Last week, we took a look at the best trades of the Giants decade. But despite three World Series championships, not all was good. The Giants made some trades that were not well-planned, or simply ended up ill-fated. I’ll post the WAR gained or lost in each trade, but these grades aren’t strictly on the numbers — especially since a few of these involved minor leaguers who haven’t, or maybe won’t, make the majors.
The WAR calculations are for the time spent with the team traded to, for the duration of the contract they had at the trade or team-controlled time. Re-signing impending free agents don’t count in the WAR calculations, but was considered in these purely judgmental ratings.
I admit, this got pretty hard to decide upon the bottom parts of this list, where bad trades were less obvious from the inconsequential ones, so there were some judgment calls. But here we go.
#10: Connor Joe for Jordan Johnson to the Reds
WAR received: -0.1 (1 month); WAR traded: N/A
This gets included not because of the trade itself, but it’s the implications and symbolism of the worst of Zaidi’s method. Connor Joe was a Cincinnati Reds Rule 5 pick away from the Dodgers in the winter meetings after the 2019 season. The Giants traded for him in late March, and suddenly he showed up as a starting outfielder on Opening Day. Joe, as one would expect of a Rule 5 pick, was not ready to be a starter. He failed badly, and the Giants let him go and he was returned to the Dodgers after just a month.
The Giants didn’t lose much of a prospect in Johnson, who has struggled to establish himself even in Double-A despite his velocity. But Joe was a talented kid who was given barely a chance to succeed in just a month. He could have been kept as a backup, as Rule 5 picks usually are, on a rebuilding team. Instead, he went back to the Dodgers.
Joe hit .300/.426/.503 as an outfielder first baseman in Triple-A, where there were admittedly inflated numbers because of the ball, but that’s not a bad line for the league this year. So the Dodger have him in the wings, because the Giants gave up on him so quickly. There’s something to be said about “getting younger”, but the young kids have to be given a real chance, and good chance, to prove themselves, or else they may go through one’s fingers. It was only fair to get the one bad trade Zaidi has made so far onto the decade look-back.
#9: Gordon Beckham for Richard Rodriguez to the Braves
WAR received: -0.2 (3 games); WAR traded: N/A
Okay, I admit this is mostly filler, because the trade had almost no effect on anybody, but I included it because it’s such a ridiculous trade. Look at that date! The Giants got Beckham for three games, and he was ineligible for the postseason! Beckham, a former first round pick, continued to struggle, and he became an excellent trivia note about “Remember that this guy was a Giant?”
Beckham would sign with the Giants as a free agent after the season, but he was released in mid-May, and since then he has spent time with Seattle and Detroit. Richard Rodriguez never actually even played in the Braves system, his career ending after the trade.
#8: Jeff Soptic for Conor Gillaspie
WAR received: N/A; WAR traded: 1.3 (2.5 seasons)
Does anyone remember the obscure record that Gillaspie owns with the Giants? He has the team record for the quickest player to go from drafted to debut, playing just 24 games in the minors before his callup in 2008. He didn’t stick, but it started his clock, and Gillaspie never got the chance to establish himself. His trade in 2013 was more to clear roster space than anything, and he was decent for a while with the White Sox. He was traded away for cash in 2015, and was cut by his new team, the Angels.
In the end, Gillaspie came home to San Francisco, and hit a memorable, ninth inning home run to break a tie in the 2016 Wild Card game, close to becoming another postseason legend before the bullpen let everyone down later in the NLDS. He was let go in 2017, ending his career and never living up to the #37 overall pick he earned. But one wonders if, with a more proper development period, if things would have been different.
Soptic, meanwhile, never got above High-A, playing there for four seasons without a promotion.
#7: Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo
WAR received: 4.8 (5 months); WAR traded: Sanchez: -1.2 (1 season); Verdugo: -0.3 (1 game)
Yes, this trade made both the Best Trades list and the Worst.
Let’s not look at the numbers. Let’s look at what this did. I don’t know that there’s anything Brian Sabean could’ve done to know that Cabrera was doing anything inappropriate with PEDs, but if there was, he probably should have.
The PED aura is still a bit heavier in San Francisco than in other cities thanks to Barry Bonds. Cabrera brought that focus back onto San Francisco in the middle of one of the best eras in franchise history. And there are so many ways that sort of negativity could have brought this team down.
