Saturday, December 16, 2017

Your 2018 Giants: No Moore

In a surprising (to me; Schulman noted on Twitter that he's been telegraphing it for weeks now) move, the Giants traded Matt Moore (whom we traded the $6M man and Duffman for) to the Rangers for two prospects, right-handed relievers Sam Wolff and Israel Cruz, both hurlers capable of 100 MPH.  It was noted as a salary dump to free payroll money for free agency spending and in order to stay under the CBT penalty threshold.

Andy Baggarly, newly of The Athletic (behind paywall, generally, though some were free before I started subscribing; only way to get Baggs now), noted that there are some good benefits to resetting the CBT penalty this season.  It is so important that the Dodgers just unloaded a ton of contracts onto the Braves in order to get themselves under the limit.  Apparently they did not view Stanton worth going over with, and, instead, prefer to reset their penalties (five years now) so that they can spend big after next season on the big free agent market, starring Bryce Harper and, most probably, Kershaw as well, if he opts out.

Per MLB Pipeline, Sam Wolff, although not on the Rangers Top 30, ends up 27th on the Giants list.  Julian Fernandez, the RHP reliever we picked up via Rule 5 the other day, is ranked 28th (I don't think he ranked on the Rockies list either).   Wolff has had trouble staying off of the DL, suffering significant injuries in the last three seasons, and in fact, probably won't be available to the Giants until mid-season 2018.  He sounds like a more experienced version of Julian Fernandez.

Per MLB Pipeline profile on him, he's another 3-digit hurler that the Giants add:
Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 40 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Wolff has a quick arm that produces consistent mid-90s fastballs when he works in relief. He can touch 100 mph and has some armside run on his heater. His hard slider is his best secondary pitch and he'll mix in a curveball as well. He also has a changeup from his days as a starter but doesn't use it as much coming out of bullpen.
The Rangers made Wolff a full-time reliever in 2017, and he was pushing for a big league promotion when he got hurt again in August. His control has slipped since he began dealing with the rash of injuries, but he could fill a late-inning role if he stays healthy and delivers more strikes.

ogc thoughts

Clearly, the Giants want to sign a free agent or acquire a player without having passing the CBT threshold for penalties.  They probably have somebody in mind already, and perhaps think that they are close, so we could be learning who it is by early next week, an early Christmas present for Giants fans.  Or maybe they are taking a gamble, clearing the salary now, so that this frees them up to be creative in the next two months before spring training starts.  Pick up some Huff-like bargains in the New Year.

Money, Money, Money

Estimates vary as to how much before the penalty.  Baggs noted $21M, Pavlovic in his Facebook video chat noted $19-20M.   I have $16.5M, which is on the low side.  Baggs included $14M as the unknown extra benefits being included, I have used $20M, as that is roughly what it was in previous years, per  my calculations of payroll, that are then aligned with the reported penalties that is released by the MLB.  If I used $14M too, then my number would be $22.5M

In any case, counting $2M of that allocated already for the signing of Nick Hundley for backup catcher (how much he got last season;  apparently he's close to signing), that leaves between $14-20M for the Giants to spend on a defensive CF, power bat, either in corner OF or 3B, and perhaps a Loogy.  

Implications of Trade

Obviously, things will probably change further as we find out what the Giants do with that money.  But here are my thoughts on the implications of the trade.  

First thing for me is that this lessens the chances I see the Giants making the playoffs with the current set of players.  I think the odds are very good that Bumgarner and Cueto can be co-aces like they were in 2016.  That is a big load to take and a good start.

However, the way the Giants have won, they had a good #3 starter to go with an average #4 (which basically was Zito for that period), then basically a replacement level #5 starter, which generally ended up being a mix of 4-5 starters.  I saw the odds as good that between Samardzija and Moore, both variable qualities, we probably can expect one to be good and thus the #3 starter in that scenario and the other to be average and thus the #4 starter for this scenario, with Stratton or Blach the #5 starter.

Now, Samardzija has to be that good #3 starter, and then we are looking for an average starter (#4) and replacement level (#5) between Stratton and Blach.  That was the goal, as I saw it, when Samardzija was signed, that he would be good (or better) by the third year, so that he would replace Cueto's production (for the most part) when presumably Cueto opt out.  Obviously, that didn't happen, Cueto stayed so now Samardzija just needs to be good.

But Samardzija has been so up and down over the two seasons that I don't know how likely it is that he'll be good or better.  He was very good in his last 12 starts of 2016, and if he can continue that into 2018, we could be looking at a trio of aces, which would make up for the loss of Moore.  But he started off 2017 horribly, then progressively figured out things until cruising at the end.   Meanwhile he started 2016 off well, was bad in the middle third of the season, then good again in last third, but that didn't carry forward into 2017.

