San Francisco Giants: The case for selling it all at the trade deadline
By Marc Delucchi
For the sake of the future, the San Francisco Giants should not only sell but sell aggressively ahead of this year’s trade deadline.
It is time for the San Francisco Giants to let go.
On Monday, the Giants began a series that gives them a chance to pull into a tie for second place in the NL West. They are less than five games back of the second wild-card spot and are putting silly thoughts in fans’ heads.
Most fans remain pragmatic. They understand that while the Giants are technically within striking distance of the wild card, they are also tied for the third-worst record in the National League.
Still, the Giants have been exciting to watch. It’s nice to see the team compete and have enough offensive firepower that a one-run deficit doesn’t seem insurmountable.
No one wants the Giants to turn into buyers. Their farm system is slowly rising from the bottom of the heap to the middle of the pack, and it’s fun to have players at every level to dream on.
It’s also easy to understand that Will Smith and Madison Bumgarner are both slated for free agency and likely will command contracts larger than what the Giants will be willing offer. Moving both before the trade deadline is the best chance they have to recoup some good pieces for the future.
In my opinion, it shouldn’t end there.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com argued last week that the Giants can “own July” by “cornering” the market for relief pitching, but I’d argue they could go even further.
Petriello explains that the Giants have six quality relievers in Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson, Reyes Moronta, Mark Melancon, and Trevor Gott. Four of them—Smith, Dyson, Watson, and Moronta—are legitimate high-leverage options.
Obviously, Bumgarner is one of the best starting pitchers available on the market and the biggest name likely to be dealt. There are plenty of other viable trade candidates on the roster, though.
Kevin Pillar’s recent stretch of strong play makes him an intriguing fourth outfielder who offers some pop off the bench. Stephen Vogt and Pablo Sandoval have both handled extended playing time well, proving they can be capable bench or platoon options for a contender.
Back to the relievers, Moronta and Gott both have multiple years of team control remaining, which makes it reasonable to think the Giants will wait until the offseason or even next year’s trade deadline to move them.
Still, multiple contenders should have interest in each of Smith, Bumgarner, Dyson, Watson, Pillar, Sandoval, and Vogt. San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi could even look at packaging players to targeted teams to get a better prospect return.
Contenders are always searching for bullpen help and anyone with the potential for a rotation upgrade would find Bumgarner intriguing. As far as the position players, the Phillies are a strong fit for both Pillar and Sandoval, while the Rays immediately come to mind for Vogt.
An extremely conservative return for those seven players would be a 45+ future-value (FV) prospect, a 45 FV, a 40+ FV, two 40 FV, and two 35+ FV. Those numbers might not mean much in a vacuum, but according to my Giants midseason prospect rankings, that would add two prospects ranked among the system’s top 10, another ranked among the top 15, another couple of top 25 prospects, and two more organizational depth pieces.
I should reiterate, I am purposefully being conservative here. The market for bullpen arms tends to yield consistently high returns, and both Watson and Dyson have another year of team control. New York Mets trade candidate Zack Wheeler was just placed on the IL with shoulder fatigue, cementing Bumgarner’s status as the best rental-starter available.
Let’s even ignore the prospect return side of things for a minute.
There’s also a less exciting reason to sell aggressively known as opportunity cost.
Yes, that’s a cold economics term from the 19th century, but its principle remains valid here.
Zaidi has done an incredible job through waiver claims and minor league free agency of strengthening the upper levels of the minors. While almost all of the Giants’ prospects with star upside remain at High-A or below, a number of players with legitimate big-league potential are waiting in the wings at Double and Triple-A.
Every inning that Smith, Dyson, and Watson throw is a missed opportunity to gauge the long-term potential of guys like Sam Selman, Sam Coonrod, Ray Black, and Williams Jerez.
Likewise, every start Bumgarner makes is one that Connor Menez, Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, or Ty Blach doesn’t.
Every plate appearance by Vogt, Pillar, and Sandoval is one less piece of data to figure out whether Mike Gerber, Steven Duggar, Zach Green, or Aramis Garcia belong in the San Francisco Giants long-term plans.
The Giants could even push things a step further with their seller pursuits.
A case can be made that Brandon Belt would be of interest to teams like Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, or Houston if the Giants were willing to absorb some of his salary.
Jeff Samardzija is in the middle of throwing a gem at Coors Field as I write this, and in his previous two starts, he allowed just two runs in 15 innings of work.
In the past week, we’ve seen teams give up some value for the likes of Andrew Cashner and Homer Bailey, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think someone might do the same for Samardzija.
So let’s say the San Francisco Giants traded all of that.
Gutted a bullpen of Smith, Dyson, Watson, and even found a fit for Melancon. Sent Bumgarner and Samardzija elsewhere. Depleted their bench of Vogt, Sandoval, and Pillar. What would their roster look like?
C Buster Posey, Aramis Garcia
1B Zach Green, Tyler Austin
2B Joe Panik, Donovan Solano
SS Brandon Crawford, Solano
3B Evan Longoria, Green
LF Chris Shaw, Austin
CF Mike Gerber, Steven Duggar/Mike Yastrzemski
RF Alex Dickerson, Austin Slater
SP1 Shaun Anderson
SP2 Tyler Beede
SP3 Connor Menez
SP4 Dereck Rodriguez
SP5 Drew Pomeranz/Andrew Suarez/Ty Blach
LR Derek Holland
MR Williams Jerez/Travis Bergen/Fernando Abad
MR Ray Black
MR Sam Coonrod
SU Sam Selman
SU Trevor Gott
CL Reyes Moronta
Is that team better than the current one?
However, I’d argue it is as exciting as the team today, just packaged differently.
Watching Bumgarner and Sandoval play well is a piece of nostalgia from that magical five-year run, but this roster’s excitement isn’t in the past. It’s in the future.
There will surely be growing pains, but it will also make it easier for Giants decision-makers to know who fits down the line as they aim for another sustained run.
Furthermore, this roster presumes the Giants are unable to acquire any big-league ready contributors in these trades, which seems unlikely.
Also, don’t forget Johnny Cueto is on pace to be ready by September and Nick Vincent has begun his rehab assignment. There are even other pitchers in the upper minors like Steven Okert, Tyler Rogers, Pat Venditte, Jandel Gustave, Melvin Adon, Sam Moll, and Tyler Cyr who could be called upon if the Giants find themselves in need of more pitching.
Even with their recent run of strong play, the light at the end of the tunnel is brighter for the San Francisco Giants if they sell. Those wild-card standings are tempting and we’ve seen this team climb back from 2-0 and 3-1 postseason deficits before, but it’s time to let go, for the good of the future.