San Francisco Giants Make Questionable Upgrades

The San Francisco Giants gave up a lot at the trade deadline for a pair of league average players

The trade deadline has come and gone, and the Giants are now without top pitching prospect Phil Bickford (Brewers), last year's big international signee and number four prospect Lucius Fox (Rays), number ten prospect Adalberto Mejia (Twins) and number 19 prospect, righty Michael Santos. Oh, and Matt Duffy. Seems like a lot to give up, even with the years of team control that the Giants received in utility man Eduardo Nunez (2017), lefty reliever Will Smith (2019) and Matt Moore (team options through 2019), but that is the market this year. With seemingly no big free agents to become available this winter, the Giants did the best with what they had to work with, which is to say not a terribly deep farm system. If you're a team selling off players at the deadline, you want to acquire impact minor leaguers, and the Giants gave up three of theirs, severely weakening an already shallow system. 

That's the bad news. The good news is that Chris Shaw and Christian Arroyo remain with the Giants, and Duffy's departure could speed up the timeframe that we see Arroyo in the majors. Or maybe not. They do have Nunez as an insurance plan. 

So let's delve into the stats of the two pieces the Giants acquired. Moore is a lefty that is just a year removed from Tommy John surgery and has pitched to a 4.08 ERA over 130 innings this season. His strikeout to walk ratio is alright at 2.73, but not spectacular. His walks per nine and strikeouts per nine sit at 2.8 and 7.5 respectively. Not a huge impact arm, but that isn't necessarily the Giants M.O. Acquiring players like Mike Leake and Jake Peavy at the deadline is. 

According to Eno Sarris over at FanGraphs, Moore's fastball is two miles per hour above the average for a left-hander, and his changeup has been good for 18% of whiffs over his career (14% this year, still above average), giving Moore "a one-two punch worthy of the middle of any rotation." Sarris continues: "It looks like we have a lefty with plus fastball velocity and two above-average secondary pitches. Among qualified pitchers, that sentence only describes Kershaw, Price, Hamels, Sale, Liriano and Moore." Well if you put it that way...

Still, being sold on Moore will take seeing him in a Giants uniform and some time to warm up. Moore holds a 100 ERA+, which is the definition of average, while his FIP (fielding independent pitching) is nearly half a run higher than his ERA at 4.49. Playing at AT&T and putting a superior San Francisco defense behind him should help inflate those numbers a bit. 

With the addition of Moore to the rotation, that will likely end up moving either Matt Cain or Peavy to the bullpen. Problem is, Suarez has been great there, but Peavy and Cain are owed a lot more money. With Peavy's contract up at the end of the year, it's likely that he'll be bumped from the rotation, as the two starters have identical ERA+ metrics of 72, 28 percent below league average. And that is where the addition of Moore appears to be a big one. If Bruce Bochy can find a way to get Moore slotted in between Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, then the Giants can go righty-lefty almost every other day. 

Further, the Dodgers have not been good against left-handers, holding the worst batting average in baseball against southpaws at .224, and the 4th-worst OBP at .302, ahead of only the Phillies, Braves and Reds. Being lumped in with those teams in any way this year is probably not a good sign. 

Now, on to Smith. He has been better than average this season with a 115 ERA+ over 22 injury-shortened innings. Back in March, Smith twisted his knee while taking off his shoe and the injury kept him out until June. Last season he made 76 appearances (63.1 innings) and held a 2.70 ERA. His fastball is down one and a half miles per hour this year, which is likely linked with the knee injury, but that hasn't kept Smith from throwing his heater, which clocks in at 91.7.

The biggest difference between the two seasons appears to be that his ground ball rate is down 12.5 percent from 2015, leading to an increased home runs per nine rate of 1.23 this season while sitting well below one per nine last year. These stats have all been accumulated in a small sample, but moving from the hitter friendly Miller Park to the spacious and pitcher friendly AT&T Park should again help his numbers look more shiny. 

For now, let's wait and see how much we should disagree with the trades that have already been made. Championships tend to heal all wounds, and the Giants have added a couple of decent, yet not dominant pieces to make yet another run at an even-year World Series title. 

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