Second, it means that we traded Lucius Fox and his $6M signing bonus, plus Matt Duffy for 1.5 seasons of Duffy.  The $750K international bonus money that we gave to the Rangers, I see as more in exchange for Cruz, with Wolff being the player that was the return for Moore.  The main value the Giants got was payroll space to get a better player in their expected acquisition or two.

Cruz Not That Great

Cruz is not even much of a prospect beyond his 100 MPH capability.  He'll be 21 YO next season and hasn't even pitched in even a short-season league yet.  He has pitched in rookie ball the last two seasons and hasn't done well at all in either, with high ERA and low-ish K/BB ratio (roughly 2.5.  He was under-aged both seasons, by roughly 2 years and 1 year.  Very low HR/9 though, he was basically BABIPed (.345 and .417). 

Of course, it could be SSS, but also, at the lower levels, pitchers might not really know how to prevent hits well, so this just could be his lack of ability to prevent hits.  Looking at his games, they look a bit like Crick's games, some games, really well (4 IP, 3 hits, 0 walks, 7 strikeouts), others, not so well (1.1 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts).   Clearly he can be dominating when he's consistently doing something right. 

Wolff Is MLB Close

Sam Wolff's main value is his 100 MPH capability and closeness to the majors.  I have seen some commentary that he'll be able to contribute once he returns from his injury, and perhaps be capable of late-game situations. 

It looks possible, looking at his stats.  He did really nicely early on in his career, but then once he faced tougher situations he was too wild in the following seasons, with high walk rates but low strikeout rates.  Much like Fernandez, 2017 was a breakout season, but Wolff did it in AAA, with a great 12.7 K/9 and good 3.56 K/BB ratio ,with a great 2.38 ERA and .300 BABIP.  Hence why some are saying he'll be able to contribute.  However, 2018 will be his 27 YO season, so he's no young guy, he needs to start delivering soon or his window of opportunity will close soon.

Thoughts on Trade

Reminds me of the Pence trade.  We wanted him the season before but the Astros wanted a lot, which the Phillies gave up, but after his struggles with them, the Giants were able to trade less to the Phillies to get him.  Same thing with Moore, Rangers had wanted him too, but did not want to give up that much, and now ended up getting him for much less.

This is the type of trade that I expected the Giants to be pulling off this off-season, getting a useful player that don't cost that much, without giving up much.  Being creative.  Like what the Rangers did.  Like the deal that the Giants had set up with the Marlins until Stanton hemmed and hawed until the Yankees swooped in.  So this was disappointing unless it is followed up with a good move or two.

I understand why the Giants selected his option and then ended up trading it.  They were going all in with Stanton, and had they been able to get him, would have kept Moore.  Once that was dead, and apparently after Ozuna was gone too, the Giants started getting other plans in motion.  Which started with getting more payroll space by trading away Moore, who was disappointing for about half his time here, but good in the other half.  I still think that Moore can be good, but I'm not sure if he's going to survive pitching half his games in Arlington for the Rangers, an extreme hitter's park.

As Baggarly and other beat writers noted, this move clearly shows that the Giants are going to keep under the CBT threshold this season, in order to reset the penalties.  And the Dodgers showed how crucial it is to be under by trading to clear out a lot of space by swapping bad contracts with the Braves.

Basically, if the baseball case could be made to go into the penalty (like a Stanton), then the Giants were willing to do it.  But they clearly do not believe that they can obtain such a player and therefore is preparing to be able to bid on such a player next off-season. 

2018 Giants Plan and Limitations

Meanwhile, this season, they will need to figure out how to improve the OF defensively while also improving the offense as well, plus maybe getting a bullpen upgrade, all for $14-20M.  Signing Jarrod Dyson would leave $8-14M, meaning that there won't be that big an offensive upgrade via 3B or corner OF. 

Unless the Giants can find a Huff-like deal in the month leading up to Spring Training.  There is usually some free agents who misjudge the demand for their services, asking for too much, or just had that bad a season, and is willing to sign with a team just before spring training for a veteran minimum, or close to that. 

This could mean a reunion with Eduardo Nunez, who is projected at 2 years and $14M ($7M per season).  That would take up the rest of the remaining money, with perhaps enough for that Huff-like deal (he got $3M for a season). 

