The Austin Slater trade paves the way for more playing time for young SF Giants outfielder

Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco Giants / Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

The SF Giants shipped veteran outfielder Austin Slater to the Cincinnati Reds late on Sunday night. The move clears the way for more playing time for Luis Matos.

The Austin Slater trade paves the way for more playing time for young SF Giants outfielder

The Slater move is a tough one. He debuted with the club in 2017 and put together a nice career as a right-handed-hitting platoon bat in the outfield. He also become the team's longest-tenured player.

However, Slater was only a couple of months away from reaching free agency. Plus, he has struggled at the plate over the past year. Slater's role is a tough one to fill, but one that has a low ceiling in terms of value.

Matos becomes the immediate beneficiary of the move. The Giants will likely continue to use Michael Conforto, Heliot Ramos, and Mike Yastrzemski in the outfield. However, Bob Melvin has used Yastrzemski in a platoon role from the left side, meaning that there should be playing time for Matos when a lefty is on the mound. He could see time in the other outfield spots when days off are needed.

This is not to say that Matos cannot overtake the everyday role in right field. He can. The playing time is opening up for him to prove what he can do.

The young Giants outfielder has certainly had some bright spots in 2024. This includes taking home Player of the Week honors in May.

However, in the aggregate, he is slashing just .228/.250.354 (69 wRC+) with four home runs, 24 RBI, and 12 runs in 132 plate appearances. This includes a 3.0 percent walk rate, 12.1 percent strikeout rate, and a .126 ISO.

Matos has no problem making contact, but that can prove to be disadvantageous when he chases out of the strike zone. He may never boast a high walk rate, but his 36.9 percent chase rate does need to improve.

As the Giants are trying to milk more power out of Matos, it is pretty clear that they are asking him to pull the ball more. That has resulted in a 49.1 percent pull rate, and perhaps, this is why his launch angle sweet-spot rate has declined from 38.6 percent in 2023 to 29.5 percent this season.

When he is at his best, it feels like Matos is spraying line drives all over the field. These are a few of the reasons why he has not been producing in the minors as well as he did last year.

The 22-year-old outfielder will have more leeway to correct these issues in the majors. The Giants likely see him as a long-term fit in the outfield.

However, the question that influences his playing time is whether the Giants see him or Mike Yastrzemski as more able to help the team win in 2024. Yastrzemski still is a quality hitter and plays above-average defense in right field. Those traits contribute to winning.

Matos' performance will determine how much playing time he earns. The road has been paved for him to stick on the major league roster following the Austin Slater trade. However, if he performs better than he has at the plate, the opportunity is there for him to see more time.

The Matos move seemingly confirms that he will not be going back to Sacramento anytime soon.