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The pitchers who would be traded

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We were promised trades this season. These relievers were the sacrificial lambs.

Minnesota Twins v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Sam Dyson

With the Giants: 49 G, 51 IP, 47 K, 7 BB, 3 HR, 2.47 ERA, 2.72 FIP

With the Twins: 12 G, 11.1 IP, 8 K, 6 BB, 3 HR, 7.15 ERA, 6.83 FIP, and a potential investigation

Of all the relievers the Giants traded this year, Sam Dyson was the best. After a mediocre season in 2017 that had some wondering if the Giants should even bother to tender him a contract, Dyson turned in a solid 2018 and an even better 2019. And when he went to the Twins, nothing bad happened at all.

Role on the 2019 team

The former Texas Rangers closer was picked up for cheap to be a groundball dynamo, and that’s what he was. It took a couple of years for enough of the closer stink to dissipate before Bruce Bochy started using him properly—but once he did, the red-bearded sinkerballer shined. No longer obligated to pitch against his platoon splits, Dyson wreaked havoc on righties, recording a 9.3 K/BB rate and a 2.27 FIP in 32.2 innings against same-handed hitters.

But when he had to pitch against lefties…he was still somehow great. The K/BB rate fell to 4.8, true, but he still kept inducing groundballs (56 percent of batted balls) and limiting hard contact (17.3 percent of batted balls).

The dude was just a good pitcher, on a team with a bullpen full of good pitchers. Also, he has a cute cat.

Role on the 2020 team

Of course, Dyson won’t be on the team in 2020, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have an impact for many, many years to come. I am, of course, referring to the trade that brought back three prospects from the Twins, chief among them a corner outfielder who quickly got us daydreaming about the power hitter that Mac Williamson was always supposed to be.

Upon arriving in Sacramento, it seemed like the 25-year-old Jaylin Davis could only hit homers, knocking out 10 dingers in just 27 games before getting called up to the majors. He wasn’t nearly as impressive in a Giants uniform, as he did more infield dribbling than over-the-wall mashing with his bat, but September numbers should always be taken with a grain of salt. The fact is, his AAA numbers simply can’t be ignored, and he’ll show up in 2020 at some point.

At the very least, he closed this season on a good note.

Grade

Dyson was great out of the bullpen, and when the trade deadline came around, he landed a decent return. It’s a shame the timing of his injury has cast the whole thing in a suspicious light, but there’s no denying he did everything he was asked to do. He’s a solid three Zaidis out of four.

Mark Melancon

With the Giants: 43 G, 46.1 IP, 1 Save, 44 K, 16 BB, 3 HR, 3.50 ERA, 3.32 FIP

With the Braves: 23 G, 11.1 IP, 11 Saves, 24 K, 2 BB, 1 HR, 3.86 ERA, 1.83 FIP

Mark Melancon leaves the Giants with a weird and unfortunate legacy. He was signed in 2017 as the pricey closer who would fix all of the Giants’ bullpen woes.

Narrator: He didn’t.

And then, he got injured. And then, it turned out the pronator muscle in his throwing arm was basically suffocating to death. And then, he came back in 2018 and was pretty good! Not $62 million good, but pretty good!

Which version of Melancon would we get in 2019? The expensive disappointment, the expensive setup man, or the expensive elite reliever we had been promised?

Role on the 2019 team

I mentioned before how Dyson’s closer stink impeded some of his success early in his Giants run. The same could be said for Melancon.

Fortunately, a terrible season and injury wore off the closer stink quick for Melancon. Instead, he was given the opportunity to pitch in situations where he was most likely to succeed. Sometimes that meant coming in the 6th inning to protect a lead. Sometimes that meant throwing the 9th inning when the Giants were down by a few runs and not likely to come back.

And he was pretty good! Out of 43 appearances, he held the opposing team scoreless 32 times—and the times he allowed a run, it was usually a game that the Giants were going to win (or lose) anyway. Overall, he showed signs of the elite pitcher that was and became a big contributor to a stellar bullpen.