This scenario would not excite many Giants fans, and would not fulfill the Giants hopes of picking up a middle lineup bat.  I would be OK with that, as it would basically be trading Moore for Nunez, who would provide the Giants a lot of flexibility in fielding, and allow the Giants to start Sandoval at lot at 3B if he earns it, but covers them should he fall short again and would not hold back Arroyo from moving to the majors mid-season, as Nunez could still play in LF, perhaps platooning with Span there.  Or taking the super-utility role with the Giants, covering LF as well as 3B, and probably other infield positions as well.

Other 3B Targets

Apparently the Giants are sniffing around Evan Longoria, the guy I was dreaming on when we had the 10th pick the year we drafted Lincecum (he was rated 10th during the off-season).  His great season pushed him way up the draft, as the Devil Rays selected him 3rd in that draft.  At $13.5M (contract would cover his 32 to 37 YO seasons), that would preclude the Giants picking up a defensive CF upgrade, unless they can package a deal to also pick up Kiermeier as well, who costs $5.7M (or can sign Dyson to that price).   Since they are not desperate to shed payroll, it is doubtful the Giants have the prospects to swing such a deal, I just see their call as due diligence, which they are good at doing.

Todd Frazier is another 3B who is available and who the Giants have been talking with.  MLBTR sees him getting 3 years and $33M ($11M per season) covering his 32-34 YO seasons.  That would certain fit under the amount of money they have before reaching the threshold, and there might be enough money to get him and Dyson together, giving the Giants the big bat they were looking for, while greatly upgrading the CF defense.  He's also excellent defensively at 3B, so that would be an upgrade as well.  So I can see why his name is being bandied about a lot for the Giants.  And he has played 1B in the majors, so he could take 1B against tough lefties to give Belt a rest, and give Sandoval a start at 3B.  And in spite of his power, he has made good enough contact during this career. 

Starting Rotation Implications

As I noted, the starting rotation is now relying on Samardzija to deliver a good performance.  Maybe the Giants are that confident that he can be more consistent in 2018.  That would be great if they are thinking this, it's hard to explain how he went from so good at the end of 2016 and was lost for many games early in 2017.  Maybe they got him figured out now.

In any case, as Baggarly noted, this means that the Giants are not going to be trading away Cueto or Samardzija in order to clear out payroll space.  They will need the two to keep the rotation competitive.  And they most probably will be good. 

All the reports on the deal noted that the Giants feel that Stratton can be that 4th starter for the team, with Blach, Beede, and Andrew Suarez battling to win the 5th spot in the rotation, though it would be expected that Blach will win.   Maybe even Crick too will compete, he was a starter not that long ago.  And perhaps with the extra money, they can take a flier or two on a veteran they like for the starting rotation, like a Wellemeyer.  Shows that they have a lot of confidence that at least one of their prospects can deliver an average performance, while someone fills the 5th starter role. 

Future Trade Implications

I see the Giants trying to trade Span and/or Pence by mid-season.  By then teams will be willing to take a flier on a player who (presumably at mid-season, for this scenario to happen) has been playing well enough and could give their team that boost.  Who knows, if Pence is hitting as well as I think he can, the Giants will probably just keep him around, especially if they are as competitive as I think they can be.


Overall, I'm disappointed by the trade, but understand that their hands are tied by the CBT threshold situation, as well as Stanton turning them down.  They are now pivoting as their options are more limited now.  And I want them to be able to bid for the big players next off-season:  while they probably would not end up with one of them, they can at least drive up the price for the other big money teams.  Meanwhile, if they can pick up some nice pieces like Dyson, Nunez, or Frazier, they are nice additions, though not the blockbuster deals that some fans seem to think the team needs to improve from 2017.  


  1. I was looking forward for Moore competing for the comeback player of the year. 1. he has good stuff. 2. he has a simple motion, 3. his arm slot difficulties seem to be mostly out of the stretch, and 4. we have a new pitching coach to try to straighten him out. I thought he was a guy with good upside, that just got out of wack last year. His motion is simple and I thought it might be easier to fix than someone who lost control like Lincecum, or Sanchez. Not sure if we will use two of our young players for the 4th and 5th slot in the rotation, or if the giants will pick up someone for one or both of those slots. I figured right after the Moore deal they would be announcing another deal, because they must have something ready to go. Also as far as third base goes, I just think it is way to early to start trading for a third baseman. We have Arroyo, a real prospect waiting in the wings, and Sandoval as a place holder, and if Sandoval is healthy, he could make people forget his last two years in Boston really fast. I think he is an under rated athlete because of his girth, but when healthy he has significant talent. The total cost to the giants for Sandoval and Arroyo is minimal. They really need a serious upgrade in the outfield. One for at least a couple of seasons. Now I am a little worried about the rotation. I think the giants can end up right now anywhere between 68 wins like last year, and 90 wins with this same team.

