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The SF Giants and the MLB Trade Deadline

Do you know who leads the Giants in at-bats this season? Brandon Crawford. That's not wholly unexpected. Crawford has always been a grinder who plays pretty much every day. Do you know who holds the second most AB's? Mike Yastrzemski. Again, that's not surprising. Mikey Yaz is an every day player and he should be up there in AB's. It's a little surprising given the number of injuries Yaz has had, but overall, not surprising. However, after that, things get weird. Just starting the "2nd half", the next two Giants with the most AB's, third and fourth respectively, are Wilmer Flores and Donovan Solano. That is where you see how the Giants season went sideways in terms of line-up construction. I think if you asked Gabe Kapler, Farhan Zaidi, and Scott Harris if they would have penciled in Flores and Solano to have the 3rd and 4th most AB's halfway through the season, they would have scoffed. Surely those AB's would have been taken by Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, the other two Giants who came into the season with everyday starter status. Flores and Solano were supposed to be platoon guys, Flores filling in at 1B, 2B, and 3B and Solano sharing time with Tommy LaStella at 2B and occasionally 3B and, in case of emergencies, SS. The Giants roster was built to have platoon advantages and a bunch of hitters were going to be sharing AB's. That's still been the case, only five Giants have more than 200 official AB's, the top 4 AB guys mentioned above, and Buster Posey, who sits every third game most of the time. Still, it's a little jarring to see Flores and Solano as the guys with the 3rd and 4th most AB's thus far. Flores typically is a lefty masher who struggles against righties, but this year injuries have forced him to play more, and he's actually holding his own against righties. Meanwhile, for the most part, Donnie Barrels has disappeared and only Donovan Solano, journeyman utility infielder, has shown up. He's underperformed for most of 2021 after winning the Silver Slugger award for second basemen last season, and it's unusual to see the Giants give so many AB's to a guy with a .685 OPS. They've done so because they have had to, because of injuries to Evan Longoria, Tommy LaStella, and Brandon Belt. Which leads me to the MLB Trade Deadline!

It's that exciting time of year where every fan of every team speculates who is coming, who is going, and how the pennant races will be impacted by trades made two months before the season ends. Farhan Zaidi has had a weird time as the leader of the Giants front office. In 2019, the Giants were competitive enough around the deadline that he couldn't all-out sell but he couldn't justify buying either. That led him to go bi-polar deadline shopping, where he weakened the Giants strength by selling the bullpen in Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Drew Pomeranz, and Ray Black for Mauricio Dubon, a variety of prospects, and salary relief. Most Giants fans loved this. He also held on to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, arguably his two most valuable trade pieces, for the stretch run. Giants fans were torn about this, some happy to see the Giants not fully give up, others pissed because Zaidi didn't cash in two players who didn't seem to be coming back in 2020. For good measure, he added Scooter Gennett as a "buy" piece for pretty much nothing. However, they replaced their departed bullpen dudes with Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, and Jandel Gustave. None of those guys are in the Giants organization, and for good reason, in 2021. Not surprisingly, the Giants faded from contention rather quickly after the deadline. Zaidi didn't push all his chips in and he didn't cash out all his chips. He was in a tough position. Fast forward to 2020, the fake COVID season, where whomever won the championship is a clear fraud. Zaidi wasn't going to move any prospects, who had zero minor league season, for a chance at a Mickey Mouse ring. Yes, the Giants were in contention all season and they missed the playoffs by one game, and if Zaidi had made some sort of significant move at the deadline, it's pretty likely the Giants and Dodgers would have faced off in the first round. Zaidi didn't want to detract from the farm system in a short season and so, the Giants basically sat on their hands in 2020, making one very minor move to acquire Anthony Banda from Tampa for cash considerations. Banda never put on a Giants jersey as he toiled in the minor leagues and was traded this season for another Zaidi flier. Just like in 2019, however, Zaidi did not sell his top guys either. He didn't trade a resurgent Kevin Gausman, he didn't trade a healthy Johnny Cueto, and he didn't trade valuable reliever Tony Watson. He held serve. The Giants missed the playoffs but fast forward to 2021 and look at how things are shaking out. Gausman is a legitimate ace, the farm system is bristling with talent, Cueto has been inconsistent but mostly effective, and the Giants are owners of the best record in baseball and can go big or small at the deadline.