And then he got traded to the Atlanta Braves, and suddenly, it was like he remembered that actually, he’s really good. Ignore the ERA, and just look at that FIP. That’s an elite number, and if he manages to maintain those numbers next year, the Braves will have themselves the closer the Giants never got.

Role on the 2020 team

None, at least financially.

Grade

I don’t know how he pulled it off, but Zaidi traded the untradeable while convincing the Braves to take on the rest of Melancon’s salary. And on top of that, the Giants got two intriguing prospects in relievers Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler. Not too shabby, Zaidi, not too shabby.

Drew Pomeranz

With the Giants: 21 G, 17 GS, 77.2 IP, 92 K, 36 BB, 17 HR, 5.68 ERA, 5.24 FIP

With the Brewers: 25 G, 1 GS, 26.1 IP, 45 K, 8 BB, 3 HR, 2.39 ERA, 2.68 FIP

Drew Pomeranz was a bad starter. Like, Derek Holland bad. And then he was a weirdly effective reliever for about five innings. And then he got traded. And then he was ballistically good for the Brewers, putting up 0.9 rWAR in just 26.1 innings.

Pomeranz had a weird season.

Role on the 2019 team

I didn’t make that earlier comparison to Holland for no reason. Pomeranz was brought in to be this year’s Holland, but with more upside. After all, it was only as recently as 2017 that Pomeranz was a good starter who showed flashes of being an ace. Plus, he was only 30 years old. Maybe his 2018 was just a fluke!

At any rate, if there was a pitcher who had a decent shot at being good again, it was Pomeranz. And the Giants were set to reap the rewards on the cheap.

It, uh, didn’t work out that way.

In 17 starts, he allowed 49 earned runs and 17 home runs (!), with hitters recording a line of .296/.377/.529. It was like he was pitching to a lineup composed entirely of Bryce Harpers. As a result, he got the Holland treatment and was sent off to the bullpen.

And that’s when things got weird.

In 5.1 innings out of the pen, Pomeranz dominated. He allowed no runs and only one hit while striking out eight. Opposing hitters recorded a line of .067/.125/.067.

Was Pomeranz mischaracterized as a starter? Was he secretly Mariano Rivera? Was the elite reliever the Giants were looking for in front of them the whole time?

Of course, we’re talking small samples here, and there’s no way of knowing if Pomeranz, Awesome Reliever, is the real deal. Unless you’re the Brewers, in which case you only need five innings to know that Pomeranz is the next Andrew Miller.

So, in a trade that looked like an absolute steal at the time, the Giants got Mauricio Dubón, and the Brewers got two lottery tickets. But the Brewers got exactly what they hoped for, with Pomeranz recording a FIP of 2.68 and a K/9 of…

/double checks notes

…15.4?! Holy cow, that’s incredible.

Role on the 2020 team

A part of me likes to imagine a Giants bullpen that includes a resurgent Pomeranz alongside fellow lefties Tony Watson and (possibly) Will Smith.

On the other hand, Mauricio Dubón.

MLB: SEP 03 Giants at Cardinals Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The kid is still a work in progress—he needs to bring the strikeouts down—but it’s easy to see the talent: He can hit with pop, he has speed, and he flashes a great glove and instincts.

Basically, he projects to be what Joe Panik was supposed to be, but better. I’d say that’s worth an elite Pomeranz.

Grade

This is exactly what we hoped to get when Zaidi was hired as the PBO—the kind of wheeling and dealing that turns castoffs into great returns, either on the field or through trades. It might not have been pretty for most of the season, but there’s no doubt that netting a starting second baseman based off of five innings of relief is peak Zaidi.

Ray Black

With the Giants: 2 G, 2 IP, 5 K, 1 BB, 1 HR, 4.50 ERA, 6.21 FIP

With the Brewers: 15 G, 14 IP, 13 K, 8 BB, 4 HR, 5.14 ERA, 7 FIP

What can we say about Ray Black? When it seemed like every other team was throwing out fireballers, Black was the one pitcher who promised to carry the Giants bullpen into the future. Unfortunately, in the process of dragging the entire team’s pitching philosophy forward, he broke every bone and tore every muscle. Injuries have plagued his career, limiting his playing time (remember when he wasn’t allowed to pitch on consecutive days?) and frustrating his potential.

