Go online, anywhere, including here, and pretty much it’s a hate-on-Evans parade. To be honest, it kind of reminds me of the mid-to-late-2000’s hate parade on Brian Sabean, but that’s just me.
And, to be completely fair, there are legitimate moves to look at what Evans did and be upset. After all, his first truly big trade was to get Matt Moore for Matt Duffy, Lucuis Fox, and Michael Santos…it might be his “A.J. Pierzynski Move.” There’s a pretty good rundown of all his trades here, but yeah, that’s the big one you’ll constantly hear about.
The free agency results you hear about haven’t gone much better. I hear a lot of complaining about Mark Melancon (which is weird to me, considering the circumstances) and Jeff Samardzija. The complaining about Cueto is more mixed, with some begruding enough to call it a “wash” between his highs and lows.
Meanwhile, his handling of the farm system is also called into question. Obviously, he’s used it a lot for reloading, with several Top 10 prospects getting traded over the years, or the year the Giants didn’t get a first round pick because of signing Samardzija, or the effectiveness of the guys he’s been in charge of developing or drafting.
I won’t go into debating all of this (other than one move…I’m going to bring up later). What I do want to bring up is the name no one is bringing up, if only because it seems to be a complete, unqualified perfect move. And yet, it doesn’t get acknowledged.
Let’s talk about what it takes to get a win in free agency.
A.) The player must be good.
B.) The player must not cost a lot of money.
These two things are pretty subjective, and not exactly unrelated. After all, a player who is just good might still be very expensive. Jeff Samardzija is a great example of this. Not an ace, but with the potential to be upper-level mid-rotation good when healthy, and he’d been healthy. Also, the idea of what is good, and what is expensive, are two things that still very debatable.
So, what free agent has Evans signed that is both of these?
So why doesn’t he get brought up? Well, part of it is likely that he was a minor league free agent. These players get signed every year, and if they come up and do well, they aren’t truly part of the farm system since your team didn’t draft or develop them; but for some reason, they aren’t considered true free agents. Some fans call them “Garbage pile pickups” because minor league free agents often haven’t made the majors, or been able to stick there, and were let go by their previous teams.
(Once again, how desired a player is by others seems to be a big part of the value a team sees in a player.)
Rodriguez fell into this stereotype, and it’s a stereotype that isn’t without its truths. But let’s give Evans some credit.
Rodriguez isn’t a player who wandered in the minor league world, released into free agent world before finding a team that would take pity and sign him. Rodriguez was a relatively late convert into pitching, 3 years into his minor league career. After becoming a pitcher, he advanced fairly nicely, but the late start meant he hit free agency after just four years of pitching.
And Evans clearly targeted Rodriguez. Rodriguez was a free agent for only nine days before signing with the Giants. And the Giants talked to him earlier than that, because Rodriguez talked with Pablo Sandoval to ask what the GIants were like, to help decide to go to San Francisco.
Now, Dereck Rodriguez will likely get some Rookie of the Year votes, unlucky to come up in the same year that Ronald Acuña and Juan Soto came up. He has a 2.35 ERA in 18 appearances, and while one should expect a sophomore slide, he’s been an unqualified success that has other teams talking.
Oh, and he makes the major league minimum and the Giants have rights to him for five years (including his arbitration years).
He’s good. He’s inexpensive. And the Giants have rights to him for several years.
Doesn’t that sound like the perfect free agent signing?
Sure, you might dismiss him as if he were some sort of happy accident, that Evans had no idea he’d be this good. And, you aren’t wrong. He has exceeded all reasonable expectations by a mile. But the Giants clearly pursued him with hopes, and reasonable expectations of him being one of the guys available in case of injuries (boy, were they right on that one). He might be better than expected, but his signing was no accident.
Ironically, Rodriguez might end up being what Evans was going for in the Matt Moore trade. Why was that deal made? Evans saw weakness in the rotation, and wanted to get a young, underrated pitcher who would be cost controlled for a few years. And to that, I don’t fault Evans’ motivation in trying to get Matt Moore. It wasn’t a bad idea. It was, for whatever reason, bad player evaluation. (Although I think he definitely traded Duffy at the peak of his value.)
So, as we head into this offseason and the shakeup that has been announced, those that are calling for Evans job should take a good look at his career. His whole career. And while his missteps deserve being brought up and analyzed, don’t ignore his other moves. Because they haven’t all been bad.
Side Note…or End Note, I guess:
Maybe one other side to people ignoring how good the Rodriguez signing was are Giants fans who have become desensitized to the Giants picking up minor league free agents and turning them into solid (or more) pieces. But this decade, the Giants have had a very, very nice string of these players.
- Andres Torres
- Gregor Blanco
- Ryan Vogelsong
- Yusmeiro Petit
- Gorkys Hernandez
- Pablo Sandoval
- Alen Hanson
- And, of course, Dereck Rodriguez
(Add in waivers and you can catch Cody Ross and Pat Burrell.)
A lot of these are from Sabean’s reign, though Bobby Evans was a part of that regime, and the part that focused on the minors, so who knows how much Evans’ input went into that. Sandoval is a class all its own, considering the circumstances.
But Giants fans might be a little too used to this, thinking this is a normal thing. It really isn’t. Every organization has their names of good pickups off of minor league free agency. But to have had a string like this, for most of the decade, where the Giants found these players, and turned some of them into key parts of championships and succeeded like this, is very rare. Don’t underestimate how good that player evaluation has been, whomever you give the credit to.