Examining Giants' long, odd history of one-sided trades with Pirates


The Giants would have been in Pittsburgh tonight, which is always a fun trip if you can ignore the fact that you're in for at least one lengthy rain delay (they make up for it by leaving the ice cream machine on in the dining room, although it's possible that's an accident I'm not supposed to talk about publicly). 

PNC Park is as good as it gets, and the Giants do have some recent history there. Madison Bumgarner's shutout in the Wild Card Game, boosted by Brandon Crawford's grand slam, is one of the more memorable games of the championship era. If you go further back, you know the Pirates as the team that employed Barry Bonds before he came home. Other than that, you might think of them for something else. 

If you feel like the Giants and Pirates make a lot of trades, you would be correct. They have a long history of working out deals, and some ended up being lopsided. There have been 38 deals in all, including six since the Giants moved into Oracle Park. Before you watch our PlayStation simulation of Giants-Pirates tonight, take a stroll through some of their most recent deals:

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2018: Bryan Reynolds and Kyle Crick for Andrew McCutchen

I've written about this one a couple of times before, including in early 2019, when the Giants happened to be in Pittsburgh when Reynolds was called up. To sum up, while the Giants misevaluated Reynolds, they also really misevaluated themselves. 

McCutchen and Evan Longoria were not going to turn a 98-loss team back into a contender, and by swinging those deals the Giants set their farm system back and slowed the current rebuild. Reynolds hit .314 as a rookie with 16 homers, and Baseball-Reference had him at 4.1 WAR (which easily would have led the Giants) in just 134 games. 

Imagine if the Giants would have been moving forward knowing that Reynolds, Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop could have made up an extremely cost-controlled outfield by 2022? 

2010: John Bowker and Joe Martinez for Javier Lopez 

Acquired on deadline day in 2010, Lopez became a key member of the Core Four and allowed Bruce Bochy to deftly play the matchups every other postseason. My favorite Lopez stat: He faced 47 batters in the playoffs for the Giants and allowed just five hits. He also was so popular and respected that he joined the broadcast team soon after retirement, and he regularly fills in for Mike Krukow when the Giants are on the road.

Bowker had just 109 big league at-bats after the trade. He ended up back in the Giants system and they dealt him back to Pittsburgh in 2015 for cash considerations. Martinez made eight big league appearances after the deal. It was such a heist it made my list of top 10 trades in franchise history.

2009: Tim Alderson for Freddy Sanchez

I started covering the Giants full-time in 2012, which means most of my Freddy Sanchez stories have been updates on his health. But in 2010, he was a key piece for the championship club. Sanchez had a .342 on-base percentage that year and started every postseason game at second base. He became the first player to double in his first three World Series at-bats and his huge Game 1 helped the Giants get off to a good start against the Rangers. 

Also, Ghost Freddy is an underrated image:

Alderson was a 2007 first-round pick who made Baseball America's Top 100 in back-to-back years, but he never made it past Triple-A. 

[RELATED: Ever wonder what the first-ever bobblehead was at Giants baseball game?]

2007: Matt Morris for Rajai Davis

The Associated Press always stays right down the middle, but even their Pittsburgh writer couldn't resist taking a shot after this deal, a pure salary dump by Brian Sabean. "Normally, teams not in the race don't look to add an aging and expensive starter such as Morris," the AP writer wrote in the recap.

Well yeah, but the Pirates don't exactly have a history of making smart baseball decisions. They took on an expensive contract to add Morris to a young rotation. Morris had a 4.35 ERA at the time of the deal and it ballooned to 6.10 in 11 starts the rest of the season. He gave up 24 earned runs in his first five starts of 2008 and was released with more than $10 million remaining on a three-year deal he had signed with the Giants. The general manager who dealt for him was fired about a month after the trade. 

Davis, incredibly, still was playing in the big leagues last season at the age of 38. He played just 63 games for the Giants after the deal, but that's alright. Getting rid of that money as they were rebuilding was the real prize. 

2001: Armando Rios and Ryan Vogelsong for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal

Sabean fared quite well when he called the Pirates, and he absolutely fleeced them in his first deal with them.

Schmidt was a back-end starter in Pittsburgh but turned into an All-Star and Cy Young candidate in San Francisco. His 2003 season -- 17-5, 2.34 ERA, 0.95 WHIP -- is one of the best in recent franchise history. Vander Wal played just 49 games for the Giants. 

Rios had been a moderately productive outfielder for the Giants but he hit just one homer in 211 at-bats for the Pirates. Vogelsong is one of the most popular players the Giants have employed, but it took him a while to get there. He struggled in five seasons in Pittsburgh, bounced around the globe, and then returned to San Francisco, where he became an All-Star in 2011 and contributed greatly to the next two titles. 

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