Will Smith was named to his first All-Star Game yesterday during ESPN’s All-Star Game roster announcement special. If you think about everything Smith has gone through since 2016, it’s easy to imagine a sort of profundity to the honor. Do you remember how he looked after his first appearance after Tommy John surgery and rehab?
All he’s done since his return?
122 K (12.7 per 9)
23 BB (2.4 per 9)
2.40 ERA (2.05 FIP)
35/40 in save opportunities
Dominant, All-Star stuff. He’s the best the Giants have to offer, which means he might not even be a Giant when they play the All-Star Game next Tuesday, July 9th.
Regrettably, MLB still has a rule in place for the All-Star Game mandating at least one player from each team gets a roster spot. Now, that’s all well and good on paper, but in practice, it virtually guarantees that a more deserving player gets left off a roster. But professional sports aren’t 100% about “the best” — they’re also very much about audience and interest.
Maybe it’s not fair that the best players aren’t on the All-Star rosters, but it’s not good business to intentionally shut off a part of the market. The argument of “Well, some people just want to watch the best play the best” ignores the inherent and historical regional-ness of Major League Baseball. Nobody cares about the Royals outside of Kansas City, but most inside Kansas City don’t care very much about non-Royals, either.
So, we’ve got the “all 30 teams must be represented” rule, though it’s not an absolute. For instance, per MLB’s own rules:
Does every team have to be represented?
Yes, and it is the job of the Commissioner’s Office to ensure this stipulation is accounted for with those selections.It should be noted, however, that if a player is selected to the roster and can’t participate for a particular reason, he does not necessarily have to replaced by a teammate.
What if a selected player gets traded to a team in the opposite league before the All-Star Game?
This happened to Jeff Samardzija in 2014, when the Cubs dealt him to the A’s. In such a scenario, the player is deemed ineligible to participate in the game but is still recognized as an All-Star for the original league. In Samardzija’s case, he wore a generic NL jersey and All-Star Game cap for the pregame player introductions.
In this particular case, Samardzija wasn’t the sole Cub — Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo were reserves. So, although the league could decide to not replace Will Smith and simply let him be ineligible, and therefore, not populate the NL roster with a Giant representative, there’s at least a chance that the league might want one of its crown jewel franchises to be represented.
Thing is, the list of possible replacements is pretty slim. Maybe even empty. You decide, based on these possibilities.
We know there’s a player vote that already went down and we can assume the players just didn’t call up FanGraphs and sort by fWAR, but the easiest 1:1 for a Will Smith replacement list starts with fWAR, and by that measure, there’s only one candidate:
Heading into yesterday, he was tied with Smith for 1.2 Wins Above Replacement. The legend of Madison Bumgarner might help put him over the top, too.
It would have to be Bumgarner or bust because the only other pitcher who comes close is Reyes Moronta (0.6 fWAR), just half of Smith’s value. But even still, Bumgarner’s fWAR puts him in just the top 50 of MLB pitchers. He’s not an ace and he’s maybe in the middle of the list of above average starters. Major League Baseball would be skipping a lot more worthy players to get to someone with the name recognition of Madison Bumgarner, whose heroics are already five years old...
So, there you have it. There’s just one player. I tricked you. Really, nobody on the Giants can replace Will Smith on an All-Star roster, and if you want to get really down in the dumps about the whole thing, consider this:
There won’t be any All-Star talent on the Giants once Will Smith leaves.
The best of the rest to finish out 2019 and play beyond it won’t ever play at top of the league talent again when you take into consideration what it means to be an All-Star nowadays.
Consider Buster Posey. Last year, he made it as a reserve, meaning he was selected by the players. At the time of the player voting, he had an .800 OPS and playing his customary above average defense. This year, Willson Contreras and Yasmani Grandal are each posting over a .900 OPS, while JT Realmuto is around .750. Both Posey and Molina (the other NL reserve last year) are below .700. Could Buster Posey return to a .750 OPS at some point over the course of his career?
It’s not impossible, but consider that he’s now up against a formidable trio, who are currently the top three catchers in baseball. There’s at least a chance Grandal isn’t in the National League next year (he signed just a 1-year deal with Milwaukee), which would seemingly open up a spot if Posey can return to some measure of his previous form, but it’s no guarantee and given that, in baseball, failing is a far greater certainty than succeeding, seems like an almost remote possibility at this point.
As for the rest of the potential 2019 and beyond Forever Giants:
- Brandon Crawford was the NL’s starting shortstop last year, but it looks like his best days as a decent bat and excellent glove man have ended.
- Evan Longoria received MVP votes as recently as 2016, but he hasn’t actually been an All-Star since 2010.
- Brandon Belt had 10 home runs and a slash line of .300/.401/.524 when he was put up for the Final Vote that he won in 2016. To that point, he had been a bit underrated as a first baseman and coming off of four and a half years of above average production (125 OPS+). Since then, a year in which he posted a 135 OPS+, he’s been on a steady decline: 115, 110, 108. The home run surge that’s bolstered most players including first basemen like rookie Peter Alonso, hasn’t affected Belt in any way. If he gets traded, maybe that changes, but if he gets traded, he won’t be an All-Star for the Giants... same as if he stays.
- Johnny Cueto? Maybe. Shelby Miller missed all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery and then had a 3.90 ERA in 90 innings through the first three months of 2017. He wasn’t an All-Star for the Cardinals, but maybe a solid return helps the Giants satisfy MLB’s rule.
Who do you think will be the next Giants All-Star after Will Smith?
Who will be the next Giants All-Star rep after Will Smith (as a replacement this year or in 2020)?
This poll is closed
Buster Posey, you idiot
MLB will change the rule for next year, so, nobody
Screw you — Brandon Belt FOREVER
DICK! DICK! DICK!