Giants closer Will Smith dominates despite dealing with trade rumors

Giants closer Will Smith dominates despite dealing with trade rumors

SAN FRANCISCO -- Will Smith was just 21 years and in Single-A ball when the Angels, the team that drafted him, dealt him to the Royals. His first thought upon hearing the news was that he had done something wrong.

"I thought I was in trouble. I thought, 'Did I piss somebody off?' " Smith recalled this week, laughing. "But somebody broke it down like, it's not that the Angels don't want you. It’s just that Kansas City wanted you that much more."

If the Giants' closer is in another clubhouse on Aug. 1 -- and the high, high likelihood is that he will be -- it won't be because San Francisco doesn't want him. Smith has lived up to every expectation since coming over at the deadline in 2016, proving to be a clubhouse leader and dominant late-innings left-hander.

Very little has gone right for the Giants since the All-Star break in 2016, a stretch that cost Bobby Evans and others their jobs and will lead to further changes down the line. But the Smith trade was a heist, one of the best deals the organization has made.

On deadline day in 2016, the Giants acquired Smith for catcher Andrew Susac, who has since bounced around and spent most his time in the minors, and first-round draft pick Phil Bickford, who has been slowed by injuries and a drug of abuse suspension. Bickford still is in the Brewers' system, but he’s now a reliever in A-ball.

Smith will be an All-Star, and is perfect in 17 save chances to start this season. Tommy John surgery wiped out a chunk of his time with the Giants, but he has a 2.45 ERA in 108 appearances since the trade. Had he been given the entire ninth inning in Game 4 of the NLDS that first year, Smith and the Giants might have made a World Series run.

Instead, he was a small part of the meltdown, but it's still a memory he cherishes.

"Going to the playoffs right off the bat is something I'll definitely never forget, and I never want to go home early now after playing in the playoffs," Smith said. "Even just that Wild Card Game, that's something I'll never forget."

Smith likely will get another crack at October this season. He figures to be a popular target for contenders, one capable of solidifying the ninth inning -- perhaps for his hometown Braves -- or sliding into the seventh or eighth for a deeper bullpen.

Smith knows the drill. He said the hardest part of any trade is the first few days, when you're constantly checking to see if your bags have arrived at the ballpark, or your luggage and truck are in the right city, or you have a place to live. That is all stuff Smith again might deal with after a trade. For now, he's carefree about the process.

"You hate leaving, and for three years, you've built relationships, but we all realize it's part of the game, that it's part of the business," Smith said of trade rumors. "I think once you've been traded, once you kind of know how it goes, you know what to expect, you know you're not in trouble and you're going to a team that wants you, that really, really wants you. They're willing to give away good players for you.

"It's kind of a cool feeling, I guess."

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Smith has learned to accept that over time. He has had plenty of practice, too. Any trade over the next six weeks will be Smith's fourth in the big leagues and will set him up to cash in as a free agent. The 29-year-old should be one of the premier relievers on the market, but for now, that's the furthest thing from his mind.

"I just like to play, and as long as I have a uniform on, I'll play my hardest for that team," he said. "Right now, we'll play hard for the orange and black, and whatever happens, happens. We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

Giants CEO Larry Baer optimistic shortened 2020 MLB season will happen

Giants CEO Larry Baer optimistic shortened 2020 MLB season will happen

Giants CEO Larry Baer understands the frustrations in baseball right now. He gets why fans want games back, he gets why players want to be safe amid the coronavirus pandemic and he gets why owners are playing their hand financially with revenue losses of a shortened season. 

Aside from all hurdles, Baer believes a season will be played

"I think if you look at the timelines that have been laid out, we're very hopeful, and personally, I'm optimistic -- I'm not involved in the negotiations, so I don't know the day-to-day -- but I think at the timelines that have been laid out, there would be ample time to get an agreement done to get the kind of season we're all talking about, which would be somewhere in that range of 80 games, 82 games, so, a half-season," Baer said Thursday on KNBR's "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show.

First and foremost, players' health should be priority No. 1. This won't be easy with 30 teams all across the country. 

MLB already has proposed massive health changes to how players and coaches can act once games resume, including no spitting, high-fives, fist bumps or hugs, among other ways of the game in a 67-page document. And then you take into account how often players and coaches will have to be tested for the coronavirus. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

"We still, realistically, for this to be able to work from a health and safety standpoint, with the municipalities, we would need to socialize in 30 different markets, or 30 teams, 25 markets have to socialize [for] this to work, and that process has started," Baer said. "So I think even though we don't have a deal now, I think in order for the timelines to be executed, we don't have to have a deal today in order for this program to work, which I think people are pretty excited about the prospects of potentially, can we play in July?

"To do that, you're still working with the public health officials in all these markets and then have the workouts and that's going to be a three-to-four week period, and testing that can be done without taking testing away from the communities, make sure it's not impacting people."

[RELATED: Why Baer believes 2020 MLB Draft requires 'better scouting']

Along with health risks, there have been many financial issues as well with MLB returning. All of this has caused confusion and frustration, but Baer hopes fans stay patient and believes baseball is doing all it can to return soon in a safe fashion.

"I know it sounds frustrating, there's stuff thrown out in the press by both sides, I suppose, I would not be too disturbed or frustrated or angry," Baer said. "There's enough to be angry about or concerned about in the world. I'm optimistic that left to our own devices, something can get done."

Why Matt Cain's perfect game is special to Giants coach Alyssa Nakken

Why Matt Cain's perfect game is special to Giants coach Alyssa Nakken

Giants coach Alyssa Nakken has been a fan of the team since the day she was born. Growing up in Woodland, a town outside Sacramento, Nakken grew up supporting the Giants before coming to work for the team as a baseball operations intern in 2014.

And as Nakken revealed in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area’s “Triples Alley” crew, the Giants helped give her a pretty incredible 22nd birthday present.

[RELATED: Giants could add top prospects on expanded roster when MLB returns]

“So on my 22nd birthday, my family and I went to the game,” Nakken said. “And it happened to be the 22nd perfect game in MLB history, so Matt Cain’s perfect game.”

If that’s not destiny, what is?

Little did Nakken know at the time that she’d become MLB’s first full-time female coach, and would be making her professional coaching debut whenever the 2020 season officially gets underway.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]