SAN FRANCISCO — Hug Watch, or more accurately #HugWatch, has become a July tradition on social media. If a guy gets pulled from a game anywhere near July 31, Twitter starts speculating about where he’s headed.
Rarely if ever has #HugWatch been so clearly captured, though. Bruce Bochy knew before Tuesday night’s game that Eduardo Nuñez might be traded before the end of the night, and in the bottom of the fifth, with his spot coming up, Nuñez was told to grab his bats. Bochy gave him a hug and Nuñez headed down the dugout steps where teammates were waiting to hug a very popular player.
Nuñez is now a member of the Red Sox. The Giants got two pitchers in return. What does it all mean? Let’s take a spin …
What was the deal? It was officially Nuñez for minor league right-handers Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos. Anderson is 22, Santos is 17. Both throw hard. Anderson was No. 18 on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 Red Sox prospects list. Santos is viewed as more of a lottery ticket.
Wait, Nuñez has been a rare bright spot on a bad team. Why trade him? There was some shock on Twitter and at the ballpark, but there really shouldn’t have been. Nuñez was ALWAYS going to get traded. He is a free agent after the end of the year and the Giants had no reason to hold on to him in a potential 100-loss season. They cashed in their most likely trade chip, as they had to.
Is it a good return? On the face of it, yes. There wasn’t a huge market for Nuñez, especially after the Yankees traded for Todd Frazier, and he’s more a rental utility player than anything else. The Giants seem to have gotten a couple of interesting arms back, and that’s all you can ask for. Anderson was a third-round pick in the 2016 draft, and the Red Sox moved him to starting as a four-pitch guy with a plus fastball. He has a 3.99 ERA and has held opponents to a .236 average. Per MLB.com, he has ramped it up to 96 mph in the past. He entered their Giants prospect list at No. 17, one spot ahead of Kyle Crick.
“It’s four pitches and a plus fastball,” GM Bobby Evans said. “That’s a lot to work with and he’s already off to a good start. We found him to be very impressive with his mechanics, delivery and stuff.”
Anderson is probably headed to High-A San Jose, where the Giants will limit his innings a bit because he’s taken a jump to starting. Santos is much further away, but it’s a live arm, per scouts.
“We’ve seen him in the Dominican Summer League,” Evans said of Santos. “He has a plus fastball. There’s a lot to dream on.”
These guys won’t be part of the 2018 team or even 2019. But the Giants needed arms in their system, and they got a pair.
Does Anderson have a Twitter? Yes!
What comes next at third base? Bruce Bochy sure seemed to indicate that Jae-gyun Hwang will be back this weekend to face three Dodgers lefties. Hwang technically can’t be called up because you have to spend 10 days back in the minors, but if the Giants put a player on the DL, Hwang can be a replacement. Expect a Giant, probably a pitcher, to come down with IT Band Syndrome or a tight back on Friday.
What about Pablo Sandoval? He is not ready, and Bochy said he won’t be the move. But the expectation has been that Sandoval will be up in a week to 10 days, so he could be added to the roster when the Giants return home next week. He hit a double last night but the rest of his at-bats have been pretty light.
What about Ryder Jones and Christian Arroyo? Arroyo is back in Arizona rehabbing after having surgery on a fractured hand, and he hopes to get back in late September. Jones is back in a groove in Sacramento. He certainly deserves a second shot. Maybe in September?
Speaking of injuries, what would have happened if Nuñez had gotten hurt last night? He got hit by a pitch as the trade was going through! “I told him,” Bochy said, “Hey, you can’t get hurt now.” Bochy kept a close eye on him. Nuñez was fine.
Bochy likes Nuñez. Nuñez likes San Francisco. Can he come back? He can, and he might. Nuñez told me a couple of weeks ago that he loves playing here and wouldn’t hold it against the Giants if he were traded. They can call him in November and check on the price. There’s a chance they have a reunion in the offseason, kind of like what the Yankees did with Aroldis Chapman.
Should he come back? Well, depends on the role. Nuñez is a nice piece of a good team, a guy who hits for average, displays versatility, and has speed. But defensively, the numbers showed him to be an issue in left and not great at third, and the Giants internally agree. He's also more of an average guy than a power guy, and the speed doesn't play when his hamstring is tight. Plus, they have bigger holes, and they probably should let Arroyo and Jones fight it out for the starting job at third next spring. Having said that, Nuñez certainly holds a lot of value as a guy who can play all over the field. If the Giants can bring him back as a utility guy, it’s a nice fit. They probably should not pay to bring him back as an everyday third baseman.
What’s next for the Giants? Evans met with reporters for about 15 minutes and didn’t hint at anything big. He said he is not under orders to cut payroll and the front office still wants to try and win in 2018. Plus, this is a terrible time to be trying to trade starting pitchers.
“It’s a buyer’s market, which may not be the best time to advance those discussions,” Evans said.
Expect a quiet weekend, although Evans will continue to work the phones to see if he can make a splash. The bigger moves are expected to come in the offseason, when the Giants will have 29 teams to deal with and can more easily part with members of their core.