The Giants Picked Up A Productive Outfielder In An Under-The-Radar Deal Last Winter

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The Giants had quite a few unexpected contributors last year en route to a surprising franchise-record 107 wins. Among that group was a player quietly acquired a month before the start of Spring Training. An unheralded pickup at the time, LaMonte Wade Jr. turned out to be an impressive find who could be a valuable part of the San Francisco outfield for the next few seasons.

Last February, San Francisco picked up Wade from the Twins as part of a one-for-one swap that sent righty Shaun Anderson to Minnesota. Wade, 27, had briefly appeared in each of the prior two seasons for the Twins but had a grand total of 113 big league plate appearances under his belt. A .211/.336/.347 hitter in that time, he had an impressive strikeout and walk profile but little else on his MLB resume.

Yet the Giants saw something of interest in Wade, whether based on their scouts’ evaluations or his minor league numbers. He’d hit .246/.392/.356 in Triple-A in 2019. The left-handed hitter only popped five home runs, but his 14.4% strikeout rate and 16.8% walk percentage at the minors’ top level were both far better than the league average. It was an interesting showing, but Wade’s lack of power was concerning for a player whom most scouting reports suggested was best suited for the corner outfield.

It’s easy to understand why the Twins front office felt that moving Wade was subtracting a depth option from an area of organizational strength. They already had Byron Buxton and Max Kepler entrenched in the outfield, and top prospects Alex KirilloffRoyce Lewis and Trevor Larnach all looked to be approaching themselves. (Kirilloff had debuted in the majors during the 2020 postseason). Wade wasn’t at the level of those other players, and he was entering his final minor league option year.

Yet the deal backfired for Minnesota essentially immediately. Anderson allowed 12 runs in 8 2/3 innings with the Twins before being designated for assignment. Claimed off waivers by the Rangers, he bounced around between a few organizations before finally clearing waivers last month. He’s a member of the Blue Jays now but no longer occupies a 40-man roster spot.

Wade, on the other hand, had a quality showing in his first extended MLB look. He hit .253/.326/.482 with 18 home runs over 381 plate appearances for San Francisco. He became a bit more aggressive at the plate, and his walk and strikeout numbers (8.7% and 23.4%, respectively) were actually fairly ordinary.

Instead, Wade hit for a surprising amount of power. In addition to the 18 homers, he rapped 17 doubles and three triples. That’s a 28-homer, 27-double pace over 600 plate appearances (roughly the equivalent of a full season’s worst of playing time). His .229 isolated power far outpaced the .171 league average. According to Statcast, his average exit velocity, barrel rate and hard contact rate were each a fair bit better than the league mark.

That’s not to say the Twins gave away a future star. The Giants deployed Wade almost exclusively against right-handed pitching, leveraging their strong depth to put him in position to succeed. As a result of the heavy platooning, his rate numbers were probably better than they’d have been had he been asked to play everyday and drawn more assignments against tough lefties. As scouting reports had suggested, Wade was also primarily limited to the corner outfield and first base, only picking up two starts in center field.

Not all deals have to bring back All-Stars, though. The Giants have already gotten the better end of the swap, and Wade looks to have a good chance of being a quality contributor within the San Francisco outfield mix over the next few seasons. If that proves to be the case, the deal will be a nice feather in the cap of president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and his staff — an example of a team successfully pulling from another organization’s area of depth to unearth a valuable addition to their roster.

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