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Clubs showing interest in Giants relievers

December 12, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi on Monday identified the bullpen as an area of surplus, which he said played into the club's decision to non-tender right-hander Hunter Strickland last month. He could now look to flip some of those assets to fill needs in the

LAS VEGAS -- Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi on Monday identified the bullpen as an area of surplus, which he said played into the club's decision to non-tender right-hander Hunter Strickland last month. He could now look to flip some of those assets to fill needs in the outfield and in the rotation.
Zaidi confirmed Tuesday that he's received a "high level of interest" in the club's relievers while engaging in trade conversations with other teams.
Latest Hot Stove rumors
The Cardinals are reportedly among several teams who have inquired about Giants closer Will Smith. Fellow left-hander Tony Watson is also said to be of interest to St. Louis, though to a lesser degree than Smith.
"We've gotten a lot of calls on guys in our bullpen, both veteran guys and even some of the younger guys," Zaidi said. "That's an area of strength for the team. If we keep this group intact, I think it's going to be one of the best groups in the National League. If it makes sense for us to move somebody to fill needs on the position-player side or in the rotation, I think we're still going to go into next year with a pretty good core."
The Cardinals make sense as a possible trade partner for the Giants because they possess an intriguing trade chip in outfielder/first baseman Jose Martinez, who became expendable following St. Louis' acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt. Martinez, 30, has established himself as an elite right-handed bat over the last two seasons, batting a combined .306 with an .847 OPS and 31 home runs in 258 games for the Cardinals. He won't be arbitration-eligible until 2020 and won't hit free agency until after the 2022 season, making him an inexpensive option for teams in search of offensive help.
Though Martinez offers the type of positional flexibility that Zaidi covets, he is also a defensive liability, ranking as one of the worst right fielders in the Majors in defensive runs saved while also rating poorly at first base. The Giants have tended to favor players who can handle the spacious outfield at AT&T Park, but Zaidi said he'd be amenable to acquiring a bat-first outfielder this offseason, particularly given the offensive woes the team experienced in 2018.
"We've got to be open-minded because at the end of the day, we want the guys that are the best and most productive players in totality," Zaidi said. "If you're a double-plus offensive player and you're giving back a little defensively, that would still be an upgrade for our current outfield group. I think we've got to assess those guys, not against some ultimate ideal, but against whether they're an incremental improvement to what we have."
Prying Smith or Watson away from the Giants could be difficult, as the pair emerged as the club's most reliable back-end relievers this past season.
Smith, 29, enjoyed a successful return from Tommy John surgery in 2018, posting a 2.55 ERA over 53 innings while converting 14 saves. He is projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $4.1 million next year in his final season before free agency.
Watson, 33, recorded a 2.59 ERA over 66 innings in the first season of the two-year, incentive-laden deal he signed with the Giants in February. He also has a player option for the 2020 season.
"We're going to have to feel good about the return to trade one of those guys, especially the guys that were big contributors for us last year," Zaidi said.
Cutch lands in Philly
Former Giants outfielder Andrew McCutchen has agreed to a three-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies, according to multiple reports, closing the door on a potential return to San Francisco. Acquired from the Pirates last offseason, McCutchen crushed 15 home runs for the Giants before being traded to the Yankees in exchange for infielder Abiatal Avelino and right-hander Juan De Paula in August.

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.