Heading into the final day of the 2021 MLB trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants were relatively quiet as they instead watched their NL West rivals make notable moves. In the end, the Giants responded with the acquisitions of former Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant and former Los Angeles Angels reliever Tony Watson.
As mentioned, both the Dodgers and Padres made key moves in anticipation of the stretch run of the season. The Dodgers acquired three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer in a multiplayer blockbuster trade, while the Padres bolstered their bullpen with former Washington Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson.
Still, the Giants’ key additions of Bryant and Watson should prove to be just what they need to finish off the season as division winners.
Giants received: Kris Bryant
Cubs received: Alexander Canario and Kaleb Killian
Considering just how many overperformers that the Giants have had in their lineup this year, the team had no real need for a power bat at the trade deadline. Still, one can not go wrong with 2016 NL MVP winner Kris Bryant.
Aside from Bryant’s prowess as one of the more potent hitters in the National League, his versatility as a fielder will be a notable plus over the remainder of the season. Bryant was called upon to play multiple positions for the Cubs this season due to the team’s multitude of injury issues. He responded to the call each time, as he has featured in five different positions this season, including in both left and center field.
As Evan Longoria is currently on the injured list due to a shoulder injury, Bryant is expected to be the team’s everyday third baseman for the time being. But when Longoria returns from his injury, Bryant may alternate between the left and center field spots.
As mentioned, Bryant is still among the top revered hitters in the National League. His expertise in going up against left-handed pitchers could be decisive for the Giants over the coming months. He is hitting .342 against left-handed pitchers this season, whereas the Giants as a team have hit .243 against lefties.
In the big picture, the Giants must be pleased that the Cubs did not attempt to hardball them over this trade. The Cubs only acquired one of the Giants’ top-20 ranked prospects as they hauled in 21-year-old outfielder Alexander Canario. Thus, one can simply classify this as a low-risk, high-reward move for the Giants, especially as they forced the Cubs’ hand due to their sense of urgency to acquire anything for Bryant.
Sure, this may simply be a rental deal for the Giants, as Bryant will hit free agency in the offseason. But considering that they did not part ways with coveted prospects Joey Bart and Marco Luciano in this trade, this can certainly be tabbed as a steal move by the current NL West leaders.
Giants received: Tony Watson
Angels received: Ivan Armstrong, Jose Marte and Sam Selman
As has been shown in the playoffs in recent years, one can never go wrong with bullpen depth.
The Giants’ bullpen has posted a formidable 3.30 ERA this season, which ranks only behind the San Diego Padres (2.97) and Tampa Bay Rays (3.11). Still, the Giants felt that they needed to add one more piece to their reliever unit, and they did just that with the addition of Tony Watson.
The Giants are well familiar with Watson as he spent the previous three years with the team, which include his astounding 2.59 ERA over 66.0 innings campaign over the 2018 season.
Watson’s time with the Los Angeles Angels this year was certainly a roller-coaster one. He was presumably an early All-Star candidate after he finished the month of March/April with a 1.08 ERA over nine appearances. It was a train wreck after that for the veteran reliever, as command issues saw him finish with 6.00+ ERAs in May and June.
Watson’s changeup pitch may be the deciding factor in whether he will end up being called upon for critical in-game situations in the postseason. He has allowed a .229 average along with a wRC+ of 102 against the pitch this season, which is up from last season where opponents hit .189 coupled with a wRC+ of 66. Vast improvements with his control could see Watson once again rely on his changeup as a go-to pitch.
Giants trade deadline grade: A
Overall, the Giants front office made moves that signaled confidence in the team’s ability to pull off a deep playoff run. The Giants did not go all out for rumored trade targets such as Max Scherzer and Trevor Story, but both Bryant and Watson have what it takes to give the team an extra boost in the coming months.
It sure will be a hectic finish to the season as the Giants aim to fend off the Dodgers and Padres in the NL West.