The Giants made their first move ahead of Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, acquiring infielder Eduardo Nunez from the Minnesota Twins for minor-league left-handed pitcher Adalberto Mejia.
Nunez, a first-time All Star this season, provides experienced infield depth for the Giants, who got second baseman Joe Panik back from a concussion Thursday and are waiting for third baseman Matt Duffy to recover from an Achilles strain.
Nunez, 29, entered Thursday batting .300 with 12 homers, 47 RBIs and 49 runs scored for the Twins, and also leads the American League with 26 steals. He plays second, shortstop and third base and has also played some left field.
“We’ve seen the need for depth in our infield,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said. “As we look at the rest of the season, we just want to have the protection of his experience given the time these guys have missed and how much time they may need to have off as we get down the stretch.”
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Duffy is at the point of his recovery where he’s testing his Achilles by running bases and could begin a rehab assignment as early as this weekend. But Evans said even after Duffy returns to the majors, the Giants may need to ease him back in to playing every day, giving him a day or two off per week.
Nunez would play third on those days and otherwise be used in a utility role. Evans said he spoke with Duffy about the trade to make it clear that, “This is a deal to give us depth behind him, and certainly in no way intended to replace him.” Evans also said this deal was not made to set up another trade by flipping Nunez or trading one of their infielders.
“We just feel like (Nunez) can help us cover the tracks as we get 100 percent healthy,” Evans said.
Acquiring Nunez cost the Giants one of their top pitching prospects in Mejia, 23, who this season is 7-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 18 starts between Double A and Triple A. Mejia was rated the Giants’ 10th-best prospect before this season by Baseball America, and Evans said the Giants were being asked “quite a bit” about Mejia as the trade deadline neared.
“To see him go is hard,” Evans said. “He took it well, he’s excited for the next opportunity and how this may open up a major-league opportunity for him. For us, we knew that as we got into this deadline, we were going to be asked for some heavy costs.”
It helps that Nunez, a career .275 hitter over seven major-league seasons, is under team control through next season – 2017 will be his final arbitration year and he’ll be eligible for free agency after the season ends.
The Giants remain interested in adding pitching before Monday’s non-waiver deadline, with an emphasis on the bullpen. They placed left-handed reliever Josh Osich on the DL because of a forearm strain Thursday, which underscores the need for help.
“The asks remain significant and the pace remains really slow,” Evans said of the market for pitchers. “But we hope to see something come together before the deadline.”
In terms of their lineup, the Giants already appear to be coming back together. Panik was back in the lineup Thursday. Right fielder Hunter Pence is expected to rejoin the team on Saturday. Utility infielder Ehire Adrianza is nearing the end of his recovery from a foot injury and should rejoin the Giants when they start a trip next week in Philadelphia, Evans said.
After that, Duffy will be the last major missing piece. Evans said Duffy will likely need at least a week of minor-league games before returning. Thursday night’s move is meant to support the Giants’ infield until he does.