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Why Giants traded Sam Coonrod

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There are baseball reasons that make trading Sam Coonrod seem logical. According to Farhan Zaidi, it mattered that he is a righty thrower and not that he is a right-winger.

The Giants said Coonrod’s political views had nothing to do with Saturday’s deal that sent the 28-year-old to Philadelphia in exchange for righty prospect Carson Ragsdale. Coonrod briefly became a national, polarizing figure after he declined to kneel with the rest of the Giants and Dodgers on Opening Night last season, during a Black Lives Matter moment of unity.

Coonrod then either endeared himself to or alienated himself from fans by comparing the movement to Marxism and saying he could only kneel before God. The Giants, of course, play in heavily liberal San Francisco and have a manager (Gabe Kapler) and perhaps best player (Mike Yastrzemski) who knelt throughout the season to protest injustices against Black people in this country.

“It was really a trade we made for baseball reasons,” Zaidi said over Zoom, adding that Coonrod remained an option and clubhouse presence for the 2020 campaign, his views not keeping him away. “…There’s a very clear baseball reasoning for this trade, both in terms of this being trading away from what’s become a position of depth and also acquiring a guy who fills a need for us.”

The position of depth is righty relievers, which was a position of weakness last season (in part because of Coonrod’s struggles). The Giants have added Matt Wisler and John Brebbia, who is coming off Tommy John surgery and should be ready somewhere around midseason. They drafted Dedniel Núñez in the Rule 5 draft and would like him to establish himself. Reyes Moronta will be back, and Trevor Gott has been retained. The Giants protected Kervin Castro, Camilo Doval and Gregory Santos by adding them to a 40-man roster that had been filled before trading Coonrod. The Giants now have room to maneuver — a starting pitcher and lefty bat are still on the to-do list — and Coonrod had not yet shown the results that reflect the stuff.

Coonrod’s average of a 98.4-mph four-seamer was the fifth fastest in all of baseball last season, and his 93.3-mph cutter also was fifth in its category. The arm is there, and he flashed a dominant ceiling, but he walked too many (seven in 14 2/3 innings last season) and fell apart late, recording three outs while allowing five runs in his last two, costly outings of the season.

Zaidi said there were more teams than just the Phillies interested in Coonrod, so losing his potential for no return was not going to happen. They will develop Ragsdale, a fourth-round pick in 2020, as a starter — he was dominant in four starts with South Florida before the pandemic ended his final season and first in the rotation, having been a reliever (and first baseman) previously.

The Giants’ biggest organizational weakness is in the rotation, and perhaps Ragsdale can help.

“For us to be able to add starting-pitching prospect depth to the organization and a guy we really like who has upside,” Zaidi said, “it was just a logical baseball move for us.”


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