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Ranking the Giants’ trade chips

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The Giants don’t have a lot to offer other teams, but who falls where in the pecking order of “most to offer”?

San Franciso Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last month, ShutUpWesley took stock of the Giants’ trade chips. Now that we’re in June and now that there’s a hard trade deadline of July 31st and now that teams will be competing for the best closer available (Craig Kimbrel) and best starting pitcher available (Dallas Keuchel) who will only cost cash, there will very soon be teams that missed out and are itching to fulfill their desires elsewhere.

So, here I am ranking the Giants’ trade chips. These are, as I see them, the most desirable players who could actually be moved. I strongly considered feasibility with this ranking. This list absolutely assumes that Mark Melancon will never waive his no trade clause; and, if if you’re wondering about any other player not on the list, assume that was intentional. The Giants aren’t going to trade Buster Posey or Brandon Crawford, because of a all the factors involved: high salary, low performance, full no trade clauses, faces of the franchise.

This doesn’t mean I think 40-man pre-arb players like Shaun Anderson, Dereck Rodriguez, etc. on the 40-man don’t have potential trade value — I’m just going off of the most likely candidates as I see them. Obviously, the Giants could get creative and include anyone they want (except for those three above I just mentioned).

I also don’t assume the Giants will just pay down any contract to get a better offer. Yes, they absolutely can afford to work this way, but Even if no team wants to take on extra salary, the sense I’m getting is that teams would also rather keep their own prospect than add a new player, even if that new player theoretically improves their chances of making it to the postseason. Finally, I think we can all agree that the best the Giants have to offer isn’t all that great anyway. On that note, here’s the list!

10. Sam Dyson

I’m probably ranking Dyson too low because when you look at the numbers and compare them to the rest of the field, he stands out. By plain ol’ fWAR, he’s already registered a 0.4 in 29 innings pitched with a 28:4 strikeouts to walk ratio.

He has been exactly as valuable (again, just by fWAR) as these 10 pitchers: Hansel Robles, Justin Anderson, Lou Trivino, Roenis Elias, Michael Lorenzen, John Brebbia, Chad Bettis, Scott Barlow, Cam Bedrosian, and Steve Cishek and these two Giants: Reyes Moronta, Tony Watson.

His 2.97 xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching based on the quality of contact against his stuff) is in MLB’s top 20, so why I am ranking him 10th? It’s just a feeling. Dyson still throws hard, has great spin on his fastball, and induces a lot of groundballs and soft contact, but with the new juiced balls, he’s not getting quite the same volume of soft contact. His 35% hard hit rate is above the league average (34.3%) and his career average (33.6%).

There’s also his 2017 season, when he seemed to completely lose it. We may never learn how the Giants “fixed” Dyson or what he did to correct a 10.80 ERA in 16.2 IP, but even now, especially when coupled with the high instability of pitchers, it’s hard not to have the possibility of a meltdown in the back of your mind.

Although he’s still arbitration eligible next season, his price tag this season is $5 million, which maybe the cheap teams wouldn’t want to pay any portion of this year and whatever bump he’ll surely get in arbitration next year. Sure, a team could just cut him before having to deal with arbitration figures, but that would also make them less inclined to give up a prospect or anything of value in the first place.

Still, an arms race at the deadline could get tight and some team might get desperate. It’d probably have to be a team that already gets a lot of ground balls — to match up with the defense — and by that filter, the range of possible destinations narrows:

Top Five Pitching Groundball Rates

5. TB - 45.0%
4. LAD - 45.1%
3. TOR - 45.7%
2. CHC - 47.5%
1. COL - 47.5%

Top Five Defenses by FanGraphs Defensive Runs

5. PHI - +13.3
4. LAD - +14.4
3. TB - +16.3
2. AZ - +18.5
1. MIN - +19.1

That’s sloppy methodology, but strikeouts are the coin of the realm, and since Dyson doesn’t throw 96 mph+ or have a 10+ K/9, he’s not going to be the first choice for many.

9. Tony Watson

The Giants got him for virtually nothing last offseason and the move has paid off virtually every single time Watson has taken the ball. He has been a consistently solid reliever, and with a need for left-handed relievers being open-ended, somebody will want him. The steep price tag ($7 million this season, though of course the trading team would only have to pay the balance) and potential player option at season’s end (which means either the receiving team is on the hook or knows it only has no “control” beyond this year) are complications that don’t make any trade clean.

Another complication is this weird reverse platoon split he’s sporting through the first two months of the season. Left-handed batters have a career .584 OPS against him, but this year, albeit in just 27 plate appearances, lefties have an .852 OPS, going 9-for-27 with two doubles and a home run. It’s a small sample, but teams are always looking for reasons to not do something or to get good players for as little in cost as possible.

Watson is still more valuable a trade chip than Sam Dyson because he’s left-handed, but again, the lack of an overpowering fastball (despite it’s above average spin rate) won’t make him somebody’s first choice. He also might be a better fit for an NL team, just based on his career numbers against NL and AL teams (.767 OPS against in Interleague play).

8. Trevor Gott

The good? His fastball velocity is in the top 25% of Major League Baseball. The not so good? Just 20th percentile spin. Pitchers can still be effective without high spin rates, however.

In Gott’s case, he’s not walking too many people (6.6% walk rate, league average is 8.3%), but the not so good part brings us back to the underlying analytics. Teams aren’t really going to salivate over a hard hit rate of 40% (just 25% percentile) or his recent trip to the IL with a right forearm strain.

