The Giants shored up their rotation and bullpen for another postseason run before Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline. But it came at a significant price.
In the first of two trades, the Giants acquired left-handed reliever Will Smith from the Milwaukee Brewers for top pitching prospect Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac.
Then, just before the 1 p.m. deadline, the Giants got left-handed starter Matt Moore from the Tampa Bay Rays. In return, they sent Opening Day third baseman Matt Duffy and two prospects, infielder Lucius Fox and right-hander Michael Santos.
“We have a lot of work to do to get into a postseason situation,” general manager Bobby Evans said on a conference call. “The help, I think, will come at a good time. Our guys worked hard to evaluate our options, and it was an interesting market. And we feel like the addition of both Matt Moore and Will Smith will help us in multiple ways.”
The Giants lead the National League West by two games over the Los Angeles Dodgers but have lost 4 1/2 games of that lead by going 4-11 since the All-Star break. Moore gives the Giants another left-handed starter behind ace Madison Bumgarner, and Smith bolsters an erratic bullpen.
Evans warned last week that asking prices for pitching were high, and Monday’s deals reflected that. Evans said the Giants attempted to acquire Moore for prospects, but the Rays pushed for Duffy. Tampa Bay inquired about Duffy even before he became the Giants’ everyday third baseman last season.
“It was apparent there was no way to do a prospect-driven deal with them,” Evans said. “It cost us an incredibly great Giant, important in our recent success. And it’s a credit to Matt Duffy and his blossoming career that made him such a desirable piece for Tampa.”
Popular among fans and teammates, who voted him last year’s Willie Mac Award winner as the Giants’ most inspirational player, Duffy hasn’t played since June 19 because of an Achilles’ strain. Duffy was rehabilitating with the River Cats and close to returning. Evans said the trade was “certainly a curveball for him. And he’s going to be missed.”
Eduardo Nunez, acquired Thursday in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, likely slots in at third base. Evans said the acquisition of Nunez was not made with the intention of trading Duffy, though it makes replacing him easier in the short term. The Giants’ top infield prospect, Christian Arroyo, also plays third base but may not be ready to help them this season.
“I don’t think he’s that far away,” Evans said of Arroyo. “But there’s always the benefit of giving him more time.”
Evans said the Giants will discuss which veteran member of the rotation, Matt Cain or Jake Peavy, will be displaced to make room for Moore. The 27-year-old is 7-7 with a 4.08 ERA in 21 starts this season. Moore was an All-Star in 2013, when he won 17 games, before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and returning to the majors last July.
In Smith, the Giants hope the left-hander can fill the late-inning role formerly held by Jeremy Affeldt. Smith has a 3.68 ERA in 27 games this season since returning in June from a knee injury. But last season, he had a 2.70 ERA in 76 appearances, and he has been nearly as effective during his career against right-handed hitters (.259) as left-handers (.253).
The Giants needed bullpen help with Josh Osich on the disabled list and fellow left-hander Javier Lopez having an inconsistent season. Evans said the Giants are confident that Smith’s knee injury, which he sustained in spring training trying to take off his shoes, is “not an issue any longer.”
“He was a target of ours from the beginning,” Evans said.
Making Smith more attractive, his contract remains under team control through 2019. The same goes for Moore, whose deal includes team options the next three seasons.
“I think that certainly affects … what you’re going to be expected to offer,” Evans said. “But for us, it does provide an additional benefit. I think that only makes us stronger.”
It doesn’t hurt that the Giants are trying to fend off a Dodgers team with a lineup heavy on left-handers. Evans, though, said, “We certainly don’t make a move at the deadline focused on one club.”
Duffy was not the only significant piece the Giants dealt Monday. Bickford was their first-round draft pick in 2015 and a hard-throwing rotation prospect with a 2.71 ERA this season at Class A. Susac, a Jesuit High School alumnus, was the Giants’ backup catcher for most of 2015 but has battled injuries and spent all of this season in the minors.
For Moore, the Giants also sent Fox, an infield prospect from the Bahamas who received a $6 million signing bonus last summer, and Santos, a right-handed starter at Class A, to the Rays.
“This is a very difficult day to see anybody go out the door, much less top prospects including your own major-league player in Matt Duffy,” Evans said. “It’s emotional, and it’s personal.
“I still think this is more of a game than a business, but today it feels a lot more like a business.”