If trade market stays the course, Giants have more to gain as buyers than sellers

SF Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has plenty of control over the reliever market

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner works against a San Diego Padres batter during the second inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 28, 2019, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Orlando Ramirez)
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PHILADELPHIA — When the Toronto Blue Jays shipped their staff ace, Marcus Stroman, to the New York Mets on Sunday, the first reaction of many players, managers and executives was the exact same.

“What?,” they asked at once.

Considered one of the top pitchers available on the trade market, Stroman was expected to move from the Blue Jays to a contending club with a legitimate need for a frontline starter come October.

In all likelihood, the Mets’ season will end in September.

The Stroman deal, like many others involving pitchers, garnered the attention of decision-makers throughout baseball, including Giants’ president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, who is keeping close tabs on which players are moving from team-to-team.

If a handful of franchises with postseason aspirations were expected to compete for Stroman’s services, surely the Mets overpaid and made the Blue Jays an offer they couldn’t refuse?

Not exactly.

In the end, the return for Stroman, a right-hander with a 2.96 ERA who is under club control through next season, was somewhat underwhelming. The Mets did not part with a consensus top-100 prospect, but instead gave up 2016 first round pick Anthony Kay and 2018 second round pick Woods Richardson.

The pitching prospects each have decent upside, but it’s not the type of eye-popping return that will convince Giants executives that the market is ripe to sell. It also indicates that while the Blue Jays kept their options open on Stroman, the Mets’ offer was better than what more successful clubs brought to the table.

Between now and the 4 p.m. EST trade deadline on July 31, Zaidi will continue receiving calls and inquiries regarding the availability of his top pitchers. Despite stating his desire to see the Giants contend for a playoff spot in 2019, Zaidi has said he’ll listen to offers on all of his players to gauge the market and develop a better understanding of how the rest of the industry values his club.

If the trades that have taken place to date are any indication of the type of deals that will transpire over the hours leading up to the deadline, the Giants may be better served to “buy” supplementary contributors than to sell their top assets.

The National League Wild Card race features several teams lacking bullpen depth including the Brewers, Nationals and Cubs. All three would like to add quality arms, but if the Giants don’t part with any of their best relievers, they’ll help to avoid strengthening their top competition for a playoff berth.

National League pitcher Will Smith, of the San Francisco Giants, throws during the seventh inning of the MLB baseball All-Star Game American League, Tuesday, July 9, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Furthermore, it’s not clear the Giants would be gaining much by parting with relievers such as Will Smith or Sam Dyson. Both would command better returns than what the Royals received from the A’s for lefty Jake Diekman and what the Marlins got for Sergio Romo, but it’s doubtful the Giants could demand a true difference-maker unless the market significantly shifts.

The reliever market has been slow to develop and much of the action is expected to take place in the final 24 hours before the deadline, but the Giants do have the ability to drive up the cost of certain players because they now believe they’re in position to contend. If a team really wants pitchers such as Tony Watson or Reyes Moronta, they’ll have to pay more of a premium to the Giants than the Indians did for right-hander Hunter Wood or the Phillies did for veteran starter Jason Vargas.

Ultimately, you pay for what you get and thus far, teams have been unwilling to part with the top players they’ve drafted, signed and developed. That’s one of the primary reasons why the names on the move are pitchers like new Red Sox starter Andrew Cashner and new Brewers righty Jordan Lyles, who were expendable pieces for losing clubs that blocked the development of younger pitchers with their former teams.

If the market stays the course, Zaidi could pounce on the opportunity to add a switch-hitting second baseman like Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar or a free agent-to-be who could help the rotation like Reds starter Tanner Roark. It may not cost a top-10 or top-15 prospect to nab either player, and it would enhance the Giants’ chances of keeping their extended run of success going.

Zaidi could even target lower-profile names, finding a right-handed platoon option in the outfield or trading a relief prospect for a fifth starter-type. As the transactions of the last few days have indicated, adding a piece to a major league roster may not require parting with a prospect who promises to even reach the big leagues.

The market is bound to change as more contending clubs feel a sense of urgency, but due to their surplus of bullpen arms and uncertain direction, they can still control much of what takes place.

If it remains a quiet deadline around the league, the Giants may take the chance to surprise the industry and add rather than subtract.

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