If you hadn’t heard the news, the Giants are probably making everyone but Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford available ahead of the July 31st trade deadline. It’s only a rumor, sure, but given the context, it’s not completely without merit.
Last month, I tried to figure out just who the Giants could make available for trade to accomplish their CBT goal while trying to compete, factoring in all the complexities of nostalgia and season ticket holders. I broke it down into three categories: (1) Players teams will want (2) Salaries they’ll want to shed (3) Players they shouldn’t move but will in the “right deal”. I preceded that list with this now naive-for-its time statement:
There are also players teams might want but who the Giants wouldn’t move (basically, Buster, the Brandons, Longoria, McCutchen, Bumgarner, Watson, Smith, Strickland) and players the Giants would move but no team would want (Cueto, Melancon, Pence).
We know better now that I knew nothing then, though my assumptions were based on over 20 years of observable behavior from my favorite baseball team. What I do know, even now, is that my source is reliable. So I’m going to forge ahead here and speculate with an amended list. Although, I’m not breaking it out into categories this time, I’m just putting down the top 5 most valuable Giants who could be moved for the biggest returns.
One other little caveat I want to add before I get into all this is that The Nerds have ruined baseball with their MBA mentality. Baseball trades were rarely “even” before, but they’re less so now. Teams have always wanted something for nothing, but the extra 2% in the 21st century is that GMs love the smell of their own farts.
In other words, teams overvalue their own prospects because they’re their prospects. They did all the scouting and know exactly how they fit into their perfectly attuned and calculated system. Someone’s grimy old veteran and the player’s track record pales in comparison to the might of a specially chosen and cultivated prospect’s projected future ceiling. The Giants could very well make all of their players available and face nothing but terrible offers they can only laugh at.
So, with all that in mind, let’s at least look at the most obvious players Giants could move in the next few weeks and evaluate the consequences.
Out of all right fielders, He’s 17th in MLB in wRC+ with 111, tied with Yasiel Puig, but he’s also posting a career-high 26.7% line drive rate, which is 2nd in MLB. What does this mean? It means he’s hitting the ball hard, but he’s playing at AT&T Park.
He’s 31 and will be owed about $7 million the rest of the season. We know his defensive range doesn’t work in center field, and as we’ve seen through 87 games with the Giants, it’s just okay at the corners.
Still, back to the offense: his 109 hard hit balls (meaning balls hit with an exit velocity of 95+ mph) ranks him 21st in MLB, tied with leading NL All-Star vote-getter Freddie Freeman, and only three spots beneath AARON JUDGE. His bat is tremendously valuable, but his contract situation and age will mean it’s possible the best offer the Giants might get is a Curtis Granderson-to-the-Dodgers (Mets received the Dodgers’ 28th-best prospect, pitcher Jacob Rhame) or Carlos Beltran to the Rangers (Yankees received a trio of pitchers: Dillon Tate, Nick Green and Erik Swanson) -type deal. So, no one major league ready.
But he seems like the most obvious choice who might have the most suitors with the least offensive offers. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like too many teams are in need of an outfielder at the moment, and so that could offer some complications.
Every team needs help in the bullpen at all points during the season. Watson was an absolute steal for the Giants in the offseason, and with a whole other year on his deal (which includes a player option for 2020), combined with his lights out performance in 2018, he seems like he could get quite a haul.
For comparison, back in 2016, the Yankees traded Andrew Miller to the Cleveland team for four prospects: Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller, and J.P. Feyereisen. Frazier and Sheffield were considered two of the top three prospects in Cleveland’s farm system.
On the day of the trade (July 31, 2016), Miller had a 1.39 ERA in 45.1 innings, 77 strikeouts, 7 walks, 9 saves, and 16 holds. He’d allowed 1 of only 3 inherited runners to score.
At this point in 2018, Tony Watson has a 1.54 ERA in 41 innings pitched, 42 strikeouts, 8 walks, and 21 holds. He’s allowed 2 of 11 inherited runners to score.
One big difference is that Watson is 33 this season and Miller was 31 at the time of the trade. But just comparing their track records prior to, in the 4 years before the Miller trade, when he was establishing himself as a dominant reliever (after being a failed starter), he had a cumulative 2.40 ERA in 195 innings pitched (171 ERA+). In the 4 years before Watson came to the Giants, he posted a 2.45 ERA over 287 innings (162 ERA+). They’re not the same but they’re not far off.