Still, it was easy to dream about the 100+ mph fastball that would render opposing batters useless.

Role on the 2019 team

Alas, much like Mac Williamson, it seems that he must accomplish that dream with someone else.

It’s hard to say that Black’s brief stint this year constitutes a “role,” but it’s worth noting that he was on the taxi squad when it was announced he and Pomeranz were heading to Milwaukee, leading to a travel story from hell.

As harsh as it is to say, that was his role. He was a substitute, a guy the team could call up to eat an inning or two before sending him back down again. For a player on the cusp of 30, it must have been a demoralizing position.

At least in Milwaukee, he had a chance for some extended action in the majors. He wasn’t particularly good while there, but at least he could flash his heater to a packed stadium.

Role on the 2020 team

See previous entry. Black’s legacy as a Giant now belongs to Dubón. It’s not the kind of legacy he might have hoped for, but for a guy considering retirement just a couple of years ago, it’s not the worst outcome.

Good luck, Black!

Grade

As a member of the taxi squad, he’s exactly the kind of player Zaidi is inclined to purge from the system. But hey, at least he contributed something, and as we’re about to see, something is a whole lot better than nothing.

Derek Holland

With the Giants: 31 G, 7 GS, 68.2 IP, 71 K, 35 BB, 17 HR, 5.90 ERA, 6.07 FIP

With the Cubs: 20 G, 1 GS, 15.2 IP, 11 K, 10 BB, 3 HR, 6.89 ERA, 6.21 FIP

I remember being perplexed when the Giants re-signed Derek Holland last offseason. Sure, he had a decent 2018, putting up 2.1 rWAR as a reliever-turned-rotation mainstay. But it was hard to believe his bounce-back season was more than a blip—and after Holland’s ill-conceived, racially charged “joke” delivered live on TV, it would’ve made all the sense in the world for both parties to go their separate ways.

And yet, perhaps Zaidi felt some secondhand embarrassment that former GM Bobby Evans missed an obvious chance to, as they say in the industry, “sell high.” So, @Dutch_Oven45 was brought back on a one-year contract with a team option for a second year, undoubtedly with the understanding that if he performed well, he’d be wearing a different uniform come July.

Welp, at least one part of that was true.

Role on the 2019 team

As Sami pointed out before the season, it was initially unclear what role (if any) Holland would have on the team. Would he stay in the rotation, where he was a reliable innings-eater the previous season, or would he start the year in the bullpen?

As it turned out, he would end up in the rotation, starting seven games and even throwing a complete game! Of course, it was a shortened game against the Pittsburgh Pirates that was called after five innings due to a three-hour rain delay, but it counts!

How did those starts go?

It culminated in an abysmal start at Colorado, where Holland lasted only 2.2 innings while allowing seven runs and three home runs. After that, he was relegated to the bullpen, pitching almost solely in blowouts. He wasn’t much better as a reliever.

He wasn’t much better off the field, either. Shortly after his move to the pen, Holland infamously alleged that the front office had him fake an injury. Now, I’m not questioning the veracity of his claim—the way front offices use the IL these days is, indeed, shady—and in retrospect, it touched on a larger anxiety that many in the clubhouse seemed to be feeling: a growing frustration with the constant churn.

Still, the optics of a struggling player complaining about a front office not wanting him to play while he’s struggling isn’t great. And then, to make matters worse, he threw a public hissy fit about an article Brady wrote. Brady! Who can get mad at Brady?

About a month later, Holland was unceremoniously designated for assignment and subsequently traded to the Cubs for cash considerations. He continued to live up to his Twitter handle in Chicago, epitomized in this glorious moment against Bryce Harper.

Role on the 2020 team

None, and thank goodness for that.

Grade

Whatever Zaidi’s plan for Holland was, it failed spectacularly. The self-proclaimed jokester was bad on the field and a distraction off of it, and he netted no positive return when he was finally traded. If I could, I’d give him zero Zaidis, but Bryan specifically said I couldn’t do that. So, he gets half a point.