Giants' relievers have fueled playoff push, but also are valuable trade assets

Yahoo Sports

SAN FRANCISCO – The strength of this San Francisco Giants roster that has kept them in the NL wild-card race is also what makes them such an appealing trade partner.

The Giants’ bullpen, anchored by Will SmithTony Watson and Sam Dyson, entered Sunday with the second-best ERA in the National League.

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That stout collection of relievers has made up for a poor offense and inconsistent starting pitching, and has them within 2 1/2 games of a wild-card spot.

Yet, those three standout relievers represent a chance for the Giants to infuse talent into a system that needs help.

Virtually all contenders, and especially the Dodgers, Twins and Nationals, could benefit from employing any of those three pitchers in the late innings.

Will Smith has converted 24 of 26 saves and is making only $4.255 million. (Getty Images)
Will Smith has converted 24 of 26 saves and is making only $4.255 million. (Getty Images)

The Giants could look to cash in at an opportune time or keep that trio in San Francisco and try to make an unexpected playoff push. One source labeled the team as being in a “holding pattern” with regards to possible bullpen trades.

The Giants’ bullpen made the difference in their four-game set against the New York Mets that included three extra-inning wins, including Sunday’s 3-2 triumph in 12 innings.

“We know how important they’ve been to us, you look at our record in one-run games and that’s a direct function of not just the spirit of this ball club but the job the bullpen has done. We know for us to continue on this path that group of players is critical,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said Sunday morning. “There’s interest in a lot of our relievers, and we have interest in our relievers. … We recognize for us to continue playing well we’re going to have to continue getting the kind of performance we’ve gotten really all season.”

The Giants stand to be one of the more interesting teams at the deadline since they possess pitchers at a time when most teams need starting and relief help.

The Madison Bumgarner situation is complicated due to his standing as a franchise icon, having helped the Giants win three championships.

The relievers are much easier to move from a sentimental point, and this market is one that a team with quality relievers can cash in.

Smith, who has converted 24 of 26 saves, is making only $4.255 million and is fresh of an All-Star appearance. He could slide in as the closer on certain teams, or be the set-up man on others that have an established closer.

The Giants are within their rights to ask for a sizable return for his services, and would likely land a quality piece or two for the lefty.

Smith pitched well against the Mets this weekend, allowing no runs in three outings, including a Houdini act Friday after the first two batters reached second and third.

“You have no control over it. There’s really no need to worry about it because I have zero control over it,” Smith said. “Going to show up, have fun, and try to win for the Giants for right now. If it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, I’ll stay here.”

San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Tony Watson is making $3.5 million this year with a $2.5 million player option for next year or a $500,000 buyout. (USA TODAY Sports)
San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Tony Watson is making $3.5 million this year with a $2.5 million player option for next year or a $500,000 buyout. (USA TODAY Sports)

Watson, a fellow southpaw, actually owns reverse splits this season, but he’s still managed to post a 2.88 ERA. He’s making $3.5 million this year with a $2.5 million player option for next year or a $500,000 buyout.

Dyson is earning the most of the three with a $5 million salary, and he’s attractive to teams since he is under control through next season. That added year ensures he can help for one-plus seasons, and the Washington Nationals have been linked to him.

All three have been traded during their careers, and Watson, who moved from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017, said it’s easier to deal with the rumors this time.

“You just stay in your lane and do your thing and can’t control anything else that happens,” Watson said. “Go out there and do your job and be a pro and keep showing up every day and doing as much as you can to help your team. Whatever happens, happens. It’s a unique situation but I think it’s even more unique that we’ve all been through it. Everyone is handling it well.”

As San Francisco’s front office listens to offers for the three, it also has to weigh that a team that seemed dead to rights a month ago is suddenly on fire.

It seemed like a lock a month ago that the Giants would sell, but as other NL teams have faded, the Giants suddenly are back in the thick of things.

The Giants have won 15 of their last 18 games, and won this series from the Mets thanks to the bullpen allowing one run in 16 innings in the three extra-inning games.

The odds are not in the Giants’ favor with Fangraphs giving them a 5.8 percent chance to win a playoff spot, but the thought of getting Bumgarner into a wild-card game is enticing. And once a team is in the dance, all bets are off.

Trading away from the strength of the team could send the wrong message to the clubhouse at a time when there is plenty of energy and excitement.

The <a href="https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/was/">Washington Nationals</a> have been linked to San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sam Dyson. (USA TODAY Sports)
The Washington Nationals have been linked to San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sam Dyson. (USA TODAY Sports)

This is also the final season in San Francisco for manager Bruce Bochy, and possibly Bumgarner, which the fans and players both know. Zaidi noted Sunday how team decision makers want a team that the fans will come watch.

“That’s the goal, to win as many games [as possible],” Watson said. “It’s hopefully something where these last couple of games and weeks and stretching we’ve been on … [team decision makers] can see we’re fighting and doing everything we can to keep this thing together and win as many games as we can.”

A strong bullpen can also be quite a valuable weapon in the postseason.

Bochy, who has won three titles with the Giants, said this bullpen is as good as any he’s had in his tenure here.

Now, he and others will wait to see if that bullpen will be around to make a playoff push or if those three will be improving other team’s title chances.

“[They’ve had an] enormous impact,” Bochy said Thursday regarding his three backend relievers. “They’re the strength of the club, that’s fair to say, the job they’ve done. ... The bullpen, as much as anything, plays a huge part in our season. We’re not where we want to be, but I hate to think where we’d be without them.”

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