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' Madison Bumgarner's road struggles continue ahead of free agency

Giants' Madison Bumgarner's road struggles continue ahead of free agency

The Giants' three-game series at Fenway Park was filled with so much history. 

Between a Yastrzemski reunion and San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy's 2,000th career managerial win, there was much to be celebrated. That was until Thursday, when Madison Bumgarner took the mound.

Across five frames in the Boston Red Sox' 5-4 win over the Giants, MadBum gave up five runs and nine hits with two walks. He struck out seven, but struggled in the second frame as he approached 200 innings on the season. 

The balls that were hit off of Bumgarner's in his ninth loss of the season weren't hit all that hard. Boston beat him by putting the bat on the ball with singles from Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, to name a few.

"This has probably been his worst year as far as luck," Bochy told reporters after the game. "I thought he threw better than what the numbers are going to show."

A pattern developed this year for Bumgarner on the road, and it wasn't a pretty one.

Away from Oracle Park this season, the four-time All-Star has a career-high 5.06 ERA with an opposing batting average of .280.

Call it tough luck, but as much as this sounds like a broken record, Bumgarner will be one of the top names in free agency this offseason, and it's no secret home/road splits are taken into account. 

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Bum talked about his outing after the loss, and couldn't explain some of the hits Boston got off him.

"Things don't always go your way," he said. "It's frustrating, you know. I feel really good about the way I threw."

How Giants' top five picks from 2019 MLB Draft played in first season

How Giants' top five picks from 2019 MLB Draft played in first season

The Giants continued a trend this year in the 2019 MLB Draft. For the fifth straight year, San Francisco picked a hitter over a pitcher with their top draft pick. 

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi had a clear plan this year: Find some big bats. A pitcher's name wasn't called by the Giants all the way until the eighth round this year. 

With offense on the Giants' mind, here's how the team's top five picks performed in their first crack of the minor leagues this year. 

Hunter Bishop, OF, No. 10 overall 

Bishop put up huge numbers as a junior at Arizona State, batting .342 with 22 home runs. The 6-foot-5 center fielder joined the Giants' Arizona Rookie League team over a month after his college season ended and showed a bit of rust but still hit .250 with one homer and three doubles.

He hit .250 with one homer in seven games playing in the AZL before he was promoted to Class A Short Season Salem-Keizer. Bishop spent 25 games with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes and hit just .224 with three homers and nine RBI. While those aren't huge numbers, they don't tell the whole story. 

Bishop showed he could swing and miss plenty of times while swinging for the fences at ASU, but he also has a great eye at the plate. Bishop ended his first season in the minors with a .438 on-base percentage and had just one more strikeout (39) than walk (38) this year. 

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The Giants' top pick is a former high school football star and great athlete. The speed-power combination is there, and he clearly has a solid approach at the plate. 

Logan Wyatt, 1B, No. 51 overall 

After a long junior at the University of Louisville, Wyatt also only spent seven games in the AZL before joining Salem-Keizer.

Wyatt had an impressive enough showing with the Volcanoes that he spent his final 19 games in Class A Augusta. Before his promotion, though, he .284 with two homers and 10 walks to just nine strikeouts for Salem-Keizer. In Augusta, Wyatt's batting average dropped to .233, but he had a .368 on-base percentage. 

Though Wyatt doesn't have big power numbers there, many believe he could have the ability to one day be a 20-homer hitter. What he always has had, however, is a keen eye. The big left-hander ranked third in NCAA Division-I was both years he was a starter. 

Zaidi loves players that value the ability to get on base, and Wyatt fits the mold.

Grant McCray, OF, No. 87

McCray was a three-sport athlete in high school and committed to play baseball at Florida State before the Giants drafted him in the third round. Right away, his speed jumps off the page. 

The 18-year-old stole 17 bases in the AZL, but also was caught stealing 13 times. That number can come down with coaching and more reps down the road. 

McCray already is 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds with plenty of room to grow. He hit .270 with one homer, two triples, dive doubles and a .714 OPS in the Rookie League. 

Tyler Fitzgerald, SS, No. 116 overall

The Giants went with two Louisville Cardinals in their first four picks. Fitzgerald was their fourth-round pick and fits the mold of a classic college shortstop. 

While he doesn't have one tool that jumps off the page, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound shortstop is solid across the board. He showed more pop his junior year, though, hitting seven homers and raised his slugging percentage 145 points. 

Fitzgerald had a short stint in the AZL and spent the majority of his season between Salem-Keizer and Augusta. Between three levels, he hit .276 with one homer, two triples, 15 doubles and a .753 OPS. 

Garrett Frechette, 1B, No. 146 overall 

Frechette is a really intriguing prospect. The high school draft pick out of Southern California was sidelined during his senior year with mononucleosis, but reportedly launched balls into the water at Oracle Park during a pre-draft workout. 

He's a 6-foot-3, 200-pound left-hander with raw power. But he hasn't hit a homer in the minors yet. Frechette spent 39 games in the AZL and hit .290 while knocking seven doubles and two triples. 

Before the illness and a hamate bone injury, Frechette was considered a top 10 high school player in California. He has a ways to go, but the talent is there.