by Dr Lefty
I’m racing the clock today, both because there’s a howling gale wind here and we could lose power any minute and because we have Star Wars tickets for 12:30–so I thought I’d get my post up early this time.
Between the Alabama Senate election this week and the Giants’ surprising trade of Matt Moore last night, it’s been a week where many said “No Moore!” Well, except for the Texas Rangers, I guess. But I digress.
Matt Moore’s brief, tumultuous Giants tenure
The whole Matt Moore thing started on a sour note, when on August 1, 2016, MadBum’s and my birthday, the Giants traded away popular 3B Matt Duffy to get Moore. The fact that Giants fans loved Duffy and mourned his departure was not Moore’s fault at all, but when things took a turn for the worse, it was hard to forget it.
But a funny thing happened in 2016 as we missed the Duffman: While poor Duffy struggled with a serious Achilles injury, leading to season-ending surgery, Matt Moore helped the Giants get into the playoffs.
After a couple of shaky starts right following the trade, Moore endeared himself to his new fan base by nearly pitching a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium, coming just one out short. (This also caused Bochy some anxiety. Moore was in his first year post-Tommy John surgery, and his pitch count got up there in that game.)
He was a solid contributor to the rotation in August and September, most notably starting and winning the final game of the season, at home vs. the Dodgers, that clinched the Giants’ wild card spot.
Then came Game 4 of the NLDS against the Cubs. The Giants had rallied to win Game 3, an elimination game, in extra innings. Moore started Game 4 with the season on the line, and he pitched eight terrific innings.
Then, in a move destined to be second-guessed forever, Bochy pulled Moore, who was rolling, with a three-run lead and turned the game over to his horrible bullpen in the ninth. What happened next kind of epitomizes Matt Moore’s time with the Giants. It started bittersweet and it ended bittersweet. Even Moore’s win in the 2017 home opener, partially facilitated by his 40-foot chopper that somehow unloaded the bases, was bittersweet because it began with the horrifying sight of Buster Posey being beaned in the first inning.
And then pretty much the last thing that happened for Moore as a Giant, just last weekend, was a social media-fueled fan freakout when it seemed that Moore was going to take over beloved Tim Lincecum’s #55 next year. (False alarm, spread by Chris Haft, based on a media guide typo at the Winter Meetings. I chuckled at the apology: “all who were…inconvenienced in any way.” How could anyone have been inconvenienced by the #fakenews that Moore was taking over Lincecum’s number? Did they burn up their #55 jerseys or something and make a mess?)
Correction: Giants LHP Matt Moore is NOT inheriting Tim Lincecum's No. 55. I was told the roster I consulted was erroneous. I apologize to all who were upset or inconvenienced in any way. Though the roster appeared in an MLB Winter Meetings guide, I should have double-checked it.
— Chris Haft/SF Giants (@sfgiantsbeat) December 11, 2017
The home opener win on April 10 was practically Moore’s last good moment in a Giants uniform. It was months before he registered another win against a team over .500. He finished the season was a record of 6-15 and a major league worst ERA of 5.52. The surprise is not that the Giants wanted to trade him. It’s that they found anyone to take him.
All that said, best wishes to Moore. I hope he finds something of who he was in his early years. The bittersweet mixed feelings many of us always had about him were not his doing, or at least not entirely so.
So…why and what comes next?
The Giants got a very minimal return for Moore. The AAA reliever they obtained, Sam Wolff, immediately entered the Giants’ top-30 prospects on MLB.com, right after the Rule 5 guy they picked up on Thursday (Wolff and Fernandez are #27-28, respectively). So that’s not nothing. Wolff is recovering from flexor tendon surgery and won’t pitch until June at the earliest, but–maybe there will be something there. So it appears that trading Moore was mainly a salary dump, and his $9 million, together with the $11-12 million they already had to play with to stay under the luxury tax line of $197 million, will be used to buy an outfielder(s) and/or a third baseman. We shall see.
“This frees us up to pursue some other opportunities,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said.
As I noted here last night, besides saving a bit of money and picking up a reliever who might help them in the future, Moore’s departure opens up opportunities for the MLB-ready or near-ready starting pitchers the Giants have, one of their few areas of modest depth. When those options were named Chris Heston and Clayton Blackburn a couple years ago, the Giants said “Eh–pass,” and they went out and got Samardzija, Cueto, and then Moore. But now that the options are 2014 first-round pick Tyler Beede, 2012 first-round pick Chris Stratton, and 2015 second-round pick Andrew Suarez, the Giants seem more willing to see what they have there. I like that. It’s not hard to improve upon the worst ERA in the majors, after all. (Also in the mix are Ty Blach and Joan Gregorio. So they can rotate options around and see what works out best.)
It’s also worth asking why Moore, and his relatively modest salary, got moved instead of Samardzija or Cueto, who both make a lot more money and would bring back more value in terms of MLB-ready players or prospects. I think the Occam’s Razor explanation is that the Giants think Shark and Cueto are better pitchers and want to keep them. Makes sense to me.
It seems apparent that the Giants must feel they’re getting close to either a trade or a free-agent signing that will cost money, or they wouldn’t have bothered making this move. I keep saying this every weekend, but I bet by this time next week, there will be at least one new Giant (not named Nick Hundley, who isn’t “new,” anyway). May the Force be with you, and Lefty out.