Can Giants match reported Red Sox asking price in Mookie Betts trade?


Can Giants match reported Red Sox asking price in Mookie Betts trade?

In each of the last two offseasons, the Giants pursued a star outfielder. Could the third time be the charm?

Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts could be the crown jewel this offseason, with the AL East power publicly saying it will be "difficult" to keep Betts and outfielder J.D. Martinez. The 2018 AL MVP's teammates are preparing for a season without him, and Boston reportedly has set its asking price.

SNY's Matthew Cerrone reported Tuesday that the Red Sox would "need to replace [Betts] in the lineup, add an affordable, team-controlled, mid-rotation starter and bring in at least two top 100 prospects" if they traded him. Unsurprisingly, there would be no shortage of suitors.

Citing "league insiders," Cerrone wrote that the San Diego Padres, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers could be "capable of putting together an appealing package for Betts." If the Los Angeles Dodgers were interested, the Red Sox "would likely ask for" outfielder Joc Pederson and right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda, in addition to the pair of prospects. 

So, how could the Giants fit in this mix? According to MLB Pipeline and Baseball America, San Francisco has four top 100 prospects in its system: Catcher Joey Bart, outfielder Heliot Ramos, shortstop Marco Luciano and outfielder Hunter Bishop. The Giants have begun to re-stock their bare prospect cupboard over the last two years, and Bart and Ramos could continue their climb through the team's minor-league system and move to Triple-A as soon as next season. Luciano just turned 18 last month, while Bishop just completed his first season in pro baseball.

Those four are the Giants' brightest sources of hope, but it's fair to wonder if they -- or, frankly, any prospect -- can ever reach the level Betts has. Even in a down 2019, Betts rebounded down the stretch and ultimately still was worth 6.6 Wins Above Replacement by Fangraphs' measure. He has been far more productive up to this point in his career than top 2019 free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were. Trading prospects always is a gamble, but Betts is likely to live up to his price tag. 

The Giants could pay one portion of it, but they probably don't have the major league talent to match the Red Sox's reported asking price. While Kevin Pillar could entice Boston, big-money starting pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto would seem to be bad fits for a team looking to shed payroll. 

Of course, the Red Sox don't have a lot of leverage. They've made it known they want to get below the competitive balance tax, and teams aren't going to want to give one of baseball's richest any kind of help. Even though Boston would have a 28-team bidding war on its hands if it decided to trade Betts, the Red Sox wouldn't be in an advantageous position with their desperation to shed salary so widely known.

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Boston might make it all moot and trade Martinez instead, but it goes without saying that pursuing a trade for Betts is worth the Giants' time. The same can be said for the rest of baseball. 

It certainly would make missing out on Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper in back-to-back offseasons much easier for the Giants to swallow. 

Rays designate popular ex-Giants infielder Matt Duffy for assignment


Rays designate popular ex-Giants infielder Matt Duffy for assignment

A Giants fan favorite needs a new home. 

The Tampa Bay Rays designated infielder Matt Duffy for assignment Wednesday, and they now have a week to trade or release him. Injuries limited Duffy, who played for San Francisco for parts of three seasons, to just 199 games with the Rays after being traded to Tampa Bay during the 2016 season.

“Wish that his health and his time with us would have gone different in that regard and we could have had him on the field more,’’ Rays general manager Erik Neander said (via the Tampa Bay Times). “He really is a special player and there’s the obvious stuff you can measure in how he impacts a game. His intangibles, his leadership, his influence on a younger impressionable clubhouse like we have is worth a lot. And that especially made this a very difficult decision and we’ll certainly miss him in that regard.’’

Duffy played in only 46 games, slashing just .252/.343/.327 and posting a career-low .670 OPS. Despite those struggles, Duffy's Rays career ended with eerily similar statistics to that of his Giants tenure. Duffy played 54 more games in orange and black than he did with Tampa Bay, but his .281/.326/.399 slash line with the Giants was not far off from his overall .284/.351/.357 line with the Rays. 

The pitcher Duffy was traded for, Matt Moore, is long gone from San Francisco. Could Duffy make his way back to Oracle Park, either through trade or free agency? It's difficult to imagine, given the construction of the Giants' infield depth chart. 

Duffy has played the vast majority of his career games at third base, and Giants third baseman Evan Longoria is under contract through 2022 and owed $53 million until then, making a trade unlikely. Behind Longoria is arbitration-eligible veteran Donovan Solano, who posted a career-best .815 OPS last season. Right-handed shortstop Mauricio Dubon, who the Giants acquired in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers, will at least back up Brandon Crawford next season, and Dubon's status as one of San Francisco's most promising young players will give him the priority in terms of playing time. 

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Plus, Duffy's connections to the Giants are largely gone. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, general manager Scott Harris and manager Gabe Kapler were not in San Francisco when Duffy was. The Giants are no strangers to bringing back one of their own, but it remains to be seen if San Francisco's newly formed brain trust values that in the same way. 

The Giants opted not to make any changes to their 40-man roster Wednesday, and they would've had a chance to acquire Duffy via trade. Neander said the Rays were unable to find a taker, but perhaps a team circles back now that Duffy has been DFA'd. It just might not be San Francisco. 

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Why Farhan Zaidi says he still has faith in Giants' aging veteran core

Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has made a multitude of personnel moves since taking over control of San Francisco’s roster. 

A handful of holdovers remain from the previous regime, many of whom were part of the organization’s three World Series trophies in five years.

Guys like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey and others are facing increasing competition for innings after several rough seasons in a row for the Giants.

Zaidi wants to continue the team’s rebuild but isn’t going to just jettison every guy who’s not in their prime.

“Sometimes I think the change does not mean a change in personnel,” Zaidi told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami on “The TK Show” podcast. “But a change in outlook and perspective.

“Baseball is a game where development should never stop, whether you’re a 22-year-old rookie or a 33-year-old veteran.”

Zaidi is hoping that the infusion of fresh blood into the Giants clubhouse should give every returning player an opportunity to re-evaluate their own roles and abilities.

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“As I view it, being a change agent doesn’t mean just turning over the roster,” Zaidi said. “But it means everybody reassessing where they are in their careers, what they do well, what their roles are, and trying to progress further for the betterment of the team.”

Expect to see some familiar faces on the Giants next season. But Zaidi and his new general manager Scott Harris likely will continue making moves throughout the offseason and even in-season, as we saw frequently in 2019.