Earlier in the week, we looked at infield options the SF Giants could target both in free agency and the trade market. Toronto Blue Jays infielder Santiago Espinal stuck out among the rest for a few reasons. What would it take to add him in a trade?
What would a Santiago Espinal trade look like between the SF Giants and Blue Jays?
Free agency is not too promising of an avenue to pursue middle infield depth. Perhaps, Nick Ahmed and Elvis Andrus are some of the best options remaining who are capable of playing shortstop. The Giants need another shortstop in the mix given that Marco Luciano is inexperienced at the upper levels.
Does that mean he will fail? Not at all. He has been ranked as one of the best prospects in baseball for years. That said, the Giants should have a contingency plan in place in case Luciano does struggle.
Espinal checks off that box for a few reasons. First, team president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi indicated that they were looking at the trade market for optionable, middle infielders. The fact that he referenced the trade market does make it seem like that is where he is leaning to fill this need. Espinal is not necessarily the best fit, but fits the description of what the Giants are seeking in terms of middle infield experience and optionability.
Second, Espinal is very much a utility player. I think if the Giants want to show their commitment to Luciano, they do not want someone who would cut into his playing time. Espinal would serve as a back up with the ability to move around the diamond.
Perhaps, he is not a glove-first shortstop option like Andrus or Ahmed, but he is serviceable with some semblance of a recent track record. Importantly, I think the Giants want to avoid the issue they had last year where they had no shortstop depth and had to rely on free-agent options like Johan Camargo or Paul DeJong late in the year.
Not having a back-up plan was really a misstep by the front office. They can avoid that same situation by adding Espinal this year.
The right-handed bat has registered a .273/.331/.367 line (96 OPS+) with a 14.2 percent strikeout rate, 7.6 percent walk rate, and a .095 ISO. Admittedly, he does not hit for a lot of power but he does put the ball in play a lot.
From 2021 - 2022, Espinal tallied a .722 OPS while making the AL All-Star team in 2022. Again, these are not wildly impressive numbers but serviceable offensive production. If you squint at Espinal's swing, there is a bit of Thairo Estrada in it. For the Giants, the goal is to have a plan and avoid getting abysmal production at the plate, which was the case in 2023 as their shortstops combined to post a .617 OPS.
In the field, the 29-year-old has experience at second base, shortstop, and third base. His best position is second base, but he is serviceable on the left side of the infield as well. He has a below-average arm but with enough range to stick in the middle of the infield.
There is a good chance that the Blue Jays look to move the versatile infielder before the season. They signed Isiah Kiner-Falefa to a two-year, $15 million pact this offseason. Toronto already had several infield options before this move, but Kiner-Falefa supplants Espinal in that role.
What would it take to trade for Espinal? The trade value is a bit low coming off of a .644 OPS in 254 plate appearances last year. We ran the proposal through the MLB Trade Simulator, which is not the most accurate way to value a player, but it is a data point. The simulator rated an Espinal-for-Austin Slater trade as a fair deal.
This is not to say that the Giants should trade Slater. He is a popular player among Giants fans. It is to highlight what Espinal's value might be. You could swap Slater with a pair of lower-level prospects and that should get the job done as well.
Regardless of what it takes, the Giants need to avoid the same situation they had last year with no serviceable depth in the organization. Luciano is the starting shortstop, but it would behoove them to have someone who can capably fill in if the infield prospect struggles.