Luckily, it did not, and the Giants bounced back without Melky; but the scars remain, and there are probably few Giants fans who don’t shake their heads at the mention of the Melkman.
#6: Casey McGehee for Luis Castillo and Kendra Flores
WAR received: -0.6 (3 months); WAR traded: Flores: 0.1 (8 games); Castillo: N/A
With Pablo Sandoval leaving after 2014, the Giants faced a hole at third base. The Giants decided to take a chance on Casey McGehee, who had a resurgence the year before in Florida, though without much power. McGehee did not do well, and the Giants released him in early July, which by then was too late: he’d hit into 15 double plays in just 49 games, on pace to shatter the single-season GIDP record.
At least the Marlins didn’t get much in return. Flores made the Majors but only played in eight games, while Castillo never made it.
EDIT: Okay, I messed this up. That last sentence should say “Never made it with the Marlins.” He was part of an 7-player trade two years later that sent him to the Reds, that netted the Marlins Andrew Cashner...and overall negative WAR from the three players the Marlins got. So the return for the Marlins was pretty much nothing. Meanwhile, that trade would probably be on the Top 10 worst trades the Marlins ever made.
#5: Evan Longoria for Matt Krook, Stephen Woods, Christian Arroyo and Denard Span
WAR received: 4.4 (2 seasons); WAR Traded: Arroyo: 0.4 (2 seasons); Span: 0.9 (2 months); Krook: N/A; Woods: N/A
Speaking of that search for a third baseman...
Longoria was a part of the “Get veterans and hope they get a resurgence and that helps the Giants to contend while also resetting the luxury tax penalty” mandate Bobby Evans had for the 2018 season. Longoria’s bad year was a big signal of the strategy failing, although he picked it up this year to be about average.
The trade hurt for a couple of reasons. The first is the long-term commitment, with Longoria under contract through 2022. It also was that the Giants traded a young player who was nearly third base ready that could have played third base about as well as Longoria did in 2018.
Of course, the Arroyo part of the deal only hurt briefly. Very quickly, he became injury prone. He played in just 36 games across two seasons for Tampa Bay before they traded him at the deadline to Cleveland. The Rays got more out of veteran Denard Span, who was still average for the two months before getting some return in a trade to the Mariners.
There’s also still more for the Rays. Stephen Johnson was a talented young pitcher who was sent away, but he missed 2018. He came back and had a great season as a starter in 2019 as a 24-year old in High-A, and could still make waves. Matt Krook, who was always high-potential-slash-high-bust, has leaned towards being that bust.
#4: Mike Leake for Adam Duvall and Keury Mella
WAR received: 0.6 (1 season); WAR traded: Duvall: 6.4 (4 seasons); Mella: -0.4 (3 seasons)
This one hurt for multiple reasons.
Would Duvall have been the power hitting revelation in AT&T Park? Maybe not, but the park never punished right-handed hitters as much. But when it became obvious that the Giants traded away a young slugger, that was a negative. It hurt more that he was doing it at third base. Do you see a theme here?
Duvall is not a natural third baseman, of course, but he worked hard to become an average defender, good enough for his bat to make him a plus player. It was a bad deal for the Giants for a couple of years, although he’s slipped back to a reserve role after a terrible 2018.
The other end was that Mike Leake did not pay off. An impending free agent, he had a 4.07 ERA over nine starts for the Giants. The failed playoff pursuit of 2015 made this trade seem even more of a waste, and Leake did not stick around. He did not go on to be demonstrably better in his future, but watching Duvall mash in the home run derby was not a good feeling in the wake of this trade.
Oh, and Keury Mella was traded away as well. He’s been sipping on cups of coffee the last three seasons, but has not been a plus player.
#3: Carlos Beltran for Zack Wheeler
WAR received: 1.2 (2 months); WAR traded: 9.7 (5 seasons)
Alright, let’s get into it.
Many count this as the worst trade that Brian Sabean did, trying to salvage the 2011 season after the World Series win and Buster Posey’s broken ankle. The truth is, on its face, this wasn’t a bad trade based on the things Sabean should reasonably be blamed for. The Giants were in first place at the time of the trade, up by four games, performing well enough thanks to historically great pitching. Beltran was limited with injury, but he hit well in the 44 games he played for the Giants, batting .323/.369/.551 with seven home runs. He absolutely performed (when healthy).