    1. Thanks nomisnala for your comment.

      Yeah, me too, I thought and still think he can have a good year, plus have good upside. So I'm not very happy about giving him up for nothing, really, I would want a bigger haul.

      Bur I'm realistic that his bad season meant a bad return.

      They are looking for a power bat and 3B is an area where they can upgrade the lineup.

      The more I think about this, the more I think that a lot of this is just a dog and pony show for the public. If they do nothing and say that the Giants will be competitive, most fans don't see or agree with what I've tried to explain here on my blog, and thus won't go to games.

      So trading Moore is a big shock that "shows" the regular fans that the Giants management gets it, things are bad, and we are trying to fix things. The sacrificial lamb.

      So they will try to follow up with some other big move to show that the Giants management gets it and are trying to fix up the team.

      So I get it, I don't agree, but I get it, so we'll see what happens next. I think we could have gotten a big pop from Moore, now I expect something big in CF or I'll be mad about this move.

    2. The more I think of this, the more it reminded me of the fears I had during the 2000's when fans would be screaming for one thing or another, and I was worried about the Giants management actually paying attention to the Lunatic Fringe, as some of them proudly called themselves (and some still do; I guess they don't realize what that says about them, since they were wrong about the 2000's).

      And by doing this, it seems like they are giving into public perspective that the team is greatly flawed and needs some significant changes to the lineup. As I've shown before, defense pays off better than offense, when you are going for changes like this, because, in an efficient market, the amount of runs allowed you traded away would equal the amount of runs scored that you increased by. And by Pythogrean, however, which few seems to account for, an 0.1 rise in defense in wins is not equal to an 0.1 rise in offense in wins, it is more.

  2. The salary dump of this move seems to be the key, but it is not a very large salary dump, and at under 10 million a year, his upside was worth the risk. If he started off for 3 months, poorly then they could have made a move, but if he started off this year as the good Moore, than we either could have kept him, or trade him for much higher value. For a team willing to take risks they certainly gave up on Moore fairly early, of course unless they have an almost certain trade in the works that will make the Moore departure make sense. There were potentially better salary dump options. Seems as if they are stocking up on 100 mph arms in the hopes that at least one of them will turn out to be a decent major leaguer. Not a big fan of Hamilton, if I were to go with that kind of hitter, I would have preferred Gordon, with a potential move of Panik to third, again as a place holder for Arroyo, with Sandoval a backup at third and first. I still have not given up on the short term potential of Sandoval, although I could be totally wrong, but I saw him work extremely hard to get back on track once he was traded to the giants. I am convinced that Crawford is a 250 hitter, with 15 to 25 home run power, and slightly above expected clutchness. Despite Posey's very good numbers, I was very disappointed in his ability to drive base runners in and his second half home run totals. I do think the giants are a better than 68 win team.

    1. Yeah, Moore was worth the risk, but he got short straw in being traded away to ease our salary issues. Didn't help that he wasn't able to be consistently dominant.

      Hopefully they are doing more than just picking up 100 MPH arms, that they like these pitchers too, that they think they can work with them. Much like the way they thought they could work with Strickland and picked him up even though he was recovering from TJS, which is why he was left unprotected by the Pirates, I think they waived him to clear a spot on their 40-man.

      I'm not a big fan of Hamilton either, unless the Giants think that they can work with him to improve his ability to get on base.

      Still, Jarrod Dyson has been great on CF defense, hits RHP well, and won't cost us any prospects (though presumably the Giants are trading their "OK to trade" prospects and keeping their top guys, as reported before that they have a "do not trade" list that they work from).

      I see a large potential for Sandoval to deliver too, so I'm hoping the Giants do not get a goood-hitting 3B. He was hitting very well at the end of 2017 (over 1.000 OPS, albeit VSSS), so if he can find a way to consistently do that, we don't need that big bat, we'll have it.

      But I understand that the Giants do not want to risk starting 2018 without that big bat, and 3B seems more likely for that to happen than LF. Plus, they tend to be cheaper as well, on a $/WAR basis. Though Dyson looks to be very cheap if he can do what he has done the past few seasons.

      I think BCraw just had one of those years and that he'll rebound in 2018. No player hits better each year of his career like he has and not have some downs to go with the ups. His peripherals did not show any slippage that I could see. I think he will rebound.

      I think the Giants were also disappointed with Posey's and that is partly why they are looking for another big bat. Though if Pence can stay healthy, he was hitting, .275/.337/.421/.758 with 10 homers in 335 AB, that's 20 HR power.



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