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The San Francisco Giants are the perfect trade partners for the Rays (again)

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A trio of tempting trade targets

San Franciso Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants teamed up for arguably the most famous trade in Rays history a little over 17 months ago, when the Rays sent decade-long Face of the Franchise Evan Longoria to the Bay Area in exchange for Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, Matt Krook, and Stephen Woods.

The trade had many Rays fans (deservedly) in their feelings, so it’s understandable if they’re not quite ready to look at the Giants and want to make another trade. (Although given the convergent nature since of both the teams and the players involved, maybe they should. But emotions will almost take top post.)

However, if Rays fans can gather up the muster to look at the Giants as a potential trade partner once again, there’s potentially a lot to like.

First up, and likely the best bang-for-buck upgrade:

Will Smith

(A quick aside, first: I was recently in a relationship with someone named Alexa. She spent the first 25 years of her life having a relatively straightforward name that most people didn’t think twice about. However, the past five or so years have been filled with “Alexa, [insert command here]” to her extreme chagrin. When I met her, I figured this would be the case, and I can proudly say that in our near-year of dating, I did not make a single one of those jokes once. That being said, I am not in a relationship with Will Smith, so I am going to litter the next paragraph with THIS Will Smith jokes.)

This Fresh Prince has emerged in the past few seasons as one of the elite bullpen pieces in baseball, having finished last season with a 2.55/2.07/2.76 ERA/FIP/xFIP line, and somehow improving on that line with a 2.38/2.01/1.97 line in 2019. I mean the man is Just Cruisin’ right now. This Deadshot lefty relies heavily on a fastball-slider combo that he splits evenly. He also mixes in a curveball around 12-15 percent of the time, mostly against righties.

This Man in Black throws his fastball around 93, his slider around 81, and his curveball around 78. This Bad Boy has held lefties to a miniscule .165 wOBA in 2019, and though that’s in a tiny sample, the story was similar last year (.190 wOBA). Given the Rays lack of lefty high-leverage relievers (sorry, Kolarek), you don’t have to be too Bright, nor does it require too much Focus to see how this deal could make perfect sense. Nod Ya Head if you’re starting to see where I’m coming from on this potential pickup.

If the Rays really want the Pursuit of Happyness this season, it’s time to bring Smith from the Wild Wild West to the East Coast, and Get Jiggy Wit It just in time for the playoff push.

I, Robot.

Brandon Belt

Ok, now that you have all clawed your eyes out, it’s time to look elsewhere on the Giants roster because there are actually some solid pieces here, and the team simply has to be in sell mode. With that in mind, let’s move to one of my long-standing Baseball Crushes.

Belt is a classic case of a player being underappreciated in his environment. The 31-year-old lefty has a career .265/.356/.456 slash line that doesn’t blow you away, but when put into the context of the ballpark in which he has spent his whole career, that comes out to a 124 OPS+ figure that ranks 22nd in all of baseball among players with as many plate appearances since his debut.

Belt is a classic Plate Discipline God, with a career 11.7 percent walk rate and 23.6 percent strikeout rate. Those figures are even better in 2019, coming in at 14.0 and 20.3 percent, respectively.

Belt would slide in nicely as an upgrade to Ji-Man Choi, who has quietly somewhat stalled out in 2019, with a near-100 point drop in ISO, a five percent rise in ground ball rate, and a 10 percent drop in hard hit rate. Unlike Choi, Belt would also be a lineup staple, able to hit both righties (career 129 wRC+), as well as lefties (career 113 wRC+), with the heavy side of production being the side that appears on the mound more often.

Belt has historically been a strong defender as well, and while UZR has pegged him as taking a slide there this season, it’s far too early to say anything definitive about the advanced defensive metrics.

MadBum

Finally, although most famously, Madison Bumgarner has been a name bantered about as a potential trade chip for the San Francisco Giants this summer. Despite having seemingly been in the league since the Clinton administration, MadBum is actually just 29 years old, and some of his numbers have actually improved this season. Coming off a pair of seasons in which he spent time on the IL, and in which was not as effective even when he wasn’t hurt, Bumgarner has made every start this year, en route to a 4.05/3.88/3.86 ERA/FIP/xFIP. His K/9 is up from 7.57 in 2018—and 8.75 for his career—to 8.89 in 2019, alongside a drop in walk rate as well (1.80 BB/9, down from 2.98 in 2018 and 2.10 for his career). His fastball is also up a full mile per hour, as is his slider.

However, he is still allowing an insane amount of hard contact (45.0 percent), and his name value likely outstrips his actual value. Basically, he’s the opposite of the type of player the Rays would normally target. Plus, he is a noted anti-sabrmetric type, and all things considered might not be the best influence on a young clubhouse that appears to have great chemistry.

Conclusions

The 2019 Rays and Giants make for excellent bedfellows. The Rays are looking to compete seriously for the first time since 2013, while the Giants have new management and are rumored to finally be accepting of the fact that they need to enter the rebuilding stage.

The most essential part of said rebuilding is stacking a farm system with talent, another part of this perfect fit. The Giants need depth in their farm, and the Rays have farm depth in abundance. While other teams might demand a top prospect rather than a collection of solid prospects, the Giants would have to be among the most likely to look to trade for several B’s, rather than one A.

As for the money (something that has to be considered in every Rays deal), Smith and MadBum would both come off the books after 2019 — Smith for $4.22M and MadBum for $12M, while Belt is signed through 2021 at $17.2M per year.

Now, the money for Belt and the likely price for MadBum make the latter two potentially difficult gets for the Rays, but there’s no reason the Rays shouldn’t have Smith on the team for this year’s postseason run. And hey, if you’re calling about Mr. I am Legend himself, you may as well check in on the other two. Who’s here for a, cough, blockbuster?