What we may have learned about the Giants at the trade deadline

Both trades seemed inevitable, but were shocking nonetheless because of a couple of names in particular. The Giants acquired Brewers lefty Will Smith for former catcher-of-the-future Andrew Susac and 2015 first-rounder Phil Bickford, who up until today was considered the team’s best pitching prospect. The inclusion of Bickford tells us a few things right off the top.

  • The market for setup guys was obscene this year.
  • Either the Giants love Christian Arroyo or other teams don’t care for him all that much.
  • There’s something going on with Bickford that told the Giants they wouldn’t regret this move.

Then they acquired lefty starter Matt Moore from Tampa Bay for Matt Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. Yeah. Wow. This trade tells us a lot.

  • The Giants really wanted to nab a starter this season since the free agency crop is so pitiful.
  • They don’t really trust Jake Peavy, Matt Cain, or even Jeff Samardzija.
  • The Nunez trade was made with an eye on parting with Duffy, whose offense fell off this year.
  • They took a look at Fox and said “what the hell were we thinking when we gave that kid a $6 million bonus?” Fox hit .207/.305/.277 in Augusta, but what’s much worse is he committed 32 errors in 70 games.
  • That settles it, the Giants freakin’ love Christian Arroyo.



Smith always seemed like the most logical target for the Giants — and not just because their crafty marketing department has already used the Carlton dance as a pick-me-up in the later innings of games dozens of times. He’s a lefty reliever, and the Giants are desperate for someone to protect them when/if Javier Lopez loses Bruce Bochy’s trust completely.

It’s not just Lopez, whose propensity to nibble has turned him into a pitcher who walks lefties more often than he ever did before. They sent Josh Osich to the disabled list on Thursday with an injury that Osich didn’t believe was DL-worthy so they could get a look at Matt Reynolds, who throws 88 mph.

Smith missed the first two months of this season due to a torn LCL in his left knee, but was so good in 2015 that, upon his return, Brewers manager Craig Counsell said he would be comfortable with him closing games once he got “his feet on the ground.”  Smith’s splits against lefties(?) are worrisome this year (.316/.333/.500 vs LHB; .143/.288/.31 vs RHB), but that could be a small sample blip because they’re almost equal throughout his career (.253/.312/.411 vs LHB; .259/.332/.421 vs RHB).

Unlike Lopez, Smith is a guy who can go over an inning if needed (sound familiar?). He did so nine times last season and three times so far in 2016. He’s big (6′ 5″, 265), he throws a 93 mph fourseam fastball, and he’s under team control until 2020 (he’s arbitration-eligible after this season).

Alright, we know why the Giants would want a pitcher like this. But after trading Adalberto Mejia a few days ago for a speedy infielder with some pop in Eduardo Nunez, what made them think they could afford to deal another starting pitching prospect, leaving Tyler Beede and the Triple-A guys (Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach, Chris Heston, etc) as the only guys left?

Just because Baseball America and think Bickford is (sorry, was) the organization’s best prospect doesn’t mean the Giants agree. And after this trade went down, I got a couple hints as to why they might not have minded dealing Bickford to Milwaukee.

“Klaw” is Keith Law, ESPN’s prospects guru. Generally speaking, when the Giants trade away a starting pitching prospect, that pitcher doesn’t end up doing a whole lot. Francisco Liriano was obviously an outlier, and Zack Wheeler was a tough loss until he started getting injured, but usually when the Giants sour on a hurler he ends up fizzling out.



The Giants were rumored to be after Moore for the last 24 hours, and why not? He’s a 27-year-old lefty who was once considered one of the best young pitchers in baseball. He was an All-Star and finished ninth in the Cy Young voting in 2013, when he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA. Then his season was cut short a year later by Tommy John surgery. Since then his strikeouts and walks have all gone down, while his velocity has steadily climbed from 92 mph when he returned last season to 94 mph on his fourseamer in July.

The Giants needed some relief help, sure. But their starters have been looking pretty ragged for a bit.


Today is a great day for the Giants, because they made their 25-man roster better, both today and in the long-term. They added a “dynamic” (Buster Posey’s word) infielder who’ll probably lead off and play third for the rest of the season, a lefty reliever who’ll jump ahead of Lopez, Reynolds and Osich in the pecking order, and a cheap middle-of-the-rotation starter. Nunez is arbitration-eligible next year and a free agent in 2018. Moore has a Madison Bumgarner-like contract that has team options of $7 million, $9 million and $10 million for the next three seasons.


Yet, it’s a really, really tough day for fans. Well, certain types of fans. Fans who loved Duffy’s personality, defense, and promise shown last year when he was a runner-up to Kris Bryant for NL Rookie of the Year are crushed, especially the ones who are infatuated with his overweight feline. And fans who are prospect wonks are hurting, because the Giants shed three of their top-10 prospects in the span of five days.


Is Brian Sabean the trigger-puller on these moves? I still think he is, but I may be wrong. Anyway, he was on 95.7 The Game on Friday, talking to the morning show guys from Richmond, where he was effectively deciding which minor leaguers they really needed to keep and which ones they probably wouldn’t miss. Perhaps he was impressed by Beede and Chris Shaw. The latter was actually rumored to be on his way to Tampa Bay until the dust settled.

The decision apparently was already made on Bickford, since he was playing in San Jose at the time.

Sabean said while the Giants’ system doesn’t have many top prospects, it’s fairly deep. So you knew trades were coming, since that’s a scenario in which you’re OK dealing pretty much anyone for an established major league player.

Except Arroyo, it would appear, since the Giants already had several starting-caliber infielders and chose to part with Duffy. While it’s tough to see Duffy go, it’s not difficult to determine why he was the one. If the Giants expected him to be their most consistent player in 2015, they wouldn’t have traded for Casey McGehee before the season. Duffy was supposed to be a utility guy, and while the defense at third was a huge plus, the offense threatened to regress. Throw in a balky Achilles … the Giants had to feel like they were selling high today.

I know what they probably see in Arroyo, because I saw him in person. Once. During a “futures” game against Giants major leaguers in Scottsdale. OK, maybe that’s not exactly enough to call the guy a can’t-miss player, but even a couple years ago (before he turned 19) the kid just seemed like he had the confidence and demeanor of a big leaguer, and the Giants rarely ignore mental maturity when evaluating their own. Plus he knocked the cover off in Spring Training and held his own in a notoriously difficult Double-A league for hitters.

(One other thing about that Sabean interview. He said they didn’t want to rush Duffy back, because he had dealt with Achilles pain going all the way back to college. Then he’s playing five innings in Sacramento a day later and a full game yesterday. Hmmm. He went 2-for-6 with a walk, and perhaps that tilted the scales in the Giants’ favor. Or, maybe the Rays remember Duffy going 3-for-6 with a homer and a double in his last two games, in Tampa Bay, before he got hurt. Perhaps the Giants threw caution out the window when they realized the Rays might give them a fairly-priced starter for a package headlined by the Duffman. Even though Sabean is pretty forthcoming, we’ll probably never find out.)

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