In a must-read, wide-ranging interview (link to full transcript at the top of the article) with Andrew Baggarly of The Mercury News, Giants executive vice president of baseball operations, Brian Sabean, described his team as being “open for business” at the end of the month’s trade deadline. What exactly that will amount to in terms of actual moves remains to be seen, but what we do know is this: San Francisco’s team will be selling.
The only player I’d bet my life (the player’s health permitting) on the Giants trading is super-utilityman Eduardo Nuñez, set to be activated from the disabled list in time for today’s game against the Padres. Nuñez has been on the DL since June 20th with inflammation in his hamstring, interrupting a solid offensive season that includes a .737 OPS, four home runs and 17 stolen bases. Nunez’s poor defense brings his WAR (per Baseball-Reference) to just a hair above replacement level, but nonetheless, his versatility and speed would likely net someone of note in return.
The rest of the club is where things get murky. All we know for sure is that Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey—of course, the team’s two best and most marketable players—will not be traded. But the only rental besides Nuñez who could net anything is backup catcher Nick Hundley, and that’d be a decent low-level minor leaguer at best.
The non-Bumgarner starting pitchers are a mess in terms of figuring out trade value. Johnny Cueto can—and will more likely than not—opt out of his contract following the season, but if he’s injured or slumping his new team would owe him another $93M at minimum. Not knowing if they’re trading for half a season or four-and-a-half seasons of Cueto makes figuring out a package incredibly complicated; he’d have to assure his new team that he’d opt out before the trigger is pulled on the trade. Jeff Samardzija’s peripherals are sterling, but his ERA is high, he’s continuing to struggle with the longball, and now that he’s 32 years of age he’s probably never having that big breakout season we’ve all been waiting for. Matt Moore has the highest ERA amongst qualifiers, and there’s no real reason to move Ty Blach, so the current Giants rotation could be the one they finish the season with.
As for position players, there’s also a lot of money issues. Joe Panik is their only notable position player who’s not due a lot of money (he doesn’t even hit arbitration until next season) but he’s got an underwhelming 97 OPS+ and his defense has slumped to below replacement level. Denard Span’s contract is the least prohibitive of the sizable ones, but even he is still due roughly $20M through the end of next season (including his buyout). The two Brandons (Crawford and Belt) have taken steps back this season, and the Giants would likely rather not sell low on players at two premium positions. Ditto Hunter Pence. Ditto Mark Melancon. My goodness, there’s just so much to untangle here.
I have no idea what the Giants are going to do besides trade Nuñez, I really don’t. There are so many directions they could go, and Sabean seems to be fully aware of that, telling Baggarly that he’ll have to be “a lot more open-minded,” and that he “[doesn’t] have a good handle on what [the team’s] trajectory is, if any.”