Giants trade for Bryant right before Deadline

Club also bolsters bullpen by reuniting with left-hander Watson

July 31st, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants landed one of the most coveted bats on the market, acquiring Cubs infielder/outfielder just ahead of Friday’s 1 p.m. PT Trade Deadline.

Outfielder Alexander Canario (ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Giants' No. 9 prospect) and right-hander Caleb Kilian (No. 30) were sent to the Cubs in exchange for Bryant, who will give San Francisco a marquee addition to its lineup as it attempts to hold off the Dodgers and the Padres in the uber-competitive National League West. 

Bryant, who captured 2016 National League MVP honors after leading the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years, earned his fourth career All-Star nod and is batting .267 with an .861 OPS and 18 homers through 93 games this year.

Bryant’s defensive versatility -- he has logged double-digit appearances at first and third base as well as all three outfield spots this year -- made him an attractive target for the Giants, who could use help around the infield as Tommy La Stella, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria continue to work their way back from injuries.

Bryant could also see time in the outfield, potentially serving as a right-handed-hitting complement to Steven Duggar in center field and giving the club more punch against left-handed pitching.

“We feel like he’s the perfect fit for our roster, getting another middle-of-the-order right-handed bat,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. “Not just a guy who can move around the field, but actually likes moving around on the field. Obviously, he kind of fits the ethos of our roster really well. A few of us have had a chance to reach out to him. He could not be more excited to be a Giant. I’ve had a number of these calls after trades with players, and I’ve never spoken to a player more excited to be coming to a new organization.”

Bryant, 29, is earning $19.5 million this year, his final season before free agency, meaning the Giants are taking on the approximately $7 million left on his salary. Bryant already has an existing relationship with Giants general manager Scott Harris, who worked in the Cubs’ front office before being hired away by San Francisco in November 2019.

“Credit to Scott and [Cubs GM] Jed Hoyer, the relationship they have, having worked together for so long,” Zaidi said. “The trust when you’re across the table from somebody that you’ve worked with for that long is really important to making a deal like this.”

Bryant’s travel plans remain in flux, but manager Gabe Kapler said Bryant could be available to start at third base on Saturday afternoon against Astros right-hander Zack Greinke. Kapler spoke with Bryant shortly after the trade was finalized on Friday and was pleased by his newest player’s eagerness to contribute for the Giants in whatever way possible.

“One thing that stands out to me is what Kris said when I had an opportunity to connect with him earlier today,” Kapler said. “He said, ‘I’m down to play anywhere. I’m down to hit anywhere. I just want to help this team win.’ He was genuinely excited to be a part of this. I said, ‘That’s awesome,’ because our team has kind of an unselfish vibe right now, and it’s exactly what we need.”

To land Bryant, the Giants had to part with two prospects who had emerged as organizational success stories in recent years. 

Canario, who signed with the Giants for $60,000 out of his native Dominican Republic in 2016, was batting .235 with a .758 OPS and nine homers over 65 games for Low-A San Jose this year and possessed a tantalizing package of tools, including some of the best bat speed in the system. 

Despite his high upside, Canario had been viewed as a potential trade chip since the Giants had added him to the 40-man roster over the offseason to shield him from the Rule 5 Draft. Canario is still a couple of years away from reaching the Majors, so it made sense for the Giants to move him and free up a 40-man spot for a player who can help the team win now. San Francisco’s farm system is also loaded with other promising outfielders, including Heliot Ramos (No. 3), Hunter Bishop (No. 4) and Luis Matos (No. 7). 

Kilian, an eighth-round Draft pick out of Texas Tech in 2019, was the Giants’ breakout pitching prospect this year, logging a 2.13 ERA with 96 strikeouts over 84 2/3 innings in 15 starts between High-A Eugene and Double-A Richmond. 

“The two guys that are going to Chicago are guys we think really highly of,” Zaidi said. “Caleb Kilian has been one of the top performing starting pitchers in the Minors. A strike-thrower, everything we look for. It’s difficult to trade a kind of pipeline starting pitcher like that, but we kind of did what we had to do to make the deal. Canario is a really good young outfield prospect who we like a lot, but that’s also a position of depth for us. You’re going to have to give up value to get a guy like Kris Bryant.” 

Bryant is set to become a free agent this winter, but it’s possible that the Giants could attempt to re-sign him and keep him around beyond 2021. 

Giants reunite with Watson 

The Giants also moved to bolster their bullpen in a separate trade on Friday, re-acquiring veteran left-hander Tony Watson from the Angels in exchange for lefty Sam Selman and Minor League pitchers Ivan Armstrong and José Marte.

Watson, 36, pitched for the Giants from 2018-20 and recorded a 4.64 ERA over 36 appearances with the Angels this year. He’s set to join a Giants bullpen that already includes a trio of veteran lefties in José Álvarez, Jarlín García and Jake McGee.

“He’s a guy who’s really well known and popular in this clubhouse,” Zaidi said. “He’s a battle-tested reliever who’s pitched in the playoffs and the World Series. We’re going to have a lot of important games down the stretch, and his influence and demeanor is really an example that we want to have set.” 

Another left-hander, Sammy Long, is also in the Giants’ bullpen, but Watson’s addition could give the Giants the flexibility to option Long and have him build up his arm at Triple-A Sacramento, restoring some of the organization’s starting depth at the upper Minors.