Imagine if the Giants had a 25-year-old who can play all three spots in the outfield, hit .314 with 16 homers as a rookie, and provided more than four WAR despite not playing the whole season. A player like that would change the timeline of this rebuild and even the outlook for the whole big league team in 2020.
That player is Bryan Reynolds, and he was taken by the Giants in the second round of the 2016 draft. For all the talk over the years about Adam Duvall, Reynolds truly is The One That Got Away, and it's a fascinating decision to look back on.
When they drafted Reynolds, Giants officials gushed about how they had scooped up a first-round talent in the second round, finding a way to get Reynolds at a cost other organizations didn't anticipate. But there wasn't much griping when he became the main piece in the deal for Andrew McCutchen less than two years later.
Reynolds had a solid year in San Jose in 2017, but didn't flash too much power, and team officials felt lucky that they came away from that offseason with Evan Longoria and McCutchen, having stayed under the luxury tax line and kept most of their best prospects. Here's something I included in a story the week of the McCutchen deal, after talking to people within the organization:
Christian Arroyo might come back to haunt the Giants, but the team held onto Heliot Ramos, who has superstar potential, and Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede, who should contribute to the 2018-19 clubs. Reynolds was a former top pick, but he generally was viewed as part of the organization's second tier of top 10 guys.
Judging prospects is an imperfect science, but in retrospect it's clear the Giants made two big mistakes. They didn't see what Reynolds would become and gave up on a slender young outfielder without anticipating how much he could develop. More importantly, they failed to accurately see what they had become.
After the Giants lost 98 games in 2017, the phrase rebuild was not used. "We hope it's a reset," one of their executives said two days after that season. Oops.
The Giants tried to walk a fine line, adding Longoria and McCutchen but not spending much more as they tried to dip under the tax, which they would do with a midseason trade of Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin. They were neither in or out. They didn't realize it was time to commit to a rebuild, and at the same time they also didn't go all-in on competing, choosing to be selective with their spending and leaving plenty of holes.
We know how that all turned out, but you know what, there's one thing the Giants did right with that move. McCutchen still was a solid player, someone worthy of hitting in the heart of their lineup, and he brought some star power to an organization that was leaking plenty of oil. They were right about the kind of veteran player they were acquiring.
McCutchen didn't make it through a full season with the Giants, but he provided plenty of highlights, most memorably in an April game that will air on NBC Sports Bay Area tonight at 8 p.m. McCutchen had six hits in his seventh game in orange and black, ending it with a memorable walk-off against the Dodgers. I won't spoil it all, but here's a reminder that the celebration is certainly worth waiting around for ...
McCutchen became the second player in MLB history to get six hits and a walk-off homer in a game. The final at-bat was remarkable and showed the kind of talent the Giants had acquired. The trade came at the wrong time for the organization, but he was the right type of player, and he did manage to make an impact before moving on.
Looking back at trade that brought Andrew McCutchen to Giants originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area