His tax figure was higher this season than Watson’s, which only goes to show that bullpen arms are not only fungible, but wildly inconsistent. His worst innings as a Giant (2017 & 2018) have been the 7th and 9th (5.85 ERA in 20 IP and 7.81 ERA in 39.2 IP, respectively), but he’s been fantastic as a setup man in the 8th (1.12 ERA in 24.1 IP). Give him a clean inning, every other day or every couple of days and his power sinker can be very effective.
Like Dyson, he still has a year of team control remaining (one more arbitration), and with his stuff and decent amount of success, he could be appealing for a contender trying to solidify a run down the stretch or be included as part of a deal with a bigger fish...
Almost 13 months ago, I advocated for trading our beloved Brandon Belt (for whom you should cast a FINAL VOTE in this year’s All-Star Game RIGHT NOW — stop reading this article! Seriously, I don’t care if you even come back to it, just GO. VOTE. FOR. BELT.) when it became clear that the 2017 Giants weren’t going anywhere. The pricier part of his 5-year extension had yet to kick in and he was still just 29. A lot of favorable conditions for a cagey old team having to trade within an industry dominated byyoung whippersnappers powered by Soylent and armed with laptops and knowledge.
That didn’t happen. We got to keep our beloved Belt, he had a bit of a down 2017 season after yet another concussion that wound up ending his season on August 4th, but then he came back this season to reestablish himself as the team’s best hitter.
He’s cheaper, younger, but not better than Joey Votto, who may or may not be available in trade, but his defense is spectacular and his sense of humor is more “fan friendly” than Votto’s Canadian sensibilities. There’s just no obvious fit.
If you survey the landscape and eliminate all the non-playoff teams and division rivals, then you see there’s really only a couple of teams: maybe the Astros would want to upgrade their situation, but they might not want to take the payroll or prospect hit. Maybe the Yankees would want more consistency at the position versus Greg Bird, but they might feel more comfortable focusing on their pitching versus their offense.
Yankees fans think it’s their god-given right to get Madison Bumgarner for nothing. If teams are haggling over Manny Machado because he’ll be a free agent after the season, then they’ll have to consider emptying their pockets, wallets, and farm systems for a piece of the Giants’ best pitcher and a postseason ace no other team besides maybe the Astros has.
If prospects are the coin of the realm, then Bumgarner’s 2014 is the realm. His Game 7 relief appearance sent a shock wave through the industry. Now every team is using their best pitchers all over the place in the postseason, even when it doesn’t make sense. Why run out pale imitations when you can have the genuine article? Oh, what’s that? You’re not willing to pay the price? Well then go get Cole Hamels and leave me in peace so I can watch you fail in October.
Cashman has built up the Yankees’ system so well, he has more than enough prospects to deal for Bumgarner without depleting it entirely. New York could put together a two- or three-player package led by the likes of Miguel Andujar, Justus Sheffield, Estevan Florial or Clint Frazier, supplementing it with some mid-level prospects that would crack another team’s top 5.
Andrew Baggarly, of course, quickly debunked this notion, but it doesn’t mean that the Giants won’t at least listen to an offer, and if they’re willing to listen, then it means they’re open to being blown away. That’s not nothing and offers alone could provide leverage for the Giants in separate deals. Every playoff team or near-playoff team would want him, and that idea alone plays to the Giants’ advantage.
But, yeah, I put him last on this list because moving him feels least likely.
A couple of honorable mentions I’ll throw in here:
- Last week, I did a radio hit on an ESPN station in St. Louis, and they specifically name-checked Jeff Samardzija, as he’s familiar to Cards fans because of his years with the Cubs. Now, the radio hosts didn’t sound sour or sardonic to me when they mentioned him, so, automatically, I jumped to the conclusion that maybe he’s someone they’ve admired from afar. Or, at the very least, appreciate because he played at Notre Dame or something.
If Samardzija could reestablish some value, he might be an August deal where the Cards could take him on as an innings eater with the Giants paying some of that contract. It would still settle their tax situation and they might be able to get a reliever or minor leaguer to replace or approximate someone they’ve given up in another deal.
- Evan Longoria is a better defender and has a better track record than Jedd Gyorko, so, maybe the Cardinals might be interested in him, too, after he returns in August. And like Samardzija, trading with an NL team in August is more likely, once the Giants have a firm sense of their playoff odds.
Sure, all of this is going off of one rumor, but it’s a good rumor because it might be the very best thing for the Giants.