Ah yes, the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline for the Giants. What you came here to read. It's going to be an exciting deadline for the Giants. They are clear buyers this year. If Zaidi opts to do nothing at the deadline, his players may revolt. On the flipside, he's in Year 3 of his tenure, and he's not ready to just go off and trade every prospect he has hoarded the last few seasons for a rental for a playoff push that could end after one game or, at best, start with an NLDS 5 game series versus the Dodgers or Padres where they aren't guaranteed to move to the next round. Barring an epic collapse beyond that of the 2016 team, the Giants are going to be playing in October. Playoff berths are never guaranteed and after not being in the playoffs since 2016, the Giants ownership may be a bit antsy about getting there again, especially after the 2020 season where they had no fans to purchase garlic fries and cha-cha bowls to line their pockets with and donate to questionable GOP leaders. Playoffs mean more revenue for the club. Playoffs mean a reboot of fans coming in droves to Oracle Park. A World Series run means sell out streaks could return. This should all make ownership very, very interested in splurging at the deadline. This is what Zaidi and Harris will have to navigate. Half this Giants team (not exaggerating) will be free agents after the season. The plan this season was for most of their "rentals" to play well enough that they could be traded at the deadline for more prospects. The more prospects you have, the better chance some actually pan out and become productive cheap major leaguers! Then the 2021 Giants went and messed that up by actually being good. Like really really good. They are basically the Cleveland Indians team from Major League.  Despite how good they've been, and all their numbers support their goodness isn't a fluke, most fans from other teams and, heck, even Giants fans feel a second half collapse is inevitable. 

In short, the Giants will be buying. The names that go could hurt. That being said, in Zaidi We Trust. It's safe to assume the Giants front office has thoroughly examined their own prospects and have their own list of who's untouchable and who is not. It would not be completely surprising to see Joey Bart traded because he doesn't have an offensive profile that this regime tends to love, guys who walk a lot. There's almost zero chance Bart gets traded for a rental but if there's a controllable starting pitcher or player out there that Zaidi and Co. feel will help the 2021 and the 2022 Giants? He could go. There's some other prospects fans love that could also be traded. Alexander Canario? Seth Corry? The Giants just drafted a billion pitchers last week so it wouldn't be a big stretch to see the dominoes fall with Zaidi trading some  pitching prospects for more established pitching. Guys like Corry, Tyler Beede, and Sean Hjelle are all guys who could be packaged in a deal. One thing is almost a certainty though, don't expect the Giants to trade Marco Luciano and Heliot Ramos. Luciano is likely the only true untouchable but it's hard to see the Giants trading away Ramos. With Posey's resurgence however, and an option for 2022, and seemingly a mutual desire for him to stay a Giant for life, not to mention Patrick Bailey being hand picked by this front office, as well as Ricardo Genoves ascension, catcher all of a sudden is sort of a glut in the system. It makes Joey Bart, a highly touted prospect, one of the more shiny trade pieces. There's a far likelier chance Joey Bart is not traded, but it would no be surprising to see him go in the right deal. 

So what are the deals out there for the Giants? Eventually, Longoria, La Stella, and Belt will be back. That will help the infield solidify and push guys back to very quality depth pieces or back into platoon roles where they're better suited. The Giants biggest needs are in the rotation, the outfield, and the bullpen. The pen has solidified a bunch after the team mixed and matched guys in the minors and majors until they found a pretty good combination. However, you can never have too much pitching and if the Giants can get an elite reliever, they're better for it. Same goes with the rotation. Right now the Giants starting five is Gausman, DeSclafani, Cueto, Wood, and Webb. That's pretty solid, actually. However, if any of those guy get hurt, it gets dicey real quick. Aaron Sanchez hasn't pitched since May. He may be back sooner than later but is he a guy the Giants want to or can count on down the stretch? Not really. Beyond Sanchez, Sammy Long could make a return but he's a total question mark. Was his ineffective starts due to a bad back or was he exposed at the Major League level? Not sure, probably the former, but would the Giants want to gamble on that wildcard? Then there's Tyler Beede, forever frustrating Giant. He has no idea where the ball is going and he's not a guy you really feel you could trust in a pennant race, just coming back off Tommy John surgery. He has enough of a ceiling to be desirable in a trade but he probably has too many question marks for this Giants front office. So starting pitching depth is a need. Finally, despite this team hitting homers at a franchise record shattering pace, it'd be nice to have one more big bat in the line-up. The Giants have got middling to poor production from Austin Slater and Alex Dickerson this season, Yaz is just starting to heat up, and Steven Duggar has been a great story, but can he be relied upon to keep it up? This is the easiest place for the Giants to upgrade. They could even sell high on Duggar's first half and include him in a trade for a more established outfielder, which is pretty realistic actually. 

