On the tail of discussing fan outcry over the San Francisco Giants trading away Matt Duffy, Tom Tolbert, KNBR’s great radio personality, speculated Thursday with his co-host (some guy not named Ray Ratto) about what return in trade would Giants fans accept if it involved giving up Buster Posey.
(I miss Ray Ratto, for the record.)
As outlandish as the idea is, it was an interesting hypothetical to explore—as outlandish and hypothetical as it is.
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The only name they could settle on was Mike Trout. But Tolbert is a lifelong Angels fans, so he’s biased. I don’t really know anything about John Lund (that’s the new co-host, by the way), so I can’t really speculate whether he’s a WAR guy, or something else to that effect. Regardless, there are other players I consider to be of the same caliber as Trout—or even a little better—and should be involved in the discussion, if we are to indulge ourselves in such an outlandish, hypothetical pursuit.
So, what would it take for Giants fans to live with a Posey trade? Is that even possible?
Let’s first explore whether any one-for-one trade would work. The return player would probably need to be well under 30 years old (so no Miguel Cabrera or Josh Donaldson) and be a well-established superstar. And I’m not going to worry about position need, because if ever a scenario arose where the Giants felt compelled to trade Posey, then it’s likely that nobody’s job would be safe.
Here are the candidates I think are at least fathomable to consider: Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Kris Bryant, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Jose Fernandez, Giancarlo Stanton and Paul Goldschmidt.
Would a 1-2-3 punch of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Kershaw make it palatable? What if you knew Harper was going to bring a Barry Bonds presence to the team for the next decade? Or, as much as Giants fans love Brandon Crawford, what if shortstop were to be handled by a rising Cal Ripken-type, such as Seager or Correa? Is there any scenario in which Giants fans could learn to accept a Posey departure and embrace the replacement superstar?
Now, what if the Giants got some insane package, such as Betts and Bogaerts? What if Pittsburgh offered Starling Marte, Gerritt Cole and some prospects? Or what if the Yankees had called the Giants prior to the deadline and offered all three of their stud relief pitchers—Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances?
Who’s having fun thinking about this? Who’s finding this too gut-wrenching to read further? Well, I think it’s an interesting exercise, in that it forces us to pit our fanaticism against our calculating inner-GM—with the latter having to factor in the former’s significance. And it helps understand just how much Posey means to San Francisco fans.
Purely from an analytical perspective, there are scenarios in which the Giants could improve by trading Posey. Ev
en when considering the difficulty in replacing Posey’s bat at catcher, which is MLB’s weakest offensive position, such a trade could lead to more runs scored and possibly even more runs prevented. At least, that’s what it would show on paper.
Of course, as much as someone might try to rationalize the numbers, there’s a very real emotional component to this that makes trading Posey both unsavory and strategically insane.
There are de facto faces of the franchise, and then there’s that class of player so associated with the franchise that his face is as recognizable as the logo on the front of the cap. After leading the team to three World Series titles, winning the National League Rookie of the Year and a league MVP, and entrenching himself as the NL’s all-star catcher much the same way that Derek Jeter was the American League’s perennial all-star shortstop, Posey is one of the preeminent Faces of MLB.
Frankly, Posey is so strongly associated with the team that any voluntary discharge of the franchise’s leader—no matter how bountiful the return—would disorient the fan base and de-stabilize team chemistry, with potentially apocalyptic consequences. (Well, maybe more like catastrophic consequences, but whatever—something significantly bad would happen.)
So, wait, why are we talking about this? Oh, right, because Tolbert and Lund were discussing it on the radio and got me thinking about it. They got on the subject because they had been discussing fan reaction to the Duffy trade. And so they were wondering, if fans are so upset about losing a second-tier homegrown star such as Duffy, how would they handle losing someone as revered as Posey?
But, let’s just say, hypothetically, such an outlandish trade was made, the Giants got better, and they won another World Series or three…