Still, he’s on the list this high because of the years of team control remaining (he won’t become a free agent until 2024), the increased strikeout rate (a career-high 27.5%), and the 94.8 mph average fastball velocity, the same average as pitchers like Max Scherzer and Trevor May. His 9.38 K/9 and 0.5 fWAR puts him in the vicinity of A’s closer Blake Treinen.

He might very well be an ace reliever in the making. At the very least, there’s a strong possibility that he’s a reliever on the rise, and a forward-thinking, small revenue team might be willing to get in on the ground floor. But he was also let go by the Nationals, which might mean the Nationals are bad evaluators or that the league’s opinion of him differs from a strong two-month sampling.

7. Tyler Austin

The biggest bummer of this season has been Andrew McCutchen’s season-ending ACL injury. The Phillies just acquired Jay Bruce, but maybe they could use a lefty-masher to compliment their righty-masher?

Like Trevor Gott, Tyler Austin makes the league minimum and has several years of team control remaining. More importantly, he has a pronounced platoon split. Against lefties for his career, he’s slashing .287/.366/.616 (.982 OPS). Just to put that into perspective, Mike Trout’s career line against lefties is .292/.416/.527 (.943 OPS). That’s in almost literally 1,000 more plate appearances, but you catch my drift: against lefties, Tyler Austin is Mike Trout.

Somebody will want a power punching platoon/bench bat for down the stretch.

6. Brandon Belt

On that note, some team will want the best hitter on the Giants. Sure, it’s a question of whether or not the Giants could make such a deal happen, or if they’d even want to make such a deal, or if any team would be able to medically clear Belt’s balky knee, but just from a pure “on paper” perspective, he’s the Giants’ most valuable hitter at the moment,

The Rockies were said to be one team to check in on Belt’s availability this offseason, but with a 10-team no trade list, it’s unclear if that’d be an immediate possibility. Belt’s list changes every offseason and he tries to be strategic a la Madison Bumgarner’s 8-team no-trade list (more on that in a bit), so it seems very unlikely the Giants could move him even if they wanted to, but he’s also so good that it’d be irresponsible of me to not include him.

The no trade clause, the market rate contract ($51.6 million owed through 2021), his aging curve (he’ll be 33 at the end of his deal), and again, the aforementioned balky knee, would all seemingly be working against him here and, indeed, that’s why he’s weighted down to the second half of the list. Still... just imagine him in Yankee Stadium. Or on the Astros. He’d be a fit on virtually any team.

5. Pablo Sandoval

Trading for a league minimum team mascot and cheerleader might not be a GM’s top priority, but for a younger team trying to make a run, an experienced winner with a youthful vibe would fit the bill in a lot of places.

The Giants wouldn’t likely get very much in return for him, so that’s why I’m sticking him square in the middle of the list. Any sort of return would seemingly be a boon, given Pablo’s status in the industry as recently as two seasons ago. It feels very unlikely the Giants would get rid of Bruce Bochy’s touchstone player in the manager’s final season, but baseball is a business, and we don’t get many days in a year where we aren’t reminded of that.

4. Joe Panik

Way back when, Keith Law projected Joe Panik as a utility player. That’s not a bad projection. At worst, it said he would make the majors and have a decent chance to stick. If anything, it was conservatively positive. That Panik far exceeded most prognostications is a credit to his work ethic.

Joe Panik doesn’t strike out (9.8% strikeout rate is in the top 2% of the league) and he makes contact (4th in MLB at 89.4%). He also doesn’t hit for much power and doesn’t necessarily have much versatility on the infield. He does, however, have plus defense at second base (+3 Defensive Runs, per FanGraphs), and after a rough first month of the season (.550 OPS), he bounced back to hit .277/.373/.415 (.788 OPS) in May. A trade partner would also still have one more year of team control.

A tough out with championship pedigree and solid defense has value.

3. Madison Bumgarner

The uptick in velocity has been very encouraging. It’s safe to say that Bumgarner is back to a slightly diminished yet pre-dirt bike accident form — and by slightly diminished, I mean capable of going just 5-6 innings per start. But, like, a pretty strong 5-6 innings.

I probably should’ve pushed him down the list, but consider this some recency bias: he’s looked really good lately. Recognizably MadBum. The Giants might not get as much as we could’ve imagined had they moved him before 2017 even started, but a single player with some obvious and intriguing upside is not beyond the realm of possibility at this point.

He’ll have value from a marketing perspective. Any team that acquires him would be sending a signal to the fanbase that they’re taking a postseason run very seriously. He would certainly draw a crowd. He might even produce some strong pitching down the stretch. He’s not the same pitcher he once was, which is a bit of a shame because he’s still just 29, but there’s value there. Consider this: his K/9 and FIP are in the top 20, and purely by fWAR, his 1.1 value is #25 in baseball.

His no-trade list is all teams most likely to make the playoffs:

Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies, Braves

The list of teams not on Bumgarner’s no-trade but that might still be in playoff contention a month from now is really interesting:

Nationals, Twins, Reds, Pirates, Cleveland, White Sox, Texas, and Los Angeles of Anaheim

2. Reyes Moronta

Years of team control, a 97.1 mph average fastball velocity (21st in MLB) and 13.5 K/9 (12th in MLB). Teams would give a lot to get him and the Giants would seem foolhardy by not being open to getting a lot back in return for one of their great relievers.

1. Will Smith

In a group of great relievers, he is the greatest. The most-trusted member of the bullpen. Of baseball’s closers, he’s the best, too. The lack of team control beyond this season should drop him out of the top spot, but his left-handed dominance by way of an elite skill set makes him too valuable to put anywhere other than number one.