As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
San Francisco Giants, 35-56, 5th in NL West
What moves have they made so far?
Despite the fact that the Giants have struggled so mightily in 2017, they’ve relied mainly on in-house reinforcements to try to reverse their fortunes. Both of their trades this season have been with the Rangers, as they dealt left-handed starting pitching prospect Clayton Blackburn to Texas for cash and minor-league infielder Frandy De La Rosa on April 16, then acquired former closer Sam Dyson from the Rangers for a player to be named later on June 6.
The rest of the Giants’ moves have entailed jettisoning veterans with minimal ties to the organization who underperformed this year. San Francisco lost reliever Neil Ramirez on waivers to the Blue Jays on May 4 after designating him for assignment four days earlier. They’ve released a trio of role-playing veterans, parting ways with Drew Stubbs on May 10, Bryan Morris on June 27, and Aaron Hill on June 29.
Are they buyers or sellers?
The Giants will definitely be sellers at the deadline, but since they plan on bouncing back and contending in 2018, they’re not going to perform a complete tear-down, and it’s possible that they may even seek to add players that they believe can help them next season. President of Baseball Operations Brian Sabean indicated that the Giants don’t have too many untouchable players, telling Andrew Baggarly of The Mercury News earlier this week that the Giants will be “a lot more open minded to more names than we have been in the past.”
Who could they trade?
Right-hander Johnny Cueto is expected to be the Giants’ biggest trade piece, though his contract could make the Giants uneasy about dealing him. Cueto, 31, is set to earn $84 million over the next four years, but he can opt out of his contract at the end of this season, and many experts expect him to do so. Cueto has to be viewed as a rental at this point, and since has dealt with a blister all season and posted a 4.51 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 18 starts, it’s unlikely that he would bring back even close to the return that he’d usually command. It’s very possible that San Francisco will opt to hold onto him and hope that he decides to opt for long-term security rather than testing the free-agent market after the season.
The most logical player for the Giants to deal would be Eduardo Nuñez, as he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season and isn’t likely to return with the Giants possessing a trio of potential in-house replacements at third base in Christian Arroyo, Ryder Jones, and Jae-Gyun Hwang. Nuñez is capable of playing third, shortstop, and both corner outfield spots, so he could provide versatility to a contending club, and his speed is an asset, as he’s stolen 57 bases since the beginning of the 2016 season. There are a couple of road blocks as the Giants attempt to deal Nuñez, though; there aren’t a ton of contenders who have needs at any of the positions Nuñez plays, and there are many others who play those spots—including Yangervis Solarte, Zack Cozart, Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, and Howie Kendrick, to name a few—who are expected to be on the market this month. Nuñez’s health is also an uncertainty as the deadline approaches. He was activated from the DL on Friday after being out since June 19 with a strained left hamstring, then dealing with calf soreness during his minor-league rehab stint. He’ll need to prove that he’s back to full health if a club is going to give up anything substantial for him.
Relievers Cory Gearrin and George Kontos could be two under-the-radar trade candidates to be dealt at the deadline. While the fact that Gearrin has just 34 strikeouts but 22 walks in 42.1 innings this season is somewhat concerning, the 31-year-old sidearmer has posted a spectacular 2.13 ERA while holding hitters to a .225 average. He’s under club control through the 2019 season and is making just $1.05 million this year. His deceptive delivery would make him an imposing member of a postseason bullpen.
Kontos, 31, has always been an interesting case, because he doesn’t throw exceptionally hard and has never posted great strikeout totals, yet he’s always been effective—albeit usually in low-leverage situations—posting a 2.93 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in six seasons with the Giants. Though he’s endured rough patches this season, his numbers overall are still pretty good, as he has a 3.14 ERA, 47 strikeouts, and 13 walks over 43 innings. He’d be an upgrade in the middle innings for many contending clubs, and like Gearrin, he’s arbitration-eligible through 2019.
Two more guys who the Giants may dangle but will probably have trouble moving before the deadline are right-hander Jeff Samardzija and first baseman Brandon Belt. From a context-independent analytic standpoint, Samardzija has had a very good season. According to FanGraphs’ WAR calculation, he’s been the sixth-most valuable pitcher in the National League this season (2.3 fWAR), and he has 127 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 118 innings. But in terms of actual results, he’s been as inconsistent as he has for most of his 10-year MLB career, having posted a 4.58 ERA with 1.4 home runs allowed per nine innings over 18 starts. Seeing as he’s 32 years old and has posted a 4.09 ERA while allowing one home run per nine innings over the course of his career, it seems doubtful that he’ll suddenly take a step forward and become a consistent front-of-the-rotation starter. But with so few dependable starting pitchers on the market this month, perhaps there will be a club that is impressed enough by his raw stuff to believe they can change his luck. He’s making $19.8 million this year and is owed $59.4 million over the next three seasons, so that could be an additional factor that dissuades teams from wanting to trade for him.
Belt is having an odd season, as he’s struggling to make consistent contact but is getting on base and posting better power numbers than he ever has before, hitting .243/.349/.470 with 16 homers in 375 plate appearances. He can play both first base and left field, with his defense at first ranking somewhere between good and elite. He has a majors-best nine defensive runs saved at first base this year according to FanGraphs. He’s had a pair of on-field disputes with Buster Posey this season, though, and many view him as the most expendable member of the Giants’ core if the front office wants to shake things up.
The fact that he’s owed $68.8 million over the next four seasons could limit other teams’ interest in him, and he has a 10-team no-trade clause. There also aren’t many teams in the race that are in need of a first baseman; the only two obvious ones are the Yankees and Angels, and New York still has some degree of faith in 24-year-old Greg Bird. If the Giants want to move Belt, it might make more sense to do it during the offseason.
The next couple weeks will have large bearing on what the Giants are able to do at the deadline. Right now, Cueto’s trade value doesn’t seem high enough to make it worth trading him, and Nuñez is enough of an uncertainty that the Giants might not be able to fetch anything more than an organizational player in return for him. In the end, they’ll probably still trade Nuñez, but it’s doubtful that they’ll get as much back for him as they might’ve if the deadline was a month ago.
Belt seems likely to stick around at least through the end of the season, because the Yankees probably aren’t going to make a drastic shakeup at first base, and the Angels’ playoff odds aren’t high enough to necessitate them taking on significant salary before the deadline. Samardzija could be the biggest wild card among the group, especially since Jose Quintana is now off the market and there are several contenders still in need of rotation depth. With nearly every contender in need of bullpen reinforcements, Kontos and Gearrin are also guys to keep an eye on over the next couple weeks.