ORACLE PARKS — The San Francisco Giants have made a flurry of roster moves just ahead of the trade deadline, in order to clear roster space and get some of their top-performing prospects to the Major Leagues.
As expected, the Giants selected the contracts of left-handed reliever Conner Menez — who will start in Sunday’s finale against the New York Mets — and infielder Zach Green from Triple-A Sacramento — who will start at third base — while designating left-handed pitcher Derek Holland and infielder Ryder Jones for assignment. Ty Blach was also optioned to Triple-A.
As San Francisco moves closer to the July 31 trade deadline, the likelihood that Madison Bumgarner and a clutch of relievers are moved for prospects has seemed to wax and wane with the team’s fortunes, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said before Sunday’s series finale that this current bunch — which has won seven of its last eight games and 14 of its last 17 — is “fundamentally different” than the team that brought up the rear of the NL West much of the first half.
“These aren’t moves for the future,” Zaidi said. “These are moves for now, because these guys, I think these guys can help us win a game today, and I think these guys can help us win going forward.”
Menez is the Giants’ 21st-ranked prospect according to MLB.com, and is arguably the most big-league-ready arm in the system that hasn’t actually seen the big leagues yet. The Hollister, Calif. native moved from Double-A to Triple-A this season, struck out 10.6 men per nine innings at the lower level, and then 13.6 against the notoriously-difficult Pacific Coast League while with Sacramento.
“He misses a ton of bats,” Zaidi said. “He’s got weapons and in this day and age, with how hard guys are hitting the ball, it’s nice when you can avoid having them hit it at all.”
Asked what he liked about Green, Zaidi had one word: “Homers.”
Taken in the third round of the 2012 draft by Philadelphia, Green hit 20 homers a year ago in the minors, but due to a string of injuries — and the fact that he was blocked in the Phillies’ system as a corner infielder — never got his shot in the majors.
Green, 25, has 23 home runs for the River Cats this season with an OPS of 1.099. The Sacramento native is slashing .302/.402/.698 in 64 games this season, after being signed as a minor league free agent. He hit .263 with two homers and a double in 15 spring training games with San Francisco.
“I think he’s made some adjustments,” Zaidi said. “Watching his at-bats recently, I feel like he’s in an even more athletic position and is swinging the bat even better than he did in camp.”
Bringing Green up allows the Giants to make sure that Pablo Sandoval doesn’t wear down during Evan Longoria’s absence. Suffering a left foot strain due to plantar fasciitis, Longoria has missed seven games, and his timeline for return is uncertain. Sandoval — who had been thriving as a part-time player — has hit .219 in the seven games since Longoria went down, and that’s even with a 4-for-4 day against New York on Saturday.
The Giants now have seven days to waive or trade Holland and Jones. Holland, signed this offseason to a one-year deal, was reluctant to move to the bullpen after going 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in his first seven starts, but once he settled in, he had flourished in a versatile role, pitching anywhere from one to three innings in any given outing.
He had not allowed an earned run in five appearances since July 2 with a 0.69 ERA in his last 10 outings before getting lit up by the Mets, allowing four runs on four hits in one inning of work in an 11-4 loss. With the move of left-handed Drew Pomeranz to the bullpen, Holland was seen as redundant.
Whoever picks him up would have to pick up st least some of the $2.8 million left on his $7 million deal, but Zaidi expects big league interest. Holland didn’t quite fit with the inning-by-inning bullpen management approach the Giants have employed, but could find a home as a left-handed specialist on a team that goes batter-by-batter. Holland has a .471 opposing OPS against left-handers, while right handers have a 1.022 OPS against him on the season.
Jones came up in 2018, going 3-for-8 before dislocating his left patella, a similar injury to one he suffered in 2015. In 53 games in 2017, had hit .173 (26-for-150) with five home runs in 150 at-bats. He had not played a major league game in 2019, but was on the 40-man roster, and was working his way back from the injury, going 3-for-10 in three games with Double-A Richmond. It’s likely that teams won’t want to spend a 40-man spot on Jones, so the Giants may be able to get him past waivers.