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August 2, 2016

Transaction Analysis

Giants Make a Bet on Moore

by Patrick Dubuque, David Lee and J.P. Breen

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired IF-R Matt Duffy, SS-S Lucius Fox, and RHP Michael Santos from San Francisco Giants in exchange for LHP Matt Moore. [8/1]

When the preseason projections rolled around, the big question with the Giants was their ragtag infield: Matt Duffy, Brandon Crawford, and Joe Panik, all homegrown talents and unheralded prospects, all projected by PECOTA to give back some of their startling 2015 success. Crawford managed to accelerate his progress yet again, while the second and third basemen fell back to earth. With Duffy, PECOTA’s numbers were already a little wonky, thanks to a failure to appreciate through FRAA a defensive reputation already burgeoning among other metrics and the local fans.

The vital question in evaluating Duffy is: where did the power go? While hardly a masher in his rookie season, the Rookie of the Year runner-up famously hit nearly as many home runs (12) as he had in his entire minor-league career (13). This year the power has dissipated, leaving him with a respectable .271 TAv, held up by improved strikeout, walk, and contact rates. In fact, the individual parts of his game--high contact rate, low chase rate, strong line-drive rate--add up to a profile that doesn’t appear prone to slumps. Without the power, Duffy’s a quality baseball player, a Yunel Escobar. With power, you’re talking about a very good player indeed.

Duffy is currently recovering from an Achilles sprain and should be healthy in the next week or two. At that point, Rays President Matt Silverman indicated that the team sees him as their starting shortstop, with Brad Miller moving into a utility role. While he’s only started six games at short in the majors, he devoted most of his minor-league career at the position and his defense at third inspires plenty of hope in a Manny Machado-like skip up the defensive spectrum. He also isn’t Brad Miller, whose defense at the position might best be described as "capricious."

The short term is hardly important for a team like the Rays, however, and Duffy’s final two months will provide the team with some idea of how to reallocate their meager resources. If Duffy proves worthy at shortstop, Miller could be flipped; if not, then depending on his hitting, he gives the Rays an interesting choice between himself, Longoria and Forsythe (or a perhaps earlier-than-expected move for Longoria over to first). Duffy is pre-arbitration for one more year and under team control until 2020, so he gives his new team something that Moore never proved capable of: a reliable asset. —Patrick Dubuque

Lucius Fox is currently being outplayed as a teenager in A-ball, and the numbers back it up. He has worked to keep his head above the .200 mark for much of the season. The biggest thing to remember with Fox is patience. It’s going to take time. The tools are there.

Fox has quick hands and smooth actions on the field. He shows above-average bat speed and a feel for it from both sides of the plate. He has the makings of good pitch recognition skills and can track the ball pretty well for his age and minor-league level, and that’s something that should become a plus when he learns to adjust to pro pitching. His bat is currently light. He struggles to consistently drive the ball and often settles for ground-ball contact. Again, it’s something that should improve with time and age, though his power likely won’t climb above 40-grade. Getting on base at a high clip will be important.

Defense is another case where youth must be considered. His speed and athleticism show at shortstop with above-average range, and he has an above-average arm. His glove, however, needs work. He makes a lot of youthful mistakes by mishandling the routine. His glove may not turn into a carrying tool by any means, but it should develop into fringe-to-average ability with time. If his long-term organization doesn’t believe in the shortstop glove, center field could be a backup plan. His times to first base are often in the 4.15 range from the left side, so he’s not a burner out of the box, but his speed shows more on the paths by stealing bases, and he has a feel for swiping bags. He could develop into a 40-steal player.

Fox’s eventual landing spot on the scale may not match the initial price tag of $6.5 million, and there's a bit of a buy-low feel to this trade, but he has the tools to be a speedy, up-the-middle guy who plays every day, with most of his value coming from on-base ability and steals. —David Lee

Michael Santos has been bitten by poor luck because of two injuries that have prevented him from taking off as a prospect. The first came last year with a sore arm that limited him to fewer than 40 innings. The second came this year with a line drive off the cheek/eye area that has kept him out since early June. He was recently assigned to the Arizona League to begin a rehab assignment, which is a good sign.

When healthy, Santos has the makings of a no. 4 starter with a feel for three pitches and fringe-to-average command. He sits low 90s (will sometimes back up to 88-91) with plus downhill plane and slight arm-side run, spotted well to the arm side but inconsistently to the glove side. His fastball’s life varies between lifeless up and heavy to the knees. His curveball projects as average and can flash at least a tick better with 11/5 break and plus depth. Further tightening it and losing some hump would make it easier to hit that half-tick better grade. His changeup has been a projection pitch in the past, but an April look was the best I’ve seen it, showing above-average potential with similar arm-side fade to the fastball and a much cleaner arm action. Santos also dabbles with a hybrid cut-slider in the mid-80s, but it’s a work in progress.

