Seemingly not content with their current two game lead in the NL West and the inevitability of an even year World Series victory, the San Francisco Giants spent the non-waiver trade deadline shoring up holes all over the roster. While paying some steep prices, the team added a trio of MLB pieces that impact not only the 2016 stretch run, but future seasons as well. Those steep prices included several top prospects - including three prospects in their organizational top 10 - and two Major League ready players who have demonstrated the ability to play every day.
On July 28, the Giants acquired Twins infielder Eduardo Nunez, a 2016 All-Star, for starting pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia. Per Baseball America, Mejia is a top 100 prospect and was a Giants organizational top 10 prospect. Nunez is a first time All-Star in the midst of a career year - although rest of season projections (ZiPS: 89 wRC+, Steamer: 87 wRC+) aren't enthusiastic about his offensive output moving forward.
He was acquired to provide stability in the infield around Joe Panik and Matt Duffy, each suffering from injuries and offensive slumps. However, Nunez is also entering his final season of arbitration with a $1.48 million salary - he will provide a cheap everyday option in the infield in 2017 as well.
On the afternoon of the actual trade deadline, the Giants surprised much of baseball by moving catcher Andrew Susac and starting pitching prospect Phil Bickford for Brewers reliever Will Smith. Susac, still only 26 years old, had yet to establish himself fully in the Majors while being blocked behind the plate by Buster Posey. Still, he features the ceiling of an everyday player and is under team control for four more seasons following 2016. Bickford, the Giants' first round pick in the 2015 draft, is a bit of a controversial prospect but was still regarded as a top 50 prospect in Baseball America's mid-season list. Smith has had a bit of a down season with a moderate drop in velocity but is still striking out a batter per inning while featuring three more seasons of team control after 2016. He lengthens a bullpen currently buoyed by Santiago Casilla, Hunter Strickland, George Kontos, and surprisingly dominant rookie Derek Law.
The earlier Nunez trade became even more notable following the final trade of the three, announced after the 4:00 PM deadline. The late breaking move was the most major of the group, the acquisition of Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore for three significant pieces - Major League infielder Matt Duffy, top 2015 international signee Lucius Fox, and upside pitching prospect Michael Santos. The high cost of the package - including a presumed member of the Giants' immediate and long-term plans in Duffy - is due not only to the high cost of pitching at the deadline, but also the value in Moore's contract. Moore, the former top prospect in all of baseball, signed a team-friendly extension prior to the 2012 season. He has team options for each of the next three seasons, at $7, $9, and $10 million respectively. Nunez's addition is significant here because it appears that Nunez created the depth necessary to move a player like Duffy in favor of the starting rotation.
In each trade, the Giants aren't shying away from moving what the outside baseball community sees as some of their most highly valued assets. A lot of teams would receive flack for trading away a large group of top prospects and young major leaguers, but San Francisco has recently spent little time being beholden to prospect rankings and industry perceptions. Core pieces of Giants' championship teams have included many position players that never sniffed a top-100 prospect list.
Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, and Duffy were never top prospects, and each has produced at least one All-Star caliber season. In addition, Brandon Belt, Crawford, and Duffy were each selections after the first three rounds in the draft. Between Posey, Belt, Panik, Duffy, Crawford, Susac, and current Reds outfielder Adam Duvall (drafted as a second baseman), no team in baseball has seen more recent success selecting college infielders in the amateur draft. Not only are players hitting their ceilings, but they are seeing more upside at the major league level than is typically projected for college position players.
This late round, pop-up success hasn't translated into pitching, where all of their most successful starting pitchers - Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and current Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler - were all prep arms picked in the first round who were considered top 10 prospects in all of baseball. Since drafting Wheeler in 2009, the team hasn't developed a consistent starting pitcher and has had to sign four free agent starting pitchers to multi-year deals in the last three years (Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Tim Hudson, and Jake Peavy) to fill out the rotation. Despite all that committed money, they still needed at least one more arm moving forward, and Moore is a really interesting long-term option.
Based on their track record, San Francisco rightfully should have a lot of confidence in their internal talent evaluations. Predicting something considered unlikely is inherently a fool's errand, but were the Giants confident in their ability to churn out former college infielders, they have plenty of candidates drafted in the last few years. Aramis Garcia, Austin Slater, Hunter Cole, Chris Shaw, and C.J. Hinojosa are each having strong seasons while pushing up the Minor League ladder.
Their activity at the trade deadline is indicative of a few things. Primarily, the high cost of pitching (and particularly high leverage relievers) in the current market. However, San Francisco was not sacrificing long-term prospects for rentals - each of Nunez, Smith, and Moore fill holes beyond the 2016 season. It speaks to their faith in top prospect Christian Arroyo and his ability to be a suitable long-term answer at third base following Duffy's departure. Most interestingly, though, it speaks to the team's confidence in their ability to evaluate their own talent better than outside evaluators.