Bart has 'good step forward' after trade of Casali

August 3rd, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hellos and goodbyes are always a part of the Trade Deadline, but one farewell was especially difficult for the Giants' Joey Bart.

San Francisco made a few moves at the Deadline, acquiring utility man J.D. Davis and a handful of prospects to replenish the Giants' system. But that meant parting ways with four of the team's veterans, including backstop Curt Casali.

The Giants dealt Casali and Matthew Boyd to the Mariners ahead of their 9-5 loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday night, receiving two Minor Leaguers in return. Casali, who had been rehabbing a strained right oblique with Triple-A Sacramento, was a particularly difficult loss for the Giants' catching corps.

"It's tough," Bart said. "He's a guy that means a lot to this clubhouse. He had a good presence here, he's a good player; he really, really helped this team.

"He liked this place a lot, and all I know is that we're going to miss him here. And I told him, 'Stay in touch.' I told him I love him, and we'll see what happens in the future."

It may seem puzzling to trade away a player with such a lasting impact in the clubhouse, especially as the Giants' divisional rivals loaded up their rosters in preparation for deep playoff runs. But Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the organization is building for sustained success in the future rather than dropping everything to win now -- especially since the Giants have a difficult path to the playoffs in 2022.

"It was really tough trading Curt," Zaidi said. "He's been a great Giant, very popular guy. He's done a great job with our pitching staff, which is a strength of ours. We've just really seen Joey emerge over the last month or so since he's been back, and that gave us a little bit more confidence on that front."

Bart cashed in on that vote of confidence on Tuesday night, putting together one of his most complete games in the Majors. He went 2-for-4 at the plate with a two-run blast and a perfectly placed bunt single, and he also executed a textbook strike 'em out, throw 'em out double play in the sixth inning.

"I thought he did a great job leading from behind the plate tonight," manager Gabe Kapler said. "He did a nice job with his game calling. … It was a good step forward for Joey."

Bart, whom San Francisco selected with the second overall pick of the 2018 Draft, has long been viewed as the heir apparent to Giants catching. He quickly ascended the ranks of the Giants' system, making his big league debut in the shortened 2020 season, but has not played his way into a regular role -- until now.

It has not been a question of durability or defense for Bart, but rather if his bat can keep up with Major League pitching. Bart made the Giants' 2022 Opening Day roster, but he was sent down to Triple-A Sacramento in early June after slashing .156/.296/.300 with four home runs in his first 36 games.

When Casali hit the injured list with a strained oblique on July 5, the Giants recalled Bart to take his place on the active roster. And slowly but surely, Bart has begun to put things together at the plate.

The numbers aren't glamorous -- Bart has raised his average by over thirty points since returning to the Majors, but he's still batting just .191. He also continues to swing freely, garnering a 42% strikeout rate that is second-highest among Major Leaguers with a minimum of 100 plate appearances.

One encouraging sign is that Bart's power is steadily improving in the Majors. Bart has hit at least 10 home runs in each of his three full seasons in the Minors, but he didn't hit his first one in the Majors until this year. His home run on Tuesday was his eighth in the big leagues, and his fourth in his last 17 games. Before that, Bart had hit just four homers in 76 career games.

At 25 years old, Bart is getting a valuable chance to step up and be a key presence in the Giants' clubhouse. To do that, he'll have to draw on the same leadership qualities that he admired from Casali.

"Curt was a very confident guy," Bart said. "I always saw a lot of confidence in him, in what he was doing and obviously been doing for a while now. And I really just watched that -- I always felt like I picked up on those traits that he carried there, with just being in the moment and owning the moment."