Marc Delucchi examines how a recent rumor has given the San Francisco Giants an avenue to upgrade their big league roster by trading from depth.
Back when the San Francisco Giants season was only about hope for the future, I put together our Sell-off Series, running down farm systems and team needs to try to build fair trade packages with each contending team.
The Milwaukee Brewers were one of the many teams profiled, building hypothetical trades packages for Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. It didn’t take a genius to see that the Brewers needed pitching help. Both their starting rotation and bullpen have been weak points for much of the season and those two southpaws could obviously help.
While I was busy looking at who could help the Giants in a few seasons, this year’s team reminded everyone that there is still plenty of baseball to be played. With a 31-18 record since the start of June, they have catapulted into second place in the NL West, and they are now within striking distance of the second wild card.
With that in mind, the front office is now in a position to buy. That doesn’t mean they’ll be buyers in the traditional sense, though. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi puts a lot of stock in building from within, meaning he places a high value on prospects.
With considerable relief pitching depth in the majors and the upper levels of the minors, some have speculated that could be the area where the Giants look to deal.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported on Sunday morning: “The Brewers, arguably the most creative team at last year’s deadline, have kicked around the idea of bolstering their injury-depleted rotation by trading one of their potential free agents: catcher Yasmani Grandal or infielder Mike Moustakas. It’s unclear whether the concept has advanced beyond internal discussions.”
The Giants line up well as a trade partner for that outside-the-box idea.
Moustakas has split his time between second and third base this season. While he was solely a third baseman prior to 2019, he’s been above-average at both spots defensively this year. He’s also smashed 26 home runs and maintained great contact numbers with a strikeout rate below 17 percent, all of which has been worth 2.6 WAR.
His newfound ability to play second base would allow him to replace Joe Panik in the Giants lineup. While Panik is a fan favorite, his inability to produce has made second base a clear area to pursue an upgrade.
Replacing Panik’s anemic .232/.306/.313 line with the .261/.333/.532 line that Moustakas has turned in this year would arguably turn the Giants biggest offensive hole into their biggest strength.
Milwaukee is considering moving Moustakas because he’s set for free agency at season’s end, the team has depth at the position, and they will be unable to extend him a qualifying offer to recoup draft pick compensation for the loss since he has already received one in his career. They also have one of the worst farm systems in baseball and lack the prospect capital to pull off a major buyer move the traditional way.
While they may be more inclined to target a starting pitcher, their bullpen has been a major problem as well.
Like Moustakas, San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith is also set for free agency at the end of the year. He has been an integral part of the Giants success, but the team has the bullpen depth to absorb the loss of Smith and still remain competitive.
Sam Dyson could also be a fit. He would give the Brewers a right-handed reliever to pair with lefty Josh Hader and he has another season of team control. However, it might take more than him to get a deal done, and Zaidi might not want to lose that extra year of control.
Trading Smith would mean losing the ability to extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the season. However, a few factors may have already made that a somewhat unlikely scenario.
Large free agency deals for relievers have been some of the largest busts of the last few offseasons. Furthermore, teams have been less and less willing to surrender draft picks to sign any player, especially relievers. Last offseason, Craig Kimbrel waited until June to sign, when teams no longer had to surrender a draft pick. He ended up getting $15 million annually on a three-year deal.
The qualifying offer will likely be around $20 million next season and Smith may be inclined to take it. That’s not to say the Giants wouldn’t want him back, but the point still stands. If the Giants don’t trade Smith they likely won’t get anything for him at season’s end.
Acquiring a player like Mike Moustakas seemed unlikely for the San Francisco Giants a month ago. However, they could now have the rare opportunity to use their big league depth to make the current team better without sacrificing prospects. If it’s on the table, they need to get the deal done.