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Ranking the trade chips, vol. IV

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It’s a very top heavy list.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Well, I definitely overestimated the trade frenzy coming out of the draft. There’s been virtually no movement and even less trade discussion. Maybe the rumors will pick up during and after the All-Star break.

Anyway, since we’re now four volumes into this series, let’s skip the lengthy preamble. You can check out the previous volumes in this series:

Vol. I
Vol. II
Vol. III

And here’s the criteria I used to set this list:

  • Don’t assume the Giants will pay down a player’s salary.
  • Don’t assume a player will waive his no-trade clause.
  • Players not on the 25-man roster could absolutely be traded, but ranking them is harder to define.
  • The Giants will only move him for a deal that upgrades some other area of the organization.

I made a conscious decision to avoid figuring out specific prospect hauls for every player because, well, that’s largely unknowable from where I’m sitting. At a minimum, though, these are the 10 players I think could bring back a prospect or multiple prospects with a floor no lower than Double-A relievers. I tend to agree with this Baggarly idea:

The Giants will look to trade away players on the major league roster for a player or players more talented than ones they could pick up in the draft next year (this is also why Sandoval is not on this week’s list). That doesn’t mean I think the Giants won’t trade for any A-ball players, but at the very minimum, the worst I think these players could “fetch” in a return is a Double-A reliever. The way the market seems to be going, it might also be the ceiling.

10. Brandon Belt

I think his grip on this spot is slipping and he’s transitioning into the “unwanted” category along with Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Mark Melancon, Jeff Samardzija, and Derek Holland. Too much money, too little production. Yes, the Giants could pay down all or most of the remaining deal, but what’s Belt’s actual value?

That lingering knee issue appears to have sapped all of Belt’s power. He’s slugging just .302 in June. His .381 OBP is making that OPS look kinda-maybe-sorta-okay, but not really. He’s fouling off good pitches to hit but still ignoring the teases and the bad pitches. But his weighted on base average (wOBA) of .334 put him around the 80s in terms of MLB rankings. Does that have much value to teams in the playoff hunt? The Giants could maybe get a Double-A relief arm for him, I think, but that’s about it, so he just barely makes this list another week.

9. Tyler Austin

Kenny wrote about how Austin’s striking out at an historic rate but has almost enough power to make up for it. Remarkably, as much as he’s been a platoon bat, his last two hits have been home runs against right-handed pitchers. There’s enough intrigue here to warrant at a Double-A arm. maybe an old-for-Double-A reliever like Brandon Belt might fetch, but it’d still be something.

8. Stephen Vogt

Not sure who might need a solid backup catcher who’s basically average in every skill, but the Phillies sprung to mind as soon as I posed the question to myself. A Double-A reliever for Vogt. I can squint and see it, and I think a backup catcher trade is more likely than a high strikeout platoon DH/1B (Austin) one.

7. Joe Panik

He’s had a terrible June at the plate, causing him to get bumped out of the leadoff spot. He’s still an excellent defender (tops by FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs saved) and I think a plus-defender with a low strikeout rate who can put the ball in play will help a defender more than a backup catcher, platoon DH, and an old, powerless first baseman still owed a lot of money.

6. Trevor Gott

He’s in the top 100 of average fastball velocity (94.8 mph), but a lot of his underlying statistics (in particular, the expected Weighted On Base average based on Statcast contact data) are far from elite. The results have been terrific, though. A 2.75 FIP is 19th-best in baseball. His 0.56 HR/9 is just a little bit beneath Reyes Moronta’s and his home run to flyball ratio of 6.3% is also great. He’s a flyball pitcher during the launch angle revolution who doesn’t give up home runs. That has some value.

It’s up to the internal metrics of the other teams to determine if that’s sustainable, although a stat like xFIP shows that he should be over a full run worse than what he’s put up.

5. Reyes Moronta

As Kenny pointed out in another great post of his, Moronta along with Smith has one of the highest reliever strikeout rates in team history. Young, controllable, has a 97 mph fastball and high-spin slider with a high whiff rate, but he’s not quite a cut above the rest of the high velocity power relievers in the game.

For all the talk of Madison Bumgarner’s alarmingly high hard hit rate, Moronta’s has jumped 11.7% from last year (when it was in the top 2% of the league) to an above league average (34.3%) rate of 37.7%. That’s just 231st in baseball.

He’s great for the Giants, but virtually no better than the lottery ticket Double-A arm(s) the Giants could get for him in return. And, yes, I could see the Giants getting two players in exchange for Moronta.

4. Sam Dyson

By that same xFIP metric, Dyson’s 3.28 is the 24th-best by MLB relievers. But just look at the other numbers: a 2.68 ERA and 3.18 FIP to go with solid walks per 9 and home runs per 9 rates. Dude’s been solid for as long as he’s been with the Giants and he’s been above average all year long.

3. Tony Watson

Watson has the 6th-best walks per 9 of all relievers in baseball. He has been less valuable by fWAR than most of the bullpen, but I’m giving him the edge over the others because he’s a lefty reliever, and since the three batter minimum rule has yet to go into effect, a lefty reliever will still have traditional value for contending teams.

The problem is that lefties are slugging .514 against him this season and have a wOBA of .360. The league average against lefties (RHP and LHP combined) is .325. So...

2. Madison Bumgarner

I had him lower after he had his worst start against the Dodgers ever last week, but after last night’s 11 strikeout performance, it’s tough to be a jerk about it. Would Bum garner a larger return than anyone else before him on this list? I think so. Easily.

No, he’s not the same pitcher and the return isn’t likely to be spectacular, but it won’t be equal to or less than what the Giants could get for any of the players on this list.

Except for...

1. Will Smith

I wrote a whole thing last week about Smith’s trade value:

Smith’s line — 2.12 ERA, 2.23 FIP, 13.3 K/9 (44), 2.1 BB/9 (7), 0.9 HR/9 (3), and .809 WHIP in 29.2 IP doesn’t reach Miller’s heights, but he’s much younger than Miller was at the time of the deal and he’s now two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Both Miller and Britton were free agents after the year, so again, the supremacy of a reliever over a starter in the trade market is firmly established.

One more example: Aroldis Chapman in 2016.

Yes, Will Smith compares somewhat favorably to him. Obviously, Chapman’s explosive fastball carries a stronger reputation, but look at his line:

2.01 ERA, 1.93 FIP, 12.6 K/9 (44), 2.3 BB/9 (8), 0.6 HR/9 (2), 0.894 WHIP in 31.1 innings.

The Cubs traded SS Gleyber Torres (19), RHP Adam Warren (28), OF Billy McKinney (21), and OF Rashad Crawford (22) for Chapman. Torres is now a Yankees star, and was the Cubs’ #1 overall prospect at the end of 2015. McKinney was #2.

A week later, this doesn’t quite hold up. Smith’s line as of today:

32.1 IP
1.95 ERA
2.01 FIP
13.6 K/9
1.9 BB/9
0.8 HR/9
.742 WHIP
219 ERA+

That’s {checks again} better than Chapman’s line was. I threw in ERA+ this time around just to get a sense of league relativity. Chapman’s ERA+ in 2016 at the time of the trade was 216.

Now, the Yankees say they’re not going to trade Clint Frazier or any of their prospects “for a rental”, but there might actually be a team out there who will. At the same time, the market has changed a lot in three years’ time, so it’s possible that there are no teams out there who would be willing to part with anything more than a couple of Double-A relievers, but that doesn’t change the situation: Will Smith is one of the five best relievers in baseball and the best the Giants have to offer.