How the SF Giants Could Help the Cleveland Indians Get an Outfielder

The SF Giants could help the Cleveland Indians acquire Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
The SF Giants could help the Cleveland Indians acquire Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /
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According to an Around the Foghorn report, the SF Giants may be able to use their financial flexibility to add talent at the deadline. One deal could help the Cleveland Indians upgrade their outfield.

If the SF Giants try to flex their financial strength at the deadline, any team could be a potential fit. It doesn’t matter whether a team is in first place or last. Money is the ultimate equalizer among MLB franchises.

Knowing which teams want to move salary is difficult to gauge. Some teams may be desperate to move certain contracts and lack the assets to entice a team to take them on (e.g. Red Sox and Nathan Eovaldi). Others may have the flexibility to pay a player but have a roster surplus at the position to make a move appealing.

With that said, some organizations make more sense than others. By identifying the different types of teams that could be looking to move money, it should be easier to find the most likely candidates.

SF Giants Trade Fits: Contender Salary Dumps

A contending front office may be inclined to move a sizable 2021 salary to satisfy ownership enough to allow them to make a significant addition. The Atlanta Braves and struggling centerfielder Ender Inciarte (who’s owed $10MM next year) comes to mind.

The Oakland Athletics would probably love to move Khris Davis and his $16.75MM guaranteed salary in 2021. Would they be willing to add the assets necessary to make it worth the Giants while?

As first mentioned by The Athletic’s Grant Brisbee, the Reds are right in the middle of the playoff picture, but Raisel Iglesias is owed more than $9MM next season. Don’t read into Iglesias’s 6.00 ERA. His peripherals (1.93 FIP) show he’s a top-flight reliever. With that said, Cincinnati’s bullpen remains deep and would be formidable even without Iglesias. Could the Giants add a reliever of that caliber for something like Melvin Adon and a player to be named later (PTBNL)? It seems plausible.

Contending front-offices could have two reasons to move salary. For one, their ownership groups might be more inclined to agree to take on that payroll if they offset the addition with savings in another move. Secondly, without gate revenues, contending doesn’t have the same financial upside as usual. Ownership groups could still be pinching pennies, even on contenders.

SF Giants Trade Fits: Cellar Salary Dumps

It’s much more usual to see cellar-dwellers moving salary at this time of year. The normal August-waiver wire tends to enable bad teams to clear their books.

This season, scuffling teams may be more inclined to move larger contracts even without much return. It won’t just impact the supply of talent available, but the demand as well.

Royals southpaw Danny Duffy would normally be in high demand. The solid mid-rotation starter is under contract in 2021 for a reasonable $15MM. Given the state of things around the league though, many teams will be unwilling to acquire him without cash from Kansas City. If the Giants were willing to take on his entire contract, maybe they could get a player like Duffy for a minimal return.

On a smaller scale, Washington Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson is owed $6MM in 2021 and has a mixed bag of peripherals. Still, the Giants could reasonably buy into his 3.05 xERA and add a solid righthanded pen arm for nothing.

Normally, bad teams aren’t willing to part with prospects or other positive assets just to offload contracts. This deadline is unique though. Any ownership group could be delivering ultimatum’s down the chain of command that force some head-scratching moves.

SF Giants Trade Fits: The Middle-Man For Salary Dumps

One bad team to consider might be the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have been one of the more financially stingy organizations for some time and saw decreased revenues before the pandemic. If any bottom-feeding team is likely to part with assets to save money, the Pirates have to be at the top of the list.

Outfielder Gregory Polanco is owed $11.6MM in 2021 with a pair of club options in 2022 and 2023. Over the past two seasons, the 28-year old has been limited to just 63 games because of injury and hit a meager .205/.274/.397. This year, Polanco has struck out in nearly 50% of his plate appearances and is hitting just .121.

With that said, batted-ball data suggests there’s reason to believe he’s not far from his peak self. According to Baseball Savant, Polanco ranks in the 100th percentile in both exit velocity and hard-hit rate this season. Furthermore, his expected batting average of .215 and expected slugging of .435 aren’t great but would be a massive upgrade for a team like the Cleveland Indians.

The Giants may be confident in their current outfield situation, but they could act as a middle man for a team like Cleveland. The Indians outfield has been a revolving door of struggling bats. For some time the organization has been desperate for stability at the position. Polanco would be an intriguing flier, however, not a contract they’d be willing to pay. That’s where the Giants could come in.

Giants fans may be surprised to see Chadwick Tromp in a deal, but Cleveland has had struggles behind the plate and San Francisco have veteran Chris Hermann on their taxi-squad. He gives them the flexibility to move a catcher in the next few days. We know Joey Bart isn’t going anywhere, Tromp could be involved in conversations.

Cleveland would retain the rights to Polanco’s team options in 2022 and 2023, giving them some intriguing upside potential if Polanco returns to his 2016-18 form too. Jake Bauers, acquired from the Rays in the Yandy Diaz trade, was once a top-100 prospect and is just 24, but has failed to assert himself at the big-league level. A decent buy-low candidate for Pittsburgh.

The Giants would add an intriguing pitching prospect in Cody Bolton with huge upside and a potential middle reliever in Nick Mears for a pair of players on the periphery of their roster and about $16.5MM.

Pittsburgh could prefer to move big-league pieces like starting pitcher Joe Musgrove or closer Richard Rodriguez instead of a high-upside prospect like Bolton. I don’t think the Giants would be too opposed to that either.

Rodriguez is a legitimate high-leverage arm and Musgrove has been a consistent mid-rotation starter. Both have multiple seasons of team control remaining after this season. Still, the Pirates would probably rather move Musgrove and Rodriguez in separate moves for another team’s prospects.

Related Story. Giants Trade Deadline Primer

A lot would have to fall in place for a three-team deal like that to come to fruition. Regardless it is the kind of creative move we could see as front-offices manage a desire to compete with unprecedented ownership pressures to control costs. If the SF Giants are indeed willing to take on financial obligations, they should have an abundance of opportunities to make moves at the deadline.