San Francisco Giants Bolster Pitching on Trade Deadline Day

Jun 2, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore (55) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore (55) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

First, they found help for the offense by acquiring Eduardo Nunez. Then today the San Francisco Giants focused on their pitching, picking up lefty reliever Will Smith from Milwaukee and southpaw starter Matt Moore in deadline deals.

Smith entered the season as the Brewers’ presumed closer, but an injury nixed that. Moore was a big-time prospect when he came up with Tampa Bay, impressing as a rookie in 2012 and then looking even better in 2013. Moore’s career hit the skids when he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, but he has been gradually getting better since returning to action last year. His 2015 numbers were ugly, but that’s not entirely surprising for a pitching coming back from such an injury.

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A lot of Giants’ fans are upset that Matt Duffy was part of the package that San Francisco sent to the Rays for Moore. To those fans, I say: don’t fret. While Duffy is a solid player and a good guy, there’s plenty of reason to doubt whether he could provide years of starter-level production at the hot corner. He wasn’t a big prospect coming up, and though he was among the better National League rookies last year, he has looked overmatched in 2016. Plus, he was expendable after the Giants acquired Nunez, who is a far superior player. Long term, Duffy is probably more of a utility player.

On top of that, the Giants didn’t trade away top prospect Christian Arroyo, who plays third base and shortstop. Between Nunez, Arroyo and Brandon Crawford, the left side of the infield is covered, thus making 19-year-old shortstop Lucius Fox also expendable, and thus the  was also sent to Tampa. (The Giants also included Single-A pitcher Michael Santos in the deal.)

If Moore bombs, then yeah, it will prove to be a bad trade. But he is an excellent talent whose numbers will immediately improve moving from the American League East to the NL West. Longer term, he should continue to improve as more time passes from his Tommy John surgery. There’s reason to question, though, whether he will round into a playoff-caliber starter by the end of the regular season.

The price for Smith is a little harder to stomach. Losing Susac isn’t a big deal; he was the third catcher in the organization, his skill level is easily replaceable, and the Giants still have longtime Major Leaguer Miguel Olivo catching in Triple-A. But giving up Phil Bickford hurts. It’s not that prospects are so sacrosanct that they can’t be traded. It’s just that he is a highly regarded starting pitcher who was swapped for a relief pitcher.

Then again: the game has moved toward emphasizing relief pitching, the Giants needed a relief pitcher, and Smith is a good one. His 2016 ERA is thus far a good-not-great 3.68, which is nearly a run higher than his ERA last year. And his average of a strikeout per inning is down from last year’s 1.5 K’s per inning. So the Giants have to be banking on Smith getting into a rhythm and maybe getting a boost from playing in games that matter. Otherwise, they merely added a decent lefty to bullpen.

Now that the Giants have these two new pitchers, where do they fit in? Smith could easily move right into the closer’s role. Or maybe Manager Bruce Bochy sticks with Santiago Casilla in that role for now, but will be prepared to make a switch if Casilla continue to blow saves. Moore is a starter, so it’s likely he will bump either Jake Peavy or Matt Cain from the rotation. Both have been inconsistent, with Cain’s woes probably more due to his struggles with hamstring issues.

It would have been nice to see the Giants add a power bat, such as Ryan Braun (who is still with Milwaukee) or Jay Bruce (who went to the Mets), before the trade deadline, but the Giants are definitely better now with Nunez, Smith and Moore. It’s difficult, though, to say whether it was enough to keep them competitive for a World Series run.

Next: Triple Play Kills Giants Rally

Of course, Monday marked just one trade deadline. There’s still the waiver trades that can go down over the next month. So maybe the Giants are done tinkering with their roster.