I’m just going to add together two things, one involving the San Francisco Giants and one not, in order to make this all about the San Francisco Giants.
Spoke with Giants’ Farhan Zaidi tonight when he arrived at GM meetings, and he spoke of trades to get younger/more athletic, what Conforto/Manaea decisions mean and manager musical chairs involving candidates he had interviewed: https://t.co/Y1Cp5LfQvz via @sfchronicle— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) November 7, 2023
Craig Breslow readily acknowledged the Sox are getting calls on Alex Verdugo.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) November 8, 2023
According to MLB Trade Rumors’ projection system, Verdugo could earn around $9.2 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility. That’s a very attractive contract for a franchise that has a large ownership group with a volume of dividends that eat into the payroll budget; and, getting a sub-30 outfielder (Verdugo will turn 28 on May 15th) with a solid major league track record will feel like a miracle.
Hmm. Former Dodger who was in the organization during Farhan Zaidi’s time there? Under 30? Solid swing decisions? A strikeout rate-walk rate pairing that’s approaching Wilmer Floresesque? (Seriously, 94th percentile Whiff rate, 88th K%, 85th percentile chase rate). Sounds Totally Zaidi.
But then there’s his part in the sexual assault involving Dodgers minor leaguers, which we already got with Gabe Kapler’s hiring. (Julio Urias is a free agent — and under a new investigation! — is he another distressed asset the Giants might take a look at?) Will Zaidi really acquire another piece of this story just because it’s cheap, easy and fills a need?
Now, let’s say that the team, like most fans, doesn’t care about any of that. And I admit this part is pretty gutless to say on my part — the assault investigation is the first thing I associate with Verdugo. Practically the only thing. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Do the numbers make him a worthwhile acquisition? His Sprint Speed is just 48th percentile and his Outs Above Average range is 67th. FanGraphs liked his defense a bit (+3.5 Defensive Runs Above Average), but it’s hardly intriguing. He was so bad in CF in 2021 (-5 OAA) that he hasn’t played there since. If the Giants mean “younger and athletic” compared to Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto, then Verdugo fits the description.
Hitting-wise, he had a terrible second half, too, which both makes him a perfect Giant and a terrible potential Giant. .225/.268/.367 in 235 plate appearances is no doubt what got him put on the trade block. He was -2.477 WPA added, which according to Baseball Reference’s calculation means that his hitting results cost the Red Sox about 2.5 wins. Yikes! And when you think about his past and how it’s tied in with Kapler and the Dodgers, double yikes! Or consider what Oracle Park does to left-handed hitters— triple yikes!
But I’m hitting the panic button anyway because the Giants see things beyond the publicly available data. LaMonte Wade Jr.’s “underlying stats” never let them waver and look what he gave them for most of 2023. Using Statcast, Wade’s 2022 expected weighted on base average based on contact (xwOBAcon) was .349 compared to a a .298 actual wOBA. And guess what? In 2023, Wade’s wOBA was .347. Following that line: Verdugo’s 2023 xwOBAcon (which I pronounce “ex-WHOOOOAAAAAA-bacon!”) was .357 compared to a .322 actual wOBA. So, who knows? Maybe there’s a swing adjustment to be made.
Still, Verdugo was about as valuable as Mike Yastrzemski in 2023 (2 fWAR vs. 1.8, respectively). Maybe they think they can apply the same program that optimized Yaz (and Wade) to Verdugo. Of course, there’s not much evidence that they share a disposition or work ethic. From MLBTR:
While Verdugo was open about his desire to sign an extension with Boston over the summer, no deal materialized. To the contrary, his name actually surfaced in trade rumblings about a month later. While a swap didn’t come together, the juxtaposition was still notable. Verdugo also appeared to clash with skipper Alex Cora, to an extent, on multiple occasions; he was benched both in May and in August — first for not running out a grounder and secondly for a late arrival to the park.
For all these reasons and the assault investigation, I’m sure the Giants aren’t one of the teams involved and Craig Breslow is simply trying to generate as much trade interest as he can for the player by talking to the press. It’s the GM meetings after all! Free agency! Trade season! Gotta throw some chum into the water, right? Except the Giants don’t need another corner outfielder.
At least not this one.