Christian Arroyo, not Matt Duffy, returns to Oracle Park to face Giants

Christian Arroyo, not Matt Duffy, returns to Oracle Park to face Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Duffy is one of the more popular players to come through Oracle Park in recent years, but he won't be there to get a standing ovation on Friday afternoon when the Giants host the Rays in their home opener (weather permitting, of course). 

Duffy missed most of the spring with a hamstring injury and had a back issue pop up that will keep him out until May. The third baseman told the Tampa Bay Times that he tweaked his back before spring training while working out. 

"I thought (the two injuries) were unrelated things, and in a way they are unrelated," he said. "But they are not helping each other. It's part of the game. It's frustrating."

That's a word that can describe much of Duffy's career since the Giants sent him away at the deadline in 2016. He was shut down in September of that year and missed all of 2017 with an Achilles injury. The latest Injured List stint will keep him from returning to a place where he won a World Series title, became a fan favorite, and developed into one of the better young infielders in the National League. 

Of course, that deal might have been more frustrating for the Giants. There probably is no such thing as the Curse of Matt Duffy, but ...

The Giants were 61-44 and in first place when they dealt Duffy and prospects to the Rays in a deal that brought Matt Moore back. The thought was that Moore could help anchor a title run, but the deal was a stunner nonetheless, and it came as a shock even in the clubhouse, where players had grown so accustomed to keeping the gang together and Duffy served as a bridge between the core and younger players trying to break in. 

The Giants went 26-31 the rest of the way, just sneaking into the postseason, where they lost to the Cubs in heartbreaking fashion. 

Add up the two-plus down years since and the organization is 165-223 since the Duffy deal. 

Duffy has played just 153 games for the Rays, but he did have a two-WAR season in 2018, posting a .294/.361/.366 line. Perhaps Duffy would have stayed healthy on the natural grass at Oracle Park, but it's doubtful the Giants have many regrets. The real issues with that trade might be everything else it led to. 

The Giants also included Lucius Fox after giving him $6 million to sign out of the Bahamas. Fox, 21, is now a top 100 prospect according to some evaluators. The other player in that deal, pitcher Michael Santos, flamed out. 

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There were other parts of this deal, too. The Giants ended up swapping Moore for Sam Wolff, a right-handed reliever in their system. To fill the Duffy spot long-term, they made another trade for the Rays, acquiring Evan Longoria for a package headlined by Christian Arroyo. 

It is Arroyo, not Duffy, who likely will be at third base at some point in this homecoming. The former first-round pick of the Giants had a rough 2018 and was sent to minor league camp early this spring, but injuries -- including Duffy's -- led to a promotion last week.  

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Gabe Kapler spent most of his first month with the Giants interviewing candidates for his ideal coaching staff.

When the final pieces were put into place Thursday afternoon, it became even more clear that the Giants are going with a group that's unlike anything the game has seen before. 

The organization announced that Mark Hallberg and Alyssa Nakken are joining Kapler's staff as Major League Assistant Coaches, giving the Giants 13 coaches in all, including Nakken, who is the first woman to hold a coaching position on a big-league staff. In a statement, Kapler said Hallberg and Nakken will "focus their talents on helping to build a winning culture in the clubhouse."

"In every organization, environment affects performance, and baseball clubhouses are no different," Kapler said. "That's why in addition to assisting the rest of the coaching staff on the field, Mark and Alyssa will focus on fostering a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team."

Long before Kapler arrived, Giants officials had grown concerned about the energy in a clubhouse that has suffered through three straight losing seasons. The Giants plan to make that a focus in spring training, and they're using their resources toward that end. You are only allowed to have seven uniformed coaches in the dugout, but there is no limit on how many you can pay in general, or how many can work with players between games.

The two new hires give the Giants 12 big league coaches who were not on Bruce Bochy's staff. The lone holdover is Ron Wotus, who will remain as third-base coach. 

Nakken played softball at Sacramento State, worked at USF, and got degrees from both schools. She joined the Giants as an intern in 2014 and has done work related to the amateur draft and player development. 

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Hallberg was the manager in Salem-Keizer in 2019 and was their fundamentals coach in 2018. He played his college ball at Florida State with Buster Posey and was a ninth-round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2007. The 34-year-old played in the minors for five seasons before becoming a coach in the Cape Cod League. 

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Giants sign pitcher Drew Smyly to one-year contract, add rotation depth

Last January, the Giants signed lefties Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz to one-year contracts, with mixed results. This year, Drew Smyly is the lefty joining the rotation mix. 

The Giants announced Thursday that they've signed Smyly to a one-year, $4 million big league contract. Right-hander Trevor Oaks, claimed from the Kansas City Royals earlier this offseason, was DFA'd to clear a 40-man roster spot. Smyly can make an additional $3 million on bonuses tied to starting pitching and $1 million in reliever bonuses. He'll get a $250,000 bonus if he's on the opening day roster.

Smyly, 30, spent last season with Gabe Kapler's Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 4.45 ERA in 12 starts but averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He'll immediately join a crowded race to be in the Opening Day starting rotation, and he has a leg up simply because of the arm he throws with. The Giants are extremely right-handed on the roster, and Smyly joins Tyler Anderson as lefties who could help break up Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Tyler Beede, Logan Webb and others. Anderson currently is rehabbing from a knee injury. 

Smyly has bounced around the American League for most of his career, and he put up good numbers before Tommy John surgery derailed him in 2017. Smyly had a 3.53 ERA in three years in Detroit and a 3.93 ERA in three seasons with the Rays. He was a good enough young pitcher that at one point he was included in a deal for David Price, but Smyly has struggled to stay in a rotation since having elbow surgery. 

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Smyly didn't pitch in the big leagues in 2017 or 2018 and had 13 rocky appearances for the Texas Rangers in 2019. He was released by the Rangers and Milwaukee Brewers before catching on in Philadelphia, where he was a solid rotation piece down the stretch and posted a 3.65 ERA in five September starts.

The Giants had been looking for left-handed help, and Smyly should find himself with the same opportunity Pomeranz and Holland were given last year. Both started the season in the rotation and eventually ended up in the bullpen. Pomeranz turned into a nice trade chip, bringing Mauricio Dubon to San Francisco at the deadline.