The trade deadline is just over six weeks away and the SF Giants appear to be a fit for Chicago Cubs star catcher Willson Contreras. Given general manager Scott Harris' connection to the Cubs, the rumors will persist, but what would it cost San Francisco?
Could the SF Giants trade one of their top prospects at the deadline?
""I think it’s a much more realistic possibility right now than it ever was at last year’s trade deadline.”"- Kerry Crowley
It should be noted that Crowley's observation does not necessarily suggest that the Giants would need to include Bart in any trade proposal for Contreras. It is more of a general comment about how the Giants might approach the trade deadline.
It would make a lot of sense for the Cubs to target a catcher like Bart if they are to trade Contreras in the next few weeks. Bart was selected as the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, so he brings a solid pedigree to the table.
That said, Bart has struggled during his tenure with the Giants. The 25-year-old backstop registered a .233/.288/.320 (68 OPS+) line with no home runs, seven RBI, and 15 runs in 111 plate appearances during his rookie season in 2020.
The caveat to this performance is that Bart had a total of 87 plate appearances above Single-A before his promotion to the major league roster. He was rushed and it showed.
However, he spent much of the 2021 season in Triple-A with the hope that the extra seasoning would prepare him to eventually take over from longtime Giants catcher Buster Posey. Posey retired after the 2021 season, meaning that Bart was expected to receive the majority of the starts behind the dish.
He did but the right-handed bat continued to struggle at the plate, slashing .156/.296/.300 (70 OPS+) with four homers, seven RBI, and 12 runs in 108 plate appearances in 2022. The good news is that Bart showed improved plate discipline as he posted a 13.9 percent walk rate, but this came with a tough 45.4 percent strikeout rate.
When he did make contact, Bart produced promising exit velocity readings. San Francisco decided to option the former top catching prospect to Triple-A to work on his swing mechanics. Before he joined the Sacramento River Cats, Bart worked closely with the Giants hitting coaches.
The Giants like Bart and believe that he still carries considerable potential. The demotion is a bit of a concern and it is hard to ignore that San Francisco used a first round pick to draft another catcher in Patrick Bailey just two years after Bart was drafted.
Bailey's pro career has not necessarily taken off as his production has sputtered at High-A. The switch-hitter has just a .672 OPS in 153 plate appearances in his second stint with the Eugene Emeralds. For a prospect who was drafted out of college, that level of production is something to monitor.
That said, Bailey has flashed an impressive arm behind the dish. It is too early to start thinking about how Bailey might develop but similar to Bart, he has a first-round pedigree.
This does not make Bart expendable by any measure. But, the power-hitting catcher was drafted by the previous front office, so there is not as strong of a connection there.
Crowley is reading between the lines with his comment on Bart. It makes some sense that the Giants would include him in a trade package at the deadline if it resulted in a roster-altering move. For now, he will work on making swing adjustments while facing off against Triple-A pitching.