San Francisco Giants: Matt Moore trade still polarizing years later

Matt Moore of the San Francisco Giants delivers a pitch. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Matt Moore of the San Francisco Giants delivers a pitch. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

Moments before the trade deadline in 2016, the San Francisco Giants struck a deal to acquire Tampa Bay Rays left-handed hurler Matt Moore.

There are few moves in recent Giants history that are more polarizing than the decision to trade for Moore. It was not that Moore was unpopular at the outset of his Giants tenure, but rather what it cost the team.

To swing the deal, the Giants traded away third baseman Matt Duffy as well as infield prospect Lucius Fox and pitching prospect Michael Santos.

The decision to move Duffy was not a popular move by any means. The third baseman quickly endeared himself to the fan base after a successful rookie campaign in which he generated a .295/.334/.428 (108 OPS+) line across 612 plate appearances and was worth 3.9 WAR, per Baseball Reference.

However, Duffy’s time in the Orange and Black was short-lived as he was traded away in 2016. At the time, the Giants felt they had a surplus of infielders with the recent acquisition of utility man Eduardo Nunez and the pending emergence of infield prospect Christian Arroyo.

Essentially, the Giants traded from an area of depth to bolster the rotation. Moore was not meant to be just a rental. Rather, he was acquired with three years of control remaining on his contract.

This is an important detail. The Giants wanted Moore to be a part of the rotation for the next several years. With that being said, the left-handed starter got off on the right foot in SF.

Matt Moore trade quick success for San Francisco Giants

In just his fifth start following the trade, Moore tossed 8-2/3 hitless innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Of course, the last out is sometimes the hardest to get, and Moore yielded the first hit of the game by a Dodgers hitter to Corey Seager. This was an encouraging start for the former Tampa Bay Ray.

The Giants made the playoffs in 2016 due in part to Moore’s contributions on the mound. On the final day of the regular season, the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals began the day with an 86-75 record. The Giants needed to win the final game of the season.

Moore was tabbed to take up this challenge, and he did not disappoint. He stymied the Dodgers yet again across eight frames, where he yielded only one run as the Giants cruised to a 7-1 victory and clinched a Wild Card spot.

The good vibes did not stop there, either. The Giants faced off against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series, and Moore was penciled in as the Game 4 starter. Similar to his appearances against the Dodgers, the southpaw shut down a stout Cubs lineup. Across eight innings of work, Moore gave up just two runs before giving way to the bullpen.

A sight that had been seen too often in 2016 ensued. The bullpen came in with a 5-2 advantage but coughed up four runs in the top of the ninth at Oracle Park to lose the game as well as the series.

Despite this heartbreaking loss, the early returns on the Moore deal were favorable. The 2017 season was an entirely different story.

Matt Moore trade looks worse in 2017 for Giants

The Giants struggled in every facet of the game in 2017 as the team slumped to an abysmal 64-98 record. Similar to the team, Moore never found his groove.

Among qualified starting pitchers, no hurler had a worse ERA than the 5.52 mark Moore produced in 2017. His 4.75 FIP across 174 innings suggested he was the victim of some bad luck, but he pitched poorly regardless.

In a surprise move, the Giants picked up his team option for $9 million in 2018. However, prior to the 2018 season, Giants general manager Bobby Evans unloaded Moore’s contract on to the Texas Rangers for two prospects thereby ending the left-hander’s tumultuous time in San Francisco.

This move has been in the rearview mirror for several years now, so how did the trade work out for both the Giants and the Rays?

Tampa Bay Rays didn’t benefit from Matt Moore trade, either

From the Giants’ standpoint, it was a wash as Moore failed to regain the form that made him an American League All-Star in 2013. Despite this, the Rays did not end up any better as a result of the trade, either.

Matt Duffy was the centerpiece of the deal. However, the third baseman struggled to remain on the field for his entire Rays tenure. The 29-year-old missed the 2017 season with an Achilles injury and only appeared in 132 games and 46 games in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Across 809 plate appearances with Tampa Bay, Duffy produced a .284./.351/.357 line (97 OPS+) with only six home runs. The third baseman became a free agent after being designated for assignment and latched on with the Texas Rangers on a minor league pact.

The Giants have struggled ever since the decision to part ways with the popular Duffy, and though the struggles extend far beyond one player, the irony is difficult to ignore.

In addition to Duffy, the Giants traded away Michael Santos and Lucius Fox. Santos was a low-level minor league pitcher with the Giants and never pitched above Single-A in the Rays organization before catching on with the Angels organization.

Fox received a massive $6 million bonus as an international free agent in 2015. The fact that he was traded away in the midst of his first professional season was a surprise. The infield prospect split time between Double-A and Triple-A last season where he posted a rough .221/.331.327 line across 480 plate appearances.

Despite these struggles, the Rays added Fox to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. That said, the switch-hitter has not hit nearly enough as a professional. Fox has an uphill battle to climb to make the major league roster as the Rays have plenty of proven middle infield depth.

Neither Giants nor Rays won the Matt Moore trade

Matt Moore came to the Giants nearly four years ago. Reviewing this trade is a bit complicated because the Giants may not have made it to the postseason without Moore in 2016. Though, it came at a steep emotional price to the Giants as the fan base was not ready to see Duffy depart.

Nearly four years later, neither team seems to have won or lost the trade.

It was a bitter pill to swallow when Duffy was traded but he was traded at the height of his value to acquire a potential mid-rotation arm. It did not work out either team. Nearly four years later, let’s call it a draw at this point.