Closer Will Smith looks like an obvious trade candidate this summer if the San Francisco Giants fall out of the playoff hunt. What sort of return can the team expect?
Barring a reversal of fortune and some extreme exceeding of expectations, the San Francisco Giants will be sellers at the trade deadline.
That’s not shocking news for a team that had a largely inactive offseason on the heels of a second straight losing season.
If they do wind up selling this summer, Madison Bumgarner will be the focal point of trade rumors, given his postseason pedigree and impending free agency.
There’s certainly a chance the Giants bite the bullet and trade their homegrown ace, though that’s far from a foregone conclusion, especially if they intend to make a run at re-signing him.
Who then is the team’s most obvious trade candidate?
The clear answer is closer Will Smith.
Smith originally joined the Giants in a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers midway through the 2016 season. The price to acquire him appeared steep at the time, with top pitching prospect Phil Bickford and young catcher Andrew Susac heading the other way.
With Bickford flaming out and Susac never delivering on expectations, it’s been a clear win for the Giants in hindsight, even with a lost season from Smith.
After missing the entire 2017 campaign following Tommy John surgery, Smith made his 2018 debut on May 2. He went on to post a 2.55 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 with 14 saves and six holds in 54 appearances.
Now locked into the closer’s role, he’s converted his first six save chances here in 2019, posting a 1.04 ERA while striking out nine over 8.2 innings of work.
A free agent at season’s end with a reasonable $4.23 million contract, Smith will be a hot commodity this summer for teams looking to add a quality late-inning arm to the relief corps. It’s unlikely he’ll get a chance to close for a contender, but he’s more than capable of holding down a prominent setup role.
What then, can the Giants expect to receive in return?
Moving Smith is not going to bring back a franchise-altering haul like what the New York Yankees received in exchange for Aroldis Chapman when he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for a package built around uber-prospect Gleyber Torres.
That’s simply not going to happen.
Here’s a quick rundown of some trades for comparable rental relievers over the past five years to provide some context for what Smith’s value might be. Included is each prospect’s preseason organizational rank during the year he was traded, according to Baseball America:
July 26, 2018: CWS trade RHP Joakim Soria to MIL
- Pre-Trade Stats: 40 G, 16/19 SV, 2.56 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 11. 4 K/9
- Return: LHP Kodi Medeiros (No. 21), RHP Wilber Perez
July 24, 2018: BAL trade LHP Zack Britton to NYY
- Pre-Trade Stats: 16 G, 4/5 SV, 3.45 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.5 K/9
- Return: RHP Dillon Tate (No. 10), RHP Cody Carroll (No. 30), RHP Josh Rogers
July 31, 2017: PIT send LHP Tony Watson to LAD
- Pre-Trade Stats: 47 G, 10/17 SV, 3.66 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 6.8 K/9
- Return: SS Oneil Cruz (No. 27), RHP Angel German
July 31, 2017: NYM send RHP Addison Reed to BOS
- Pre-Trade Stats: 48 G, 19/21 SV, 2.57 ERA, 11.2 WHIP, 8.8 K/9
- Return: RHP Gerson Bautista (No. 20), Stephen Nogosek (No. 26), RHP Jamie Callahan (No. 28)
July 30, 2015: DET trade Joakim Sora to PIT
- Pre-Trade Stats: 43 G, 23/26 SV, 2.85 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.9 K/9
- Return: OF JaCoby Jones (No. 13)
July 31, 2014: BOS trade Andrew Miller to BAL
- Pre-Trade Stats: 50 G, 13 HLD, 2.34 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 14.7 K/9)
- Return: LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (No. 3, No. 65 in MLB)
That last one, the Andrew Miller deal, is the absolute best-case scenario.
The Red Sox turned a dominant first half from Miller into a top 100 prospect and future rotation member in left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.
However, that’s probably unrealistic.
If no one is willing to part with a top-100 caliber prospect, which is a very real possibility given the way teams are valuing top prospects these days, the front office could opt for a quantity approach similar to the package the Mets received in the Addison Reed deal.
Adding a handful of second-tier prospects could still prove hugely beneficial, especially given the general lack of depth in the Giants’ system.
One way or another, Smith is almost certain to be traded this summer.
While it’s always difficult to see productive players dealt, sending him off to the highest bidder is a no-brainer with free agency looming and a big payday on the horizon that will not be coming from the Giants.