Santos is a good kid, good teammate, and he works hard. He doesn’t always repeat his delivery consistently, but he has the aptitude to make adjustments, and I’ve seen him do so within starts. The one main tweak needed is to repeat his drive to the plate, because he occasionally spins out early and misses arm side. Otherwise, it’s a good motion with a high three-quarters slot that he gets to consistently. Santos is also a big kid with a projectable frame and tons of length. If he can stay on the mound long enough to develop properly, there’s a starter profile here. Similar to Fox, this one also has a buy-low feel to it.David Lee

Fantasy Impact

Blake Snell

Rejoice! With the upcoming return of Alex Cobb to the major-league roster, many of us feared that Cobb would force Blake Snell back to the minor leagues, or at least remove him from the rotation. The Rays now have room for both hurlers in their starting five. This roster stability should allow Snell the opportunity to build on his recent success. The lefty had a 2.76 ERA in July and struck out 33 batters in just 29 innings. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t remain in the big leagues for as long as his potential innings limit will allow. —J.P. Breen

Fantasy Impact

Alex Cobb

It’s been a long recovery process for Cobb, a 28-year-old righty who dazzled in 2014 with a 2.87 ERA and looked every part of a burgeoning no. 2 or no. 3 starter in the big leagues. Tommy John surgery derailed his path; however, he began his rehab schedule in High-A in July and will hopefully pitch in the big leagues later this year in some capacity. What this Matt Moore trade does is present him with a path into the starting rotation, whenever he’s ready. It will be interesting to see if his rehab picks up now that there isn’t a logjam in the majors. —J.P. Breen

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Acquired LHP Matt Moore from Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for IF-R Matt Duffy, SS-S Lucius Fox, and RHP Michael Santos. [8/1]

Finally, Matt Moore can get away from being Matt Moore: the lefty with the 95 mph fastball and the wipeout slider, the prospect ranking nestled between Trout and Harper, the contract that drove all those 2012 sabermetricians crazy, the Game 1 start in the 2011 ALDS. Moore doesn’t have to be those things, which is good, because he isn’t any of those things, and hasn’t been them for years now.

Potential is a terrible thing. Each of us wakes up in the morning a new person, our cells dying and repopulating, our wisdom and weariness accumulating to shape our personalities. Yet our college GPA, our tweets, and our prospect rankings are forever. Our personal best in the mile, our waistline, our ability to pull all-nighters: Each of these fail to follow the traditional aging curve we were taught to appreciate. Rays fans were promised something, not by Moore himself, and it would have been difficult in the best of all possible worlds for him to fulfill them. It has not been the best of all possible worlds.

Moore has started 33 games since returning from Tommy John surgery. On the face of it, the results have been underwhelming; there’s no real pitching metric that’s been particularly impressed by the outcome. His 4.79 DRA ranks 98th out of 124 pitchers with at least 80 innings, thanks to a pedestrian 7.5 K/9, and he seems to be turning toward the perilous career of inducing weak contact. He gives up too many home runs, and walks too many batters given what should now be a harnessable arsenal. His fastball tops out in the low 90s and his sporadic sinker usage coincides with his worst months.

A league-average starter may be a terrible disappointment for the old Matt Moore, but for the Giants and for the 2016 edition of Moore, they’re pretty satisfactory. In fact, the allure of San Francisco’s new fifth starter is in part the ghosts he has to compare to in Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, each a paler version of himself. The other virtue he offers is a tiny sliver of the optimism he once exuded: overall, his velocity, strikeout, and walk rates have improved in 2016, and while he’ll never approach what he was when he was young, neither will any of us.

Moore no longer has to wear the mantle of future ace; now, all he has to do is justify the departure of popular third baseman Matt Duffy. Life isn’t fair, at any age. —Patrick Dubuque

Fantasy Impact

Matt Moore

We can argue about whether Moore is moving to a more hitter-friendly ballpark, but that likely won't matter much. The glovework behind him will, though. Judging by Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), the Giants have saved 36 more runs defensively than the Rays. Although it’s always a crude and imprecise measure to rely on partial-season defensive numbers, the overwhelming disparity paired with the eye test also suggests that the southpaw will now benefit from far superior defensive support. That should positively affect his run prevention from his first start in the Bay Area--not to mention the fact that he’s moving from the American League to the National League, which is positive for a pitcher no matter which way you slice it. In addition, his new club is projected to win far more games than his previous one, helping the ol’ win totals. All in all, fantasy owners should be nothing but pleased with Moore’s move to the West Coast. —J.P. Breen

Fantasy Impact

Jake Peavy

It’s unlikely that Peavy is owned in many fantasy leagues. He has a 5.47 ERA with a disastrous 1.40 WHIP and a pedestrian 19 percent strikeout rate. In short, he offers very little in terms of fantasy value. The acquisition of Moore should allow the Giants to bump either Peavy or Matt Cain out of the starting rotation. It’s unclear who gets the boot at this point, but neither right-hander should be owned. —J.P. Breen

Fantasy Impact

Matt Cain

As with Mr. Peavy above, it hasn’t been a pretty season for Cain. He’s limped to a 5.53 ERA and missed some time in June and July with a hamstring strain. The right-hander isn’t missing bats and has gotten shelled for the past couple of seasons. Fantasy owners shouldn’t bother, even if he’s not the one removed from the rotation in San Francisco. —J.P. Breen

Patrick Dubuque is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Patrick's other articles. You can contact Patrick by clicking here
David Lee is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see David's other articles. You can contact David by clicking here
J.P. Breen is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see J.P.'s other articles. You can contact J.P. by clicking here

Related Content:  San Francisco Giants,  Tampa Bay Rays

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