Will Smith

Giants might have two best pieces available before MLB trade deadline

Giants might have two best pieces available before MLB trade deadline

SAN FRANCISCO -- We tend to look at everything from a local standpoint around here, which means this upcoming trade deadline is mostly about two Giants: Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith.

Both pitchers have been asked about trade rumors in recent weeks, and every start Bumgarner makes comes with the tag "could be facing Team X for the final time as a Giant" or "might be pitching at Stadium X for the final time in orange and black."

MLB Trade Rumors is among the outlets that takes a national view, and on Monday they ranked the top 50 players available before the July 31 deadline. Their list, however, had a very, very local flavor. And it probably had Farhan Zaidi smiling. 

The website listed Smith as the No. 1 available piece before the deadline, with Bumgarner ranking right behind him. Left-hander Tony Watson (No. 6), right-hander Sam Dyson (No. 11) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (No. 15) also cracked the top 15. 

Now, this is just one list of potential options for buyers, and things change quickly this time of year. A team on the bubble -- the Padres or Diamondbacks, for instance -- could go on a losing streak and decide to clean house, adding players like Kirby Yates and Zack Greinke to the pitching market.

But for now, the Giants -- who fully intend to kickstart a rebuild with a flurry of trades -- appear to be holding a lot of the best cards. 

While Bumgarner is the bigger name, Smith actually could bring back the better prospect before the deadline. As a cheap left-handed closer with a perfect 18-for-18 record in the ninth this year, he would fit in any contender's bullpen. Smith could close or slide into the seventh or eighth, depending on a buyer's needs. 

[RELATED: Will Smith dominates despite dealing with trade rumors]

Bumgarner has been connected to the Yankees and Twins recently. He's throwing as well as he has in years, and will have another chance to show his stuff on Thursday against the NL-leading Dodgers.

Watson and Dyson could bolster a contending team's bullpen, and Sandoval -- who is owed just the MLB minimum by the Giants -- would be a nice addition for a team needing power off the bench. He has been the league's most dangerous pinch-hitter this season. 

Smith, Bumgarner and Sandoval are trade chips in part because they are free agents at the end of the season, but if the Giants really want to get creative they could dig deeper.

Reyes Moronta and Trevor Gott are cost-controlled right-handers with big arms and solid numbers this season, and both could be intriguing to winning teams looking for more than just an expensive rental.

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."

[RELATED: What's made Pomeranz 'a different guy' over last two starts]

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."

Breaking down Giants' short list of options for 2019 MLB All-Star Game

Breaking down Giants' short list of options for 2019 MLB All-Star Game

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Tuesday afternoon, MLB launched a revamped process for All-Star voting. You might have missed it for a couple of reasons. 

1. There really wasn't all that much of a rollout on the league's official social media channels. 
2. You're likely a Giants fan, so why would you be looking for an All-Star ballot right now, or anytime in the next month?

There are a bunch of new voting rules, but one thing hasn't changed. Every team will have a representative, including the Giants, who are 21-32 and have gone through so many changes that one of their listed outfielders on the ballot -- Kevin Pillar -- wasn't on the team on Opening Day and another -- Mac Williamson -- isn't on the team right now. 

The Giants don't have many good choices to stand on the line July 9 in Cleveland, but someone will, so here's a look at their options:

Will Smith

The heavy, heavy favorite to get a trip to Progressive Field, home of the Indians, although relievers don't get voted in.

When ballots were released Tuesday, Smith ranked sixth in the NL in saves (12), fourth among NL relievers in FIP (2.05) and fifth in WAR (0.8). He has a 2.61 ERA and is averaging a touch over 13 strikeouts per nine innings. 

By any definition, Smith has been excellent, and worthy of his first All-Star selection. But he actually has been so good that it might complicate things. Smith could be Farhan Zaidi's best trade chip, and there's a chance the Giants start the sale early and deal Smith to a contender at some point before the All-Star Game. 

If he's not traded, Smith is almost certainly your lone Giants All-Star. 

Pablo Sandoval

Both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference have him as the team leader in Wins Above Replacement, but ... he's not even on the ballot. The Giants did actually look into whether there was a way to get the Panda on the ballot somewhere, but he's the backup at third to Evan Longoria, who is on the ballot, and hasn't played a single inning in left, where the Giants did have an opening. 

[RELATED: Pablo is playing like an All-Star in short amount of time]

Sandoval has a .962 OPS, seven homers, and a league-high 10 pinch hits. But he has just 97 at-bats and pinch-hitters don't get treated like relievers do, so this one isn't almost certainly isn't happening. 

Buster Posey

If it's not Smith, Posey, a six-time All-Star, may be the choice by default. His numbers are down again, but they didn't jump off the page last year either and he was picked as a backup before backing out. J.T. Realmuto and Willson Contreras should be locks, and Yasmani Grandal has been much better than Posey at the plate.

But a third catcher is generally taken, and after those three there's not much. 

Madison Bumgarner

He's 10th in the NL in innings, 13th in strikeouts, and sports a FIP (3.63) that is much better than his ERA (4.10). He's been fine, but he's not putting up All-Star numbers at the moment. Perhaps that changes over the next month.

Or perhaps he just ends up being the choice as the ace of a team with basically zero star power at the moment. 

Joe Panik

He has steadily improved his numbers over the past month, and with the state of NL second basemen, that could be enough to get him on the All-Star bench. Panik is second among NL second basemen in OBP (.335) and fourth in wRC+ (92).

Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson

The easiest way to make sure every team is represented is to pick relievers from bad teams. Melancon (2.21 ERA), Dyson (2.42) and Watson (2.84) could be considered if their closer is no longer an option.

Reyes Moronta is the most dominant of the bunch, but his ERA is up to 3.55 after a few rough outings.