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A look back at the 2019 players who were let go

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How do those decisions stack up a year later?

San Francisco Giants Workout

You’re probably sick of hearing this stat, but I’m going to give it to you anyway: In 2019, the San Francisco Giants played 64 players. That is so many players. So many players.

Of those 64, a whopping 39 did not play for the Giants this year.

Those 39 didn’t don Giants jerseys for a variety of reasons. Some, like Connor Joe, Michael Reed, Mac Williamson, and Joe Panik, were designated for assignment during the season. Others, like Chris Shaw, Abiatal Avelino, and Zach Green remained in the organization, but never got called up. A few others — Reyes Moronta and Aramis Garcia — were injured all year long, and one — Buster Posey — opted out of the season.

And then there were the players who weren’t retained.

The Giants had a series of Major Leaguers who they opted to not bring back this year, either by not re-signing them, or by trading them at the deadline.

So how did the Giants do in letting those players go?

Let’s take a very quick look into our hindsight is 20/20 goggles, and check them out.

This is an arbitrary and vague exercise, since there are so many players who aren’t back. So I’m only including the players who would have made the Giants active roster had they still been under contract and able to play.

That means players like Burch Smith, who finished the year with the Giants, and was DFA’d and traded a few days before Spring Training, aren’t included.

That leaves us with eight players who the Giants could have kept to be contributors.

Ray Black

Contract for 2020: Pre-arbitration with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Performance in 2020: 3.0 innings, 2 hits, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts, 3.00 ERA, 4.19 FIP.

What did the Giants receive in letting Black go? Black, along with Drew Pomeranz, was traded in exchange for Mauricio Dubon. Dubon was a staple of the 2020 Giants.

Would Black have helped the 2020 Giants? Perhaps. On the one hand, the Giants had a right-handed reliever who threw fire and didn’t do all that much else, which is pretty much what Black does, so they didn’t really need him. On the other hand, he couldn’t have been worse than Sam Coonrod, so ...

Hindsight is 20/20: The Giants have absolutely no regrets about letting Black go.

Madison Bumgarner

Contract for 2020: Year 1 of a 5-year, $85 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Performance in 2020: 41.2 innings, 47 hits, 13 walks, 30 strikeouts, 6.48 ERA, 7.18 FIP.

What did the Giants receive in letting Bumgarner go? A 2020 compensatory draft pick, used to draft LHP Nick Swiney .

Would Bumgarner have helped the 2020 Giants? Sigh. Bumgarner was bad in 2020. There’s simply no other way to put it. All we can hope is that his struggles were the result of his back injury, and that the Bumgarner who closed the season with 10 shutout innings is the actual MadBum.

It’s impossible to accurately do the butterfly effect dance for baseball decisions. Perhaps Bumgarner would’ve been better with the Giants coaches. Perhaps the training staff would have shut him down earlier and gotten him healthy sooner. We’ll never know. But based on what we saw of him in Arizona, the Giants were better off having Tyler Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Logan Webb making starts.

Hindsight is 20/20: As sad as it is to say, the Giants are happier having Swiney than Bumgarner and his contract right now.

Sam Dyson

Contract for 2020: None.

Performance in 2020: N/A

What did the Giants receive in letting Dyson go? Dyson was traded to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Jaylin Davis, Kai-Wei Teng, and Prelander Berroa.

Would Dyson have helped the 2020 Giants? It’s unclear if Dyson didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the injury that ruined the end of his 2019 season, or the extremely disturbing accusations of physical and emotional abuse claimed by his former partner. As good as he was in a Giants jersey, hopefully the Giants would have gotten rid of him immediately if these allegations had been proven while he was with the team.

Hindsight is 20/20: Davis had a disappointing season, and the other two prospects are still a ways away from the Majors, but all three are interesting members of the farm. The Giants have zero regrets about this trade.

Mark Melancon

Contract for 2020: Final year of the 4-year, $62 million deal he signed with the Giants, but now with the Atlanta Braves.

Performance in 2020: 22.2 innings, 22 hits, 7 walks, 14 strikeouts, 2.78 ERA, 3.72 FIP.

