A trade proposal with the San Francisco Giants

Let's take a look at a trade proposal involving the Pittsburgh Pirates' Bailey Falter and San Francisco Giants J.D. Davis.

Sep 8, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants designated hitter J.D. Davis (7)
Sep 8, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants designated hitter J.D. Davis (7) / Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Even though Spring Training is in full swing, the slow off-season could lead to more deals being made during the preseason. They could still make a move, and one team that would make a good trade partner is the San Francisco Giants.

With their recent signing of All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman, they have an overabundance of corner infielders. One, J.D. Davis could find himself on the trading block to help the Giants’ lack of pitching depth. The Pirates, meanwhile, could clear the logjam of the back of the rotation arms, especially ones out of options, and improve another position of need, and this trade would do just that for both teams.

Pirates acquire: J.D. Davis
Giants acquire: Bailey Falter

Davis is coming off a solid season with the Giants. He batted .248/.325/.413 with a .321 wOBA, and 104 wRC+. Davis provided solid pop with 18 homers in 546 plate appearances and had a .165 isolated slugging percentage.

His 17.8% strikeout rate was poor, but he counteracted that with a quality 9.5% walk rate. Davis has the potential for more pop, given he had a 91.1 MPH exit velocity and a 9.6% barrel rate. He also had a barrel rate above 12% in both 2021 and 2022.

If the Pirates traded for Davis, he’d have to move across the diamond to first base, a position he has experience at but not nearly as much as third base. From 2017 through 2022, Davis had -27 defensive runs saved and -13 outs above average at the hot corner. But defensive metrics were much more mixed on his glove this year. He had -11 DRS, a career-worst, but +5 OAA, a career-best. He has 287 innings at first base with zero DRS but +2 OAA.

Heading back to the Giants in this trade is left-handed pitcher Bailey Falter. On paper, Falter’s time with the Pirates thus far hasn’t been great. Now he finds himself in a battle for one of the final two spots in the Pirate starting rotation.

He has a 5.58 ERA, 5.78 FIP, and 1.39 WHIP in 40.1 innings. His 18.6% strikeout rate is below average, and he allowed a whopping 2.23 HR/9 on average. The only positive takeaway is his 7% walk rate. But these numbers are skewed by two bad outings.

One was on August 27th, when he allowed six earned runs in 4.2 innings, while the other was his very last game of the season, where he let in eight earned runs on three home runs through two innings of work.

Outside of these two games, Falter has a 2.94 ERA, 4.71 FIP, 1.60 HR/9 rate, 7.5% walk rate, and 20.9% strikeout rate in 33.2 innings. That’s significantly better than his overall numbers with the Pirates this year. These two outings make up 56% of the earned runs he allowed with the Pirates; however, only make up 16.5% of his innings pitched.

So why would this benefit both the Pirates and the Giants? The Giants have no specific role for Davis now. The signing of Matt Chapman even left Davis himself unsure if he has a spot on the Giants’ 2024 roster. He can’t move to first base as that’s where LaMonte Wade Jr. and Wilmer Flores are stationed, both of whom are coming off career-best campaigns. Davis isn’t going to find much playing time at designated hitter either, given they also signed Jorge Soler this off-season.

Left field also isn’t an option either. Davis hasn’t played left semi-regularly since 2019, and even then, he was a very poor defender. Mike Yastrzemski, Luis Matos, Austin Slater, and former Pirates prospect Blake Sabol figure to flank Jung Hoo Lee anyway. Even Soler could see the occasional game in an outfield corner before Davis.

The Pirates could use some depth at first base. As of right now, they have Connor Joe and Rowdy Tellez as the first base platoon. Acquiring Davis would let them play Joe in the outfield more often (possibly in center field too). Plus, Davis could occasionally give Ke’Bryan Hayes and Andrew McCutchen a day off at third base and designated hitter. Overall, acquiring Davis would deepen the line-up and give them more flexibility with where to play guys.

The Giants also need some depth in their pitching staff. Robbie Ray will open the year on the IL after undergoing Tommy John last year with the Seattle Mariners. Fellow veteran starter Alex Cobb will also be out until at least May after undergoing hip surgery in October. Now Tristan Beck is on the 60-day IL after undergoing surgery after suffering an aneurysm in his upper right arm.

Logan Webb is their only proven starter, with the likes of Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn, and Ryan Walker making up the rest of the staff. Jordan Hicks will also likely get some starts, however, he’s never started more than ten games in any MLB season. Towering 6’11” right-hander Sean Hjelle is also on hand as another depth piece.

They also lost a handful of different long relievers and spot starters between Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, Anthony DeSclafani, Jakob Junis, and Sean Manaea. They haven’t done very much to replace any of the depth they lost via free agency and trades from this past off-season. Needless to say, the Giants’ rotation, aside from Cy Young Award finalist, is looking just as thin as the Pirates.

I think that Falter would be a good enough headliner for Davis. Davis is only controlled for one more season and is owed $6.9 million. Falter is in his last year of pre-arbitration. Think of it like the trade last off-season the Pirates made with the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman Ji-Man Choi. Choi was also in his last year of control. Choi had an even better wRC+ in the year prior and was owed less money than Davis is now, and all the Pirates had to give up was minor league reliever Jack Hartman.

With the Giants needing another pitcher capable of going multiple innings out of the bullpen or occasionally starting games, and a corner infielder who was left positionless by the signing of Matt Chapman, the Pirates and Giants make sense on paper. We shall see if the Pirates make a move before Opening Day and if the Giants dangle Davis in trade talks, but if he is available, I think there would be common ground between these two teams where a deal could get done.

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