep for their rebuilds/reloads. Same with the Reds, Pirates, Cardinals, and Mets.
Toronto’s J.A. Happ is an intriguing possibility, but it’s possible Mark Shapiro might not want to work with the Giants after they wanted Danny Salazar from him for Javier Lopez back in 2013 and they rebuffed his Carlos Corrasco for Belt and Panik proposal in 2015.
So, that leaves a bunch of winning teams, teams in the NL West, and the A’s, none of who the Giants are likely to make any deals with this season, for lots and lots of reasons. But what about the Twins? They’re in 3rd place in the AL Central, 6 games out of 1st place, and 11 games out of the 2nd AL Wild Card. They can’t hit, but they can pitch a little (6.5 combined pitching WAR, 0.1 better than the Giants and good for 14th in MLB; 13th in MLB K% at 22.9%), and they have two intriguing arms with some surplus value they might consider moving to make themselves better heading into next season.
Do the Giants have the talent they would want for such an improvement? Highly unlikely! But that’s never stopped teams from trading with the Giants before. So, let’s look at the two possibilities who would fit the Giants’ need for quality starts from their rotation.
The Twins have always been an afterthought in my NL-centric brain, and I have only a foggy recollection of Gibson — I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually sat and watched him pitch. I seem to remember him being one of the Twins’ top draft picks a while back (EDIT: he was their #1 pick — 22nd overall — in the 2009 draft) and he’s always struggled to be the ace they expected him to be.
Indeed, heading into 2018, he had pitched 730.1 innings in the regular season and posted an 88 ERA+. But this season, at age 30, he seems to have found something that works. He’s struck out 86 in 88.2 innings and posted a 127 ERA+. Excluding Madison Bumgarner from all these comps due to the fact that his season just started, only Andrew Suarez and Derek Holland come close to matching Gibson’s 8.8 strikeouts per 9 innings (8.6 and 8.2, respectively) and no starters have an OPS+ at or above 100.
He’s 6-6, right-handed, 30 years old, and averages 93 mph with his four-seam fastball. he also throws a sinker around 92 mph and has a changeup, slider, and curveball. Historically, he’s favored the sinker the most (throws it 40% of the time) followed by the slider (20%), but this season, it looks like he’s using his fastball a lot more (26%, nearly an 8% jump in usage), which looks like it might be helping his slider, as his whiff rate on that pitch has jumped 5% without an increase in usage. His four-seamer also runs in on right-handed batters.
Because of that sinker, he’s more of a ground ball pitcher, but facing NL teams and pitching at AT&T Park might encourage him to use his entire arsenal more often, or at the very least, continuing to use that fastball that seems to work so well for him.
He’s making about $4.2 million this season and has one more year of arbitration eligibility. This might be a spot where the Giants could strap Austin Jackson’s money onto Austin Slater and some starting and relief arms, and if you think trading for a below average sinkerballer is reminiscent of the Mike Leake deal, you may be right. They’re the same age, but Gibson’s had a better 2018 despite Leake pitching on a much better team.
Still, to finish off the comp, the Giants traded their top pitching prospect and top power prospect they didn’t know how to use for Leake, so Austin Slater might fit, or the cost could be greater. Roger’s check-in on the farm system last month didn’t suggest it’s too hot right now (outside of Heliot Ramos and Joey Bart) and other suitors would certainly have better prospects and cash flexibility.
The Rays traded him to the Twins in the offseason, and his 2018 hasn’t been all that great with an ERA+ of 94 in 78 innings. He does have 77 strikeouts, but they’re tempered by the 35 walks, 14 home runs allowed, and 8.7 hits per 9 innings. It seems a lot like the Twins were hoping to resurrect his 2015 form, which showed so much promise. That year, at age 25, he struck out 150 in 169.1 innings and and had a 3.35 ERA (117 ERA+, but you know the Twins were looking at that ERA).
He’s primarily a fastball-splitter pitcher, which might be what the problem is here. His fastball average velocity for his career has been 91.99 mph and the split 85.18. In that standout 2015 season, the fastball was 92.25 mph and the splitter 85.82. This season, it’s 91.45 and 84.87. He’s struggled with his oblique before (in that 2015 season), and last season, he went on the disabled list with lower back issues.
He’s a huge fly ball pitcher (FanGraphs has him at 50.9%) with bad peripherals and reminds me of Matt Garza. He also makes more money than the Giants might be able to afford, even if they were to somehow get the Twins to take Austin Jackson, and he seems like he’s on the verge of injury or a breakdown. The Twins would be wise to move him at the deadline.
His contract is for $6.4 million this season and he has one more year of arbitration. In that sense, gaining rights to a 28-year right-handed pitcher with strikeout stuff is very attractive, but I’ve got to believe that if the Giants do risk their CBT standing, it’ll be for someone who isn’t quite so risky.