What did the Giants receive in letting Melancon go? Th Giants traded Melancon to the Braves in exchange for Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler.

Would Melancon have helped the 2020 Giants? Big time. The Giants bullpen struggled for most of the year, and Melancon was a strong and valuable reliever for much of the year. It’s not a stretch to say the Giants likely would have made the postseason had Melancon still been on the roster.

Hindsight is 20/20: The Giants are probably more concerned with the process than the results at this stage of their retooling, and trading Melancon is a sign of that. The Giants didn’t anticipate contending for the postseason this year, and Beck is the No. 28 prospect in their farm, per Fangraphs. They might not make the trade with hindsight, but it’s not keeping anyone up at night.

Kevin Pillar

Contract for 2020: 1-year, $4.25 million with the Boston Red Sox (later traded to the Colorado Rockies).

Performance in 2020: .288/.336/.462, .798 OPS, 6 home runs, 26 RBI.

What did the Giants receive in letting Pillar go? Not having to pay his arbitration figure, and the opportunity to develop Mauricio Dubon in centerfield.

Would Pillar have helped the Giants in 2020? Not really. Pillar was a little bit better than Dubon, but really only has value at one position, whereas Dubon had the flexibility to play the infield. He also would have cost the Giants closer to $10 million due to arbitration, which might have been the difference between the team signing Drew Smyly or Kevin Gausman.

Hindsight is 20/20: The Giants have no regrets in non-tendering Pillar, even if it angered much of the fanbase.

Drew Pomeranz

Contract for 2020: Year 1 of a 4-year, $34 million deal with the San Diego Padres.

Performance in 2020: 18.2 innings, 9 hits, 10 walks, 29 strikeouts, 1.45 ERA, 2.39 FIP.

What did the Giants receive in letting Pillar go? Pomeranz, along with Black, was traded for Dubon. He was, however, a free agent, so he’s on a new contract now.

Would Pomeranz have helped the Giants in 2020? Absolutely! The Giants probably make the postseason with Pomeranz on the roster. He was one of the best relievers in all of baseball.

Hindsight is 20/20: The Giants definitely have no regrets about the trade they made with Milwaukee. Do they have regrets about not jumping back into the Pomeranz sweepstakes? Honestly, probably not. The deal looks good now, but Pomeranz wasn’t good in 2018 or 2019, so a pricy 4-year year deal was not one the Giants were ever going to have interest in, especially for a reliever on the wrong side of 30. It’s another process vs. results one.

Will Smith

Contract for 2020: Year 1 of a 3-year, $39 million contract with the Atlanta Braves.

Performance in 2020: 16.0 innings, 11 hits, 4 walks, 18 strikeouts, 4.50 ERA, 7.38 FIP.

What did the Giants receive in letting Smith go? A compensatory draft pick, used to select middle infielder Jimmy Glowenke.

Would Smith have helped the Giants in 2020? Yep, but that’s more a reflection of the Giants poor bullpen than Smith’s season, since the All-Star allowed 7 of his 11 hits to go over the fence.

Hindsight is 20/20: Yes, the Giants almost made the postseason, but they were not in the market to spend big on a short-term reliever. If they have regrets about anything it would be not trading Smith at last season’s deadline, but I don’t think they’re worried about that, either.

Stephen Vogt

Contract for 2020: 1-year, $3 million contract with a player option with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Performance in 2020: .167/.247/.278, .525 OPS, 1 home run, 7 RBI.

What did the Giants receive in letting Vogt go? The opportunity to give catcher reps to younger players.

Would Vogt have helped the Giants in 2020? Probably a little. His performance wasn’t good, but neither was Chadwick Tromp’s or Tyler Heineman’s. Vogt’s veteran presence might have helped Joey Bart’s development.

Hindsight is 20/20: The Giants can’t have any regrets about not matching Vogt’s contract. They didn’t know Posey would opt out, and even if they did, Vogt’s value would have been exclusively in being a mentor to Bart.

All in all: I don’t think Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris are screaming “WHYYYYYY” at the walls every night while looking back on the moves they made a year ago. Everything looks pretty smart in hindsight.

I probably could have skipped the first 1,500 words and just said that, huh?