So who fits? 

The pipe dream is the Giants get Kris Bryant from the Cubs. Bryant is all the things this staff loves. He's versatile, he can be the big right handed bat at 3B while Longoria remains sidelined and then he can play LF once Longoria comes back. That means Dickerson is either traded or moved to the bench, both of which the Giants can probably live with. Bryant would be a rental since he's a free agent after the season, but he's also a guy the Giants should be interested in free agency, and what better way to sell yourself to a player than have him play for the team in a pennant race for a couple months? He's an ideal fit. Of course, he's an ideal fit for every contender, so he'll cost a lot. 

The other Cub the Giants should covet is Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel has the added bonus of being under team control for 2022 due to a team option. He would anchor the bullpen and push Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee to setup roles, which would make this solidified bullpen even stronger. One caveat? Zaidi has never shown a willingness to splurge on relief pitching. Relief pitching is the single most volatile asset in baseball and it's hard to imagine Zaidi giving up anything of value for a reliever, even one as good as Kimbrel. It's much easier seeing Zaidi swing a trade for a setup guy at a lesser cost, perhaps an Orioles reliever like Cole Sulser or a rental like Raisel Iglesias from the Angels. Either way, it's easy to see Zaidi balking at the price of relievers and skipping that market altogether. So considering Kris Bryant seems like a pipe dream (and a rental), and a common Zaidi trait of not spending on relievers, who could the Giants actually wind up with?

There are two names I keep coming back to over and over again: Mitch Haniger and Jose Berrios

Mitch Haniger is a right handed hitting outfielder having a solid season with the Mariners. He's under control for 2022. He is an everyday player. He fulfills a need. He's a Bay Area kid. He grew up in Mountain View, went to High School at Mitty, and played ball at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The Giants have made a concerted effort to acquire local guys recently. Haniger fits the bill. The only problem is that the Mariners are contending. Would they trade Haniger in a season where they're trying to end the majors longest playoff drought? Yes, they would. Jerry DiPoto, the Mariners GM, is a trade machine. He loves making trades. The Mariners are contending but they are still setting up for the future. They're sort of where Zaidi happened to be in 2019 and 2020, better than expected, but sort of messing up the plan. The Mariners have a lot of outfield depth however, so they could be one of those teams that both buy and sell at the deadline. Regardless, Haniger is a name to watch and one that fits the Giants like a glove.

The second is Jose Berrios. The Twins probably won't even accept the Giants calls anymore after they got fleeced in the Sam Dyson and LaMonte Wade Jr trades. There would be no better story at the trade deadline than the Twins trading a twin to the team with his brother like there would be if they dealt Taylor Rogers to the Giants. However, again, Zaidi doesn't love trading for relievers and the cost for Taylor Rogers would be high. It'd be even higher for the Twins ace. If there is a glaring need on the Giants, it's having starting pitching in 2022. Right now, the rotation in 2022 consists of Logan Webb and that's it. Sure, you can slot Beede in there too if you want. Sammy Long if you're feeling bullish on him. Berrios would be an ace not just for 2021 but for 2022. It would give the rotation some certainty and some insurance in case Kevin Gausman wanted to cash out and go somewhere else. More importantly, if you roll into October with Gausman, Berrios, DeSclafani and some combination of Webb/Wood/Cueto, you like your chances. Especially if it's very realistic to believe you'll be going against pitching staffs with names like Buehler, Kershaw, Urias or Darvish, Musgrove, Snell, or Woodruff, Burnes, Peralta or deGrom, Syndergaard, and Carrasco. All of a sudden that staff matches up just as well with any of those staffs. It's not just a luxury, it's a need. Of course, the cost for Berrios is going to be astronomical, if the Twins even plan to trade him at all. Looking around other teams that may sell at the deadline and it's very hard to find a starting pitcher that is a clear upgade over what the Giants currently have. They could opt for a 6th starter, someone they could acquire for depth and stash in the bullpen just in case the current starting five breaks down, but that type of pitcher wouldn't be a difference maker.

So what will the Giants do?

Well, we shall see. Zaidi is mad creative and it's going to be a very active deadline. This is not 2019 or 2020. The Giants have the best record in baseball and even if the Dodgers are still nipping at their heels, this team is well on its way to a date with playoff baseball. The team needs and deserves reinforcements beyond just getting healthy. Zaidi and Harris will most definitely deliver. They're now on the clock, with two weeks left before the deadline comes and goes. It should be a very exciting end of July for Giants fans.  


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