At the trade deadline, the Giants dealt from their bullpen despite sort of being in a playoff race because the bullpen was so good and so deep that they could make serious subtractions without losing much. Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, and Drew Pomeranz were all replaced with replacements from Triple-A. The Giants even traded away Ray Black who would have been one of those replacements. If you want to throw Derek Holland in there as well, that’s five roster spots Farhan Zaidi had to fill.
Through the end of July, the Giants had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA and the best by FIP. After a month with the replacements, the ranking isn’t so shiny. They’ve dropped to fifth in ERA and ninth in FIP, and it’s taken a rough month to drop them that far. In August, the Giants bullpen has a 4.73 ERA, 5.68 FIP, and they’ve been worth -1.3 fWAR. Only the Marlins’ Nick Andersonless ‘pen been less valuable.
The funny thing is that this isn’t necessarily the replacements’ fault. Jandel Gustave, Fernando Abad, and Sam Coonrod have all been good even if they’re not striking guys out. Sure, Andrew Suárez had the third most innings in relief while being ineffective, but the guys who were supposed to be good haven’t been. Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Reyes Moronta, three of the solid arms the Giants hung on to all hit rough patches around the same time. They’ve combined for -0.8 fWAR in August with none of them being above replacement. Even Trevor Gott didn’t look right before he landed on the IL.
It looks like Tony Watson’s struggles are behind him. Will Smith pitched fine in his last two outings, but he hasn’t pitched in since the Giants were in Oakland. Moronta faded down the stretch last year, too. Hopefully, he still has some good innings left in 2019.
Before you go lamenting that the Giants traded the wrong guys, remember that the Giants would have traded anyone they though they were getting a fair deal on. Prospects traded at the deadline generally don’t pan out. The Giants probably looked at the offers for Smith and figured their odds of making the playoffs this year were better with him this year than they would be in the future if they took those guys.
The players the Giants traded away have all had their issues, too. Sam Dyson blew his first two games with the Twins before landing on the IL. (He’s been fine since coming back.) Ray Black is striking out fewer batters than Sam Coonrod despite being one of the few guys that can throw harder than him. Mark Melancon has been lights out except for a game where he somehow gave up four runs to the Marlins.
Drew Pomeranz might be the most dependable of any of them. If you guessed that Pomeranz would be better than Smith, Moronta, Watson, Melancon, and Dyson maybe you should use your powers of divination for something more beneficial to humanity.
The idea at the deadline was that the Giants could deal from their bullpen without it getting much worse. The players they had to slot in should have been able to throw competent innings at the very least. That’s been more or less true. It’s just that the incumbents all simultaneously fell into three unique manholes, and that’s hard to account for.