SAN FRANCISCO -- As a scout watched Thomas Szapucki hit 98 mph in a recent Giants game, he noted that he would have acquired that kind of left-handed arm straight-up for Darin Ruf, had that been the price.
The Giants were thrilled to get Szapucki at the trade deadline, but he was part of a much larger deal with the New York Mets that right now looks like a steal for a front office that has had a disappointing year overall.
The main piece in that deal, at least at the time, was right-handed hitter J.D. Davis, who hit a crucial homer Sunday to raise his OPS to .885 in 41 games with the Giants. They felt at the time that they were swapping Ruf -- a very popular player and a productive hitter against left-handed pitching -- for a younger, cheaper and more versatile version, and that has proven to be the case.
As Ruf has struggled in New York, posting a .413 OPS with no homers since the trade, Davis has positioned himself as a big part of the 2023 mix. The Giants trust him at first and third, and while they still prefer to use him primarily against left-handed pitchers, he is more platoon-proof than others on the roster.
Davis' long homer into the pool at Chase Field on Sunday came off right-handed reliever and former Giant Mark Melancon. It was his sixth as a Giant and proved to be needed, as Camilo Doval gave up a run in the bottom of the ninth but still had a cushion thanks to Davis.
On "Giants Postgame Live" after the win, Davis, a Northern California native, said he simply feels comfortable since coming over at the trade deadline.
"When I first came over here, I had that mindset that the last two months of the season was to just do some scouting reports, take some notes on these pitchers and these arms, these teams in this division. Don't really worry about the results, it's more so about the quality of at-bats and then just go out there and compete, have fun with it," he said. "I'm back in my hometown -- my family and friends, I see all the time. Obviously that's great, not being 3,000 miles away.
"I think just kind of having a breath of fresh air and a little bit more playing time on a consistent note [is big]. When I was over there in New York I started every third, fourth day, and then over here I'm getting at-bats against right-handed [pitchers] and I think that helps me out and helps keep my mechanics lined up."
Three years removed from a 22-homer season, Davis had fallen out of favor in New York, getting just 181 at-bats over the first four months of the season. The Giants were not surprised when the Mets, seeking a big right-handed bat for the postseason, called at the deadline, and one of their best moves of the year might be the fact that they held Wilmer Flores, a former Met, and dealt Ruf for four players, including three pitching prospects.
Szapucki was moved to the Triple-A bullpen shortly before the trade and has 14 strikeouts and just three runs allowed in 10 2/3 relief innings since. For an organization that desperately needed left-handed relief help all summer, he has the potential to be a key piece in the 2023 bullpen.
Given the way it's gone for Ruf this year, either Davis or Szapucki alone would have been a nice return, but the Giants also got two pitching prospects. Right-handers Carson Seymour and Nick Zwack both posted 3.99 ERAs with strong strikeout rates for the Eugene Emeralds after the trade. Both were old for that level but scouts who saw them were impressed with their stuff, and they represent two nice lottery tickets for an organization that's always searching for controllable pitching depth.
Any front office official will tell you that two months is not nearly enough time to formulate grades on a trade, and if Ruf comes up with a huge hit against a left-handed pitcher next month, the Mets will feel fine about their end of the deal. He was acquired to help them win a World Series and perhaps he still will, but across the country, the Giants are thrilled with the early returns on their side.
Davis' homer on Sunday was his fourth hit of the game and came two days after he hit a go-ahead double late in another win over the Diamondbacks. After the big series, he said he has found something in his swing and is keeping his hands short, allowing him to get to fastballs. The hot streak helped the Giants finish off a 6-1 road trip.
"My best reference I can correlate with that is how a shooter shoots," Davis said of his recent stretch, "When all he has to see is a ball going in the net and something kind of clicks."