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Who could the Giants target in trades? (Part 1)

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Probably none of these guys, but what fun is that?

MLB: Atlanta Braves at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Ok, let me caveat a few things here. First and foremost, I’m highly skeptical that the Giants will trade anybody major this month in any jaw dropping deals. That includes moving players of some value like Andrew McCutchen or Will Smith, and it certainly includes long-time valuable Giants like Brandon Belt. I have greater belief that I could flap my wings and fly than that the front office would move Madison Bumgarner.

Second, the current state of the industry is one that values control-ability, cost-effectiveness, and youth. That won’t help the Giants’ efforts to offload older players with big contracts like Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija or (shudder) Mark Melancon.

That said, I wasn’t asked to write about they can’t do or won’t do; I was asked to write about what they could conceivably do, because word on the street, yada yada yada, and like the dutiful son I am, here I come to comply.

So let’s take a spin around the block of potential buyers and see if we can find any potential matches.

Boston Red Sox
What do they need? Bullpen Help

Taking production and contracts into account, two of the most valuable assets in the Giants’ hand right now (non-Bumgarner division; I’ll save that for later) are Will Smith and Tony Watson so there’s a potential fit here (prepare to hear those two names a lot). Good relief help tends to play up at the deadline but there’s a lot of arms out there for buyers to choose from (Kyle Barraclough, Zach Britton, Brad Hand, Raisel Iglesias and others will spur a lot of rumors the next three weeks). Still, Will Smith sure is throwing well!

What do they have?

Trades have massively thinned out this once fine system, and an injury to their top prospect Jay Groome and PED suspension to their #2 guy Michael Chavis complicate matters even further. While it’s possible that Chavis’ value has taken a big enough hit with the drug suspension that he could be dangled for a reliever, Boston is more likely to try to use 1B Sam Travis, who has struggled in his major league looks so far, or low level lottery ticket arms like Alex Scherff or Darwinzon Hernandez.

Chavis is the real get in this system, but you’d have to believe that the big power surge in 2017 wasn’t just a PED mirage. I also really like Portland 1B Josh Ockimey.

Cleveland Indians
What do they need? Bullpen Help

The Indians epically bad bullpen work this year has threatened to undo a lot of great work from other parts of the roster. That once again puts Smith and Watson, and potentially Dyson on a smaller deal, in play. More intriguingly, Cleveland has also gotten very little value out of 1B this year, but their offense has gotten enough great contributions elsewhere that it makes little sense for them to spend their resources on a new Belt.

What do they have?

Yeah... no. The Indians aren’t moving McKenzie for a bullpen arm (though they did trade Justus Sheffield and more for Andrew Miller two years ago!). The best prospects the Indians might be willing to offer up are 3B Nolan Jones and RHP Shane Bieber, whose elite-level control is his finest attribute (think of him as sort of a RH version of Andy Suarez). SS Willi Castro has had a rough introduction to AA, but he’s been pushed aggressively and always shown an excellent feel for the game. A more intriguing place to look in the Indians’ system might be in its lowest levels where young pre-breakout OF talent OF George Valera is just beginning his career. If your dream trade scenario is of the James Shields for Fernando Tatis, Jr. flavor, this is probably the deal for you.

Houston Astros
What do they need? Bullpen help/OF depth

Despite fielding the majors’ finest all around offense, Houston has gotten muted production out of it’s OF this year, with the unit collectively posting a 98 wRC+ overall. They’ve taken a long-awaited step to help this situation by bringing up top prospect Kyle Tucker this week, but you wonder if this could be a landing spot for Andrew McCutchen who could form a potent platoon with Josh Reddick. If the Astros really wanted to stockpile talent, this is a lineup that sure would look good with Brandon Belt in it, as Yuli Gurriel posts just a 116 wRC+. And of course, any remembrance of the 2017 post-season must include the look of dread that shone in manager A.J. Hinch’s eyes whenever he peaked at his own bullpen.

What do they have?

Houston’s system still has plenty of value despite boatloads of trades and promotions over the last few years. But nobody is touching Kyle Tucker or Forrest Whitley. That might also be true for masher Yordan Alvarez, but he would have to be the centerpiece of a deal for Belt.

There are plenty of intriguing arms in the system who could be part of a McCutchen deal, including the Astros’ 2nd round pick from last year, Corbin Martin. They also have power-armed wild thing Jorge Alcala and teenaged lefty Jairo Solis.

The best pitcher who could conceivably be parted from the Astros is one-time “crafty right-hander” Rogelio Armenteros, whose status has been boosted with a recent uptick in velocity. A couple of months of McCutchen wouldn’t be enough to pry him loose; however, would an imminently affordable Will Smith or Tony Watson do the trick? Maybe.

If you like the “raid the stars of the future” approach, then SS Freudis Nova is your guy, but given that they gave him a $1.2 million bonus back in 2016, he would seem to be entrenched in Houston for now. Unless you expect the Astros to make a Lucius Fox for Matt Moore-type move with the Giants.

