Monday, August 8, 2022

Giants trade deadline preview: Needs, targets, chips as San Francisco straddles line between buyer and seller

The San Francisco Giants have tumbled from the 107-win heights of 2021 and have very little chance of catching the rival Dodgers and repeating as National League West champs. That said, the Giants are very much in the mix for a wild-card berth, and that’s especially the case now that the MLB playoff field has expanded from 10 to 12 teams. If Gabe Kapler’s squadron is able to claim one of those three wild-card berths available to them, then the Giants will notch back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2002-03. 

At this writing, the Giants are 2 1/2 games out of playoff position in the NL, and there figures to be a great deal of compression among the Giants, Phillies, Padres, and second-place team in the National League Central for the final two spots. In other words, the Giants are just the kind of team who should be making roster improvements leading up to the Aug. 2 trade deadline. Whether they’ll do that depends upon ownership’s willingness to invest in the product and lead decision-maker Farhan Zaidi’s willingness to trade long-term pieces for short-term improvements. Zaidi might be inclined to hold and hope for internal improvements, or a continued slide in the standings (the Giants enter Wednesday on a six-game losing streak) could prompt him to sell. The Giants are straddling that line right now. 

With that uncertain backdrop laid out, let’s take a look at what the Giants might try to get done in the days to come. 

Needs

Let’s not bury the lede: The Giants are one of the teams rumored to have at least cursory interest in trading for young Nationals superstar Juan Soto, who’s on the block after reportedly turning down an extension worth more than $400 million. Soto would be a worthwhile upgrade for any team, and the Giants could indeed use an upgrade in right field and, more broadly, truly elite production near the top of the order. 

Beyond the obvious value of Soto, the Giants have struggled behind the plate in their first post-Buster Posey season. Giants catchers this season — mostly Joey Bart and Curt Casali — have combined to hit just .205/.307/.356. Sometimes teams are loath to make a change behind the plate during the middle of the season because of the valuable rapport between catchers and the pitching staff that takes time to cultivate, but this remains a clear every of need for the Giants. Elsewhere, the Giants are like a lot of contenders in that they could use additional bullpen depth. Right now, the Giants rank 23rd in bullpen ERA, which is a grim figure for a team with postseason aspirations. Their bullpen FIP, or fielding-independent pitching, is a more acceptable 13th in MLB, which made augur better days ahead. Even if that’s the case, though, they could use another lockdown arm. 

Potential targets

Soto has already been mentioned. On the catcher front, Willson Contreras of the Cubs and Sean Murphy of the cross-Bay A’s are the two biggest names rumored to be available. When it comes to relievers, the market not surprisingly figures to be flush with them. Possible solutions include David Bednar of the Pirates, Michael Fulmer of the Tigers, David Robertson of the Cubs, and Daniel Bard of the Rockies. The recent addition of retread Trevor Rosenthal may help matters, but the Giants should probably add at least one more bullpen arm to the mix. 

Elsewhere, the Giants have been linked to Luis Castillo, who’s probably the top starting pitcher on the market. While the San Fran rotation has been a pronounced strength this season and thus isn’t an area of need, a pitcher like Castillo improves any roster. As such he’s a worthwhile target. 

Potential trade chips

The Giants’ tip-top prospects are shortstop Marco Luciano, lefty Kyle Harrison, and Luis Matos. It’s hard to imagine Zaidi parting with any of them unless it’s in trade for Soto. All are likely in line to make the majors by next season, so they have near-term value to the Giants in addition to their future ceilings. Otherwise, the Giants’ system is working with good depth in the outfield and in terms of right-handed pitching. If it’s a win-now trade from the San Fran perspective, then names like Heliot Ramos, Will Bednar, and Hunter Bishop could be in play. 

On the flip side of things, if the Giants decide a pivot/soft sell-off is in order, then lefty Carlos Rodón could fetch a nice return. Joc Pederson, Wilmer Flores, and Dominic Leone are all in their walk years and faring quite well to pretty good this season. Given that the Giants’ roster is fairly old as such things go, this is a defensible approach if Zaidi decides the postseason is slipping away. 

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