By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard
For the San Francisco Giants, the second half of the season has been nothing short of a nightmare. Somehow, the Dodgers haven’t been able to leapfrog the Giants during this multi-week tailspin in which they have been blown out, have blown saves, and have just generally blown. Fortunately, their lead in the NL West, however dwindled, still exists for now. Thus, it was curious to watch the trade deadline approach and wonder what, if anything, the front office could do to inject some life into this club. After all, It’s an even year, right? Let’s make a deal (or three)!
All superstition and even-year magic aside, there was a clear message sent down from the Giants front office at the non-waiver trade deadline this week as they pulled off three separate deals, each addressing San Francisco’s immediate needs. The clear message from Bobby Evans (GM), Brian Sabean (VP of Baseball Operations), and Larry Baer (CEO) was that the time to win is now...again.
As a Giants fan, my immediate reaction to these deals was that of mixed emotion, however. In the span of a week, we saw the Giants trade away a top pitching prospect in Aldaberto Mejia, 2015 first round pick Phil Bickford, former top prospect and World Series champion Andrew Susac, and of course, our beloved Matt Duffy, runner-up in the NL ROY race last season. The last of which stung the most, because no one could have seen it coming.
Most trades these days occur because one team is willing to mortgage its future for a chance to win now, trading minor league prospects for big league stars. Of course, it always comes back to dollars and cents. Prospects are valuable not only because they may become future studs, but because they are cheap as dirt for the first 4-6 years of their careers, and are under complete team control.
Which is why the Duffy trade hurts. We (at least on the west side of The Bay) are not accustomed to saying goodbye to our favorite big league players, at least not via trade. Rather, we're used to shipping away prospects that we never really got to know that well anyway, in exchange for useful players we covet from other teams. Take Phil Bickford, for example: he could pan out and become a star. But hell, we’ve got a first place team right here and now, so let’s make a move and make this team better, and worry about 2018 and beyond later.
It’s a risk/reward game, of course. As with all trades pulled off at the big league level, and especially by the mastermind that is the Brian Sabean/Bobby Evans tandem, the return in these trades was substantial and fair. The Giants acquired three players who have all seen success at the big league level, and none of them are three month rentals (a la Carlos Beltran of 2013) and come with multiple years of club control.
The biggest impact player is Matt Moore from Tampa Bay, a former All-Star lefty who throws hard and has impressive stuff. He’s still on his way back to form after Tommy John surgery two years ago, so he doesn't come without risk, but the general sentiment is that he’s coming into his own again. At age 27, he’s young and under contract for a few more years, and now rounds out a “core four” of Giants starting pitchers who will be here a while. My guess is that he’s a guy the Giants will look to keep around for a long time and build many, many marketing campaigns around, as they seem to do so well.
In addition to Moore, the Giants also acquired the lefty reliever they so desired in Will Smith from the Brewers, as well as 2016 American League All-Star Eduardo Nunez, who provides an impact bat. Nunez will get an opportunity to be the regular third baseman, replacing Duffy, and Smith will be relied upon to get the NL’s best lefties out late - guys like Harper, Murphy, CarGo, Rizzo, and Seager.
Interestingly enough, the Giants didn’t just signal a “win now” mentality with their deadline deals. Another subtle message that was sent was that the Giants truly believe in top prospect Christian Arroyo, and fashion him to be their future third baseman. Prior to Duffy’s departure, Arroyo was blocked at every infield position on the big league team for the foreseeable future. Now, third base opens up as a possibility as soon as 2017, if not later this September. Stay tuned, because the kid can hit.
The NL West title was once a sure thing for the Giants this season, but their recent slide has changed the landscape of the division. The Clayton Kershaw-less Dodgers are hanging around and are sure to battle it out until the end. The Colorado Rockies are an upstart bunch, despite just losing NL ROY candidate Trevor Story for the season, and could pose a threat in September. And outside of the division, the national media is quick to tell us, definitively, that this is the Cubs and/or Nationals year - so the Giants have a tough task at hand to get back to the World Series. Those clubs might be overhyped, but they are still damn good.
After a few trades, the Giants are hoping that they are just as damn good, if not better, and ready to make good on that even year magic San Francisco faithfully believes in.