Seattle Mariners
What do they need? Pitching help

Seattle is in position to finally break their playoff drought, and the team is helmed by GM Jerry DiPoto who is apparently starring in his very own version of Speed — if he doesn’t make at least one trade per week, his team blows up. So expect the Mariners to make a splash. The usual bullpen names are in play here, too, but one has to wonder if this might not be the team willing to gamble on Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija.

What do they have?

After making 8,777,666,555,444,333,222,111 deals over the last year and a half (don’t bother looking that up) there isn’t a lot left on the shelf. But there might not have to be if Seattle was willing to eat a big contract. Top prospect OF Kyle Lewis has never recovered from a series of knee injuries and could be dimming as a prospect. But more likely targets could be low-profile arms like Art Warren or Matt Festa.

Philadelphia Phillies
What do they need? Manny Machado

The Giants don’t have one of those! However, Philadelphia is itching to hurry up their rebuild and they have needs big and small. Their RF situation has been a tirefire all year, which means that they could make sense as a landing place for Andrew McCutchen, too. They also need help at catcher, which means value could be extracted from Nick Hundley. Their bullpen doesn’t look playoff ready, either If they swing and miss at Machado, will the need to land a big fish take over in Phillies front office?

What do they have?

The Phillies’ premium arms, Sixto Sanchez and Adonis Medina, aren’t going anywhere, but they have a lot of power arms in this system, including guys like Franklyn Kilome who has scuffled a bit in AA this year, and Francisco Morales. The Phillies have also seen two Reyes Moronta-esque leaps into their major league bullpen this year in Seranthony Dominguez and Victor Arano. Both have been excellent power arms for Philly, but could be pried away for McCutchen, if the Giants felt the need to recoup their Crick.

Atlanta Braves
What do they need? Good question!

The Braves offer up the most exciting tandem of young talent in baseball in Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña, a perpetual MVP candidate in Freddie Freeman, veteran presence in Nick Markakis, Ender Enciarte, and Kurt Suzuki, and a bushel of talented young arms. What they don’t have is anybody Braves fans would feel really confident about starting an important playoff game. Which means we’re talking about the Bumgarner Gambit (more on that in Part Two).

Milwaukee Brewers
What do they need? Middle Infield Help/Pitching Depth

The Brewers could honest to goodness represent the National League in the World Series. They’re good! And their owner has shown that he wants to win. That’s a potent combination for a splashy trade deadline. Consequently it’s not surprising that the Brewers, like the Phillies, are in hard on the Machado talks. But they could also use help at 2B, where Jonathan Villar continues to disappoint. If Joe Panik returns on the 3 weeks side of his prognosis rather than the six weeks side, there’s a potential fit there. Milwaukee might also welcome a reunion with Will Smith.

What do they have?

The Brewers’ speciality is extremely toolsy OF with sketchy minor league track records, the best of whom are oft-injured Monte Harrison and Corey Ray, who was thought by some to be the best college player in the 2016 draft, but who has really under-performed in pro ball. Those guys are Machado-type pieces along with CF Brett Phillips. But with Travis Shaw well established as a star at 3b, the Giants might do well to target former Cal-Berkeley 3B Lucas Erceg, though the Brewers might well gag at having to give up such a piece for Smith after their 2016 haul for him has mostly disappointed.

New York Yankees
What do they need? Starting Pitching/1B

Like several of the teams in front of them, the Yankees will involve themselves in the Machado story until the end, but their primary need as they attempt to overtake the Red Sox and avoid the dreaded Wild Card game, is to upgrade their starting rotation. They are going to be in on every starting pitcher on the market. And, of course, they could use a genuine playoff ace. Again, we’re at the dreaded Bumgarner Gambit (Part Two).

Brian Cashman has shown that he values controllability and value, so he’ll stay far away from Cueto’s contract, but he also has shown that he loves to build bullpen depth, which brings us back to Smith and Watson. More interestingly, with Greg Bird in a continual state of injury-stalled development, Cashman might take an interest in Brandon Belt’s solid contract. Belt would be an offensive monster in Yankees Stadium.

What do they have?

Good god, what don’t they have? This organization literally has more power armed pitchers than they can fit on their roster, which is why they’ve been raided in the Rule 5 drafts each of the past two years. They have power arms at the top of their system (Domingo Acevedo) and at the bottom (Albert Abreu, Juan Then, and a legion of others). They have an underappreciated MI who seems good and blocked in Thairo Estrada. And they have two “untouchables” in LHP Justus Sheffield, OF Estevan Florial or the real plum, 3B Miguel Andujar, who has already shown exceptional value in the majors. These guys are Machado-level assets, but I can see Belt’s controllability really tickling Cashman’s fancy. And then there’s the big left-hander...

In part two, I’ll take a look at who the Giants should seek out were they to go with the “nuclear option” at the deadline.