MLBTR is launching a new summer series entitled Taking Inventory, in which we’ll preview the potential trade chips that could become available on a number of likely and borderline selling clubs throughout the league.
The Giants are already 25-39 and are not only 16 1/2 games behind the first-place Rockies in the NL West, they’re 13 1/2 games back of the third-place Diamondbacks. While it’s not impossible that they could still make a run at contention, it’s highly unlikely. That would seem to make them potential sellers at the trade deadline. Still, one shouldn’t necessarily expect fireworks. The Giants have endured frustrating seasons in the somewhat recent past and generally haven’t reacted with big shakeups, and even if their track record indicated a radical rebuild was a possibility, the circumstances of many of their veterans assets seemingly impede potential trades (as ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick recently explained).
Johnny Cueto, RHP (starter) | Salary: $21MM
There are no indications yet that the Giants will move Cueto, and to do so would be complex, although not impossible. Cueto is signed through 2021 with a team option for 2022, but he has an opt-out after the 2017 season, meaning that it will be difficult for any potential trade partner to know whether they’re getting a long-term asset or a short-term one. Cueto will also receive a $5MM buyout if he exercises his opt-out and a $500K assignment bonus if he’s traded, further complicating a potential move. Cueto’s seemingly uneven performance this year might also be a factor, but perhaps a less important one — he has a 4.33 ERA this season, but his peripherals (9.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9) are strong as usual.
Eduardo Nunez, IF | Salary: $4.2MM
Unlike many players on this list, Nunez is reasonably priced. While he’s never been a world-beater offensively, he’s been consistent, and his .293/.320/.401 line thus far this season provides a good indication of what to expect from his contact-heavy offensive game going forward. He’s also versatile defensively, capable of playing third base, shortstop and the corner outfield spots. A contender could easily see him as a terrific bench piece. Nunez is as likely as any player on this list to be moved, and a trade would have the benefit of clearing a spot for some combination of Christian Arroyo and Jae-gyun Hwang, who are both currently with Triple-A Sacramento.
Aaron Hill, IF | Salary: $2MM
Hill is a recent minor-league signee who’s batting .178/.238/.333 thus far this season. It’s possible the Giants could deal him to a team in need of infield depth, but the return isn’t likely to be significant.
Nick Hundley, C | Salary: $2MM
Like Hill, Hundley has hit sparingly this season and wouldn’t have much trade value. It’s possible the Giants could ship him in a minor deal to a team in need of catching depth.
Controlled Through 2018
Hunter Pence, OF | Salary: $18.5MM
Pence has a full no-trade clause and has played poorly this season, batting .228/.269/.310 and missing time to a hamstring strain. Like many Giants, he might net the team a bit of extra value on the trade market due to his postseason experience, but he’s still unlikely to command much of a return unless he hits well over the next six weeks.
Matt Cain, RHP (starter) | Salary: $20MM
Cain’s exorbitant salary, the $7.5MM buyout on his 2018 option, and his uninspiring performances the past several seasons would seemingly make a trade very tricky, except perhaps as a change-of-scenery deal in which the Giants were to pick up nearly all of his remaining salary.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (starter); Buster Posey, C; Mark Melancon, RHP (reliever); Madison Bumgarner, LHP (starter), Denard Span, OF; Brandon Crawford, SS; Matt Moore, LHP (starter); Brandon Belt, 1B; George Kontos, RHP (reliever)
Though Samardzija has a 4.31 ERA this season, his outstanding ratios (10.5 K/9, 1.3 BB/9) would surely make him an attractive trade candidate. He is, however, signed through 2020 and can block trades to all but eight teams, complicating potential deals. It certainly wouldn’t be impossible for the Giants to trade him, but as with Cueto, it would be complex.
Posey and Melancon have full no-trade protection and are under contract for the next several seasons. Bumgarner has limited no-trade protection, is currently injured, and has reasonably priced options for 2018 and 2019. Span is 33, has produced modest offense this season, and is owed $9MM next season, plus at least a $4MM buyout and a remaining portion of his signing bonus. Crawford is signed through 2021 and has full no-trade protection. Moore is signed to a team-friendly contract that includes relatively cheap options for 2018 and 2019, potentially making him a trade asset, but he hasn’t pitched well this season. Belt is signed through 2021; his limited no-trade clause hasn’t yet kicked in, but he’s also in the first year of the extension he signed last season. Of all those players, perhaps the most likely to be dealt are Span and Moore, and neither of those seem that likely.
Kontos is one of a number of Giants relievers who could theoretically be dealt, also including Cory Gearrin, Hunter Strickland and Derek Law. Of those, Kontos is among the closest to free agency eligibility and the one with the longest track record. He’s signed for a reasonable $1.75MM in 2017 and is controllable for two more seasons, and while his strikeout and walk rates have fluctuated throughout his career and he’s never had elite velocity, he’s also never had a season in which he wasn’t at least modestly effective.