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San Francisco Giants: A bold solution to finding Tyler Austin more playing time

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 09: Tyler Austin #19 of the San Francisco Giants hits an RBI single during the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on April 09, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 09: Tyler Austin #19 of the San Francisco Giants hits an RBI single during the second inning against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on April 09, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Giants need to find a way to get Tyler Austin into the starting lineup on a regular basis, and a bold trade could be the way to do it.

The San Francisco Giants have been searching for answers offensively all season.

It looks they might have found one in Tyler Austin, who was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Twins on April 8 after he was designated for assignment.

The 27-year-old showed some intriguing power potential last season, slugging 17 home runs in 268 plate appearances while posting a 104 OPS+. However, after the Twins acquired C.J. Cron to play first base and signed Nelson Cruz to serve as DH, there was no longer a spot for him on the roster.

While he was slowed briefly by a sore elbow shortly after joining the Giants, he avoided a trip to the injured list. Still, his playing time has been spotty at best, and he made just his second start of the month on Thursday.

He has made an awfully strong case for a few more starts going forward.

While the Giants lost 12-11 on a frigid day in Colorado, Austin went 2-for-6 with two home runs and six RBI hitting out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup.

The home runs were his first in a Giants uniform, and it marked the fourth multi-homer game of his career.

The first was a two-run shot to get the Giants on the board after they fell behind 7-0.

The second was a three-run bomb that tied the game up at 8-8 in the sixth inning.

https://twitter.com/SFGiants/status/1126604916888297472

After Thursday’s performance, Austin is now hitting .333/.415/.583 with one double, one triple, two home runs and nine RBI in 41 plate appearances since coming to San Francisco.

Clearly, Austin is making a case to see more regular playing time. The trouble is, he’s limited to first base and the corner outfield spots defensively, and there’s no clear path to playing time at any of those positions.

So what should the Giants do?

If they’re serious about seeing what Austin can do with regular playing time and are committed to the idea that—with team control through the 2023 season—he can be a significant piece of the future, then a bold trade might be the answer.

Specifically, a trade of center fielder Kevin Pillar.

The 30-year-old was just acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in April, in an effort to improve the outfield defense.

What the Giants need right now, though, is offense.

While Pillar has provided some memorable moments and he leads the team with six home runs, he’s also hitting just .224 with a brutal .258 on-base percentage. Overall, adding him to the mix has done more harm than good offensively.

Considering all it cost to acquire him was a couple of spare parts and a low-level prospect, there’s no obligation of sunk cost. And while he doesn’t have a ton of trade value, plenty of teams would be happy to add a defensive player of his caliber.

With Pillar out of the picture, the Giants could then move Steven Duggar back to center field, which would allow both Mac Williamson and Austin to occupy corner spots.

It’s a defensive downgrade and an offensive upgrade, and that’s a worthwhile trade-off for this Giants team.

Benching Pillar is also an option, but given his $5.8 million salary and the fact that he has been a starter his entire career, it’s fair to assume he wouldn’t be thrilled with a diminished role. Trading him, then, seems like the cleaner solution.

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It’s a bold suggestion, but it’s something the San Francisco Giants should consider if they’re serious about adding more punch to the lineup and truly seeing what they have in Tyler Austin.

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