This trade became a bust because Beltran did miss time with an injury in August, and because the rest of the Giants team collapsed in late 2011. They lost five of their first six games after the trade, and were 11-18 in August (after losing 3 straight to end July), going from leading the division to second place, six games back. By the time Beltran came back, the team was too far behind to make it. The Giants also failed to sign Beltran after the season, and he went on to become a Cardinal, a World Series champion, and finally a Mets manager — and maybe embroiled in the Astros cheating scandal.
Of course, the other side was Zack Wheeler. Wheeler never really lived up to his first round pedigree, with injuries limiting him, but he’s been a positive pitcher for New York. He ended up one of the better second-tier pitchers in a strong 2019-2020 free agent class, signing with Philadelphia. With the Giants having been unable to develop homegrown pitchers in the years since this trade, the pain of this trade was magnified.
#2: Andrew McCutchen for Kyle Crick, Bryan Reynolds and international money
WAR received: 2.0 (4 months); WAR traded: Crick: 1.2 (2 seasons); Reynolds: 3.9 (1 season)
Back to the “compete with veterans and stay under the tax” mandate. And I’m not going to lie, I loved getting the chance to root for Andrew McCutchen. He’s one of baseball’s best guys, a very lovable personality on top of being a good player. And unlike Longoria, McCutchen performed well enough. There’s a reason he was able to be traded (again) to the contending Yankees.
The problem is something I also knew right away: Bryan Reynolds was going to be a good player, and the Giants would miss him. Reynolds was the Giants’ top pick in 2016 (in the second round), and was roundly considered a steal as a good all-around player. His excellent bat control powered him to his 2019 rookie season and he hit .314/.377/.503 for the Pirates, and looks to be a big part of the future, making this trade worse and worse over the next few years. Reynolds isn’t a superstar, but he should be a good everyday starter.
Kyle Crick wasn’t a scrub either, though. He had finally surged and became a Major Leaguer in 2017, taking his velocity to be a reliever, and he carried that over into 2018 as a key part of the Pirates bullpen. He took a step back in a contentious 2019, and hasn’t been the best personality in the clubhouse, but the Pirates will still get some good things out of him if he can get himself under control again.
This is the kind of trade that hurts. It’s for a player I want to love, but damn, was it worth the players given away?
#1: Matt Moore for Lucius Fox, Michael Santos and Matt Duffy
WAR received: 0.6 (2 seasons); WAR traded: Duffy: 2.6 (3 seasons); Santos: N/A; Fox: N/A
Here it is: The trade that defines the Bobby Evans era.
As planned, it seemed like a good idea. Get a good, young starter who is under contract for years and whose mound struggles could be straightened out under the tutelage of Dave Righetti. Trade away a young player who is at the top of his trade value (Duffy) and prospects who were far, far away.
But… Rags never got Moore to figure it out. After an average finish to the 2016 season (he had just one scoreless start: a near no-hitter against the Dodgers; but, he also struck out 10 Cubs in 8 innings in Game 4 of the NLDS), Moore had one of the worst years that a starting pitcher could in 2017.
Meanwhile, the Giants again still had a hole at third base with Duffy gone. Moore was dumped at the end of the 2017 season, and Evans got the “compete with veterans and stay under the tax” mandate. This trade set forth the moves that would seal Evans’ fate.
Duffy went to Tampa, and while he wouldn’t get back to the player he was in 2015, he had some good times in Tampa, missing 2017 with injury. He became a free agent this offseason and is still unsigned.
However, the aura of Lucius Fox hangs over this trade. The Giants blew their international signing money on him in 2015, and it meant the Giants were penalized for the next two seasons, affecting their player development. When the Giants traded him and got nothing much back, it hurt. Fox, however, has not performed well as a Ray. While supremely talented physically, he had very subpar numbers in Double-A and Triple-A as a 21 year old. The youngster can still make something happen, though.
Michael Santos left as a free agent after the 2017 season, so he’s a non-factor.
This trade was the catalyst for everything that has come since the Giants’ playoff window closed. Moore’s poor pitching was a big part of the historically awful 2017 season, leading to the Joey Bart draft pick. Fox’s signing and loss left a big hole in the Giants’ player development. The loss of a third baseman prompted the Longoria trade that will continue to affect the Giants’ budget, and also prompted the McCutchen trade, which cost the Giants a nice young outfielder who they could really use right now.
That earns it the title of the worst trade of the decade.