It doesn’t matter that neither the Giants nor Dodgers reached the World Series. They’re each still having a big effect on the Fall Classic.
And not in a very flattering way.
Through ill-advised trades years ago, the longtime NL West adversaries are each to blame for helping the Braves and Astros reach the Series by providing them with two of the game’s top sluggers.
Adam Duvall, Atlanta’s Game 1 World Series hero and the National League’s RBI leader this year, comes indirectly from the Giants. Yordan Alvarez, Houston’s former Rookie of the Year whose exploits just earned ALCS MVP honors, arrived from the Dodgers.
All the Giants and Dodgers have to show for giving up two difference-making hitters are two pitchers who haven’t appeared in the majors since 2019, and may never do so again.
It was Duvall’s two-run homer on Tuesday that sealed the Braves’ 5-2 series-opening victory, but it was merely a continuance of a career year for the 33-year-old outfielder who was first drafted by the Giants in 2010. Duvall blasted a career-best 38 home runs and led the National League with 113 RBIs, including 68 RBIs with Miami before re-joining Atlanta in a trade deadline move.
The Giants didn’t envision Duvall turning into this kind of player back when they decided to ship him to Cincinnati, along with minor league pitcher Keury Mella, for starter Mike Leake. Duvall became an All-Star with the Reds, and Leake was a disappointment for a Giants team looking for a boost in what turned out to be a failed postseason push.
Once seen as a man seemingly anchored to first base while with the Giants, Duvall became a left fielder in Cincinnati and has progressed so much as a fielder that Atlanta started him in center field in Game 1 of the World Series.
For a team that’s had outfielders such as Connor Joe, Michael Reed, Mauricio Dubon and Joe McCarthy starting on Opening Day the past three years, it’s fair to wonder how often the Giants wished they’d have kept Duvall, who has hit 143 home runs since 2016.
As poorly as the Duvall move turned out for the Giants, it still pales in comparison to the Dodgers trading away Alvarez.
Ironically, there’s a Giants angle to the Dodgers’ regrettable 2016 trade deadline deal that sent Alvarez to the Astros – Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was Los Angeles’ general manager at the time.
As the story goes, the Dodgers were aggressively trying to acquire Astros middle reliever Josh Fields to bolster their bullpen, but they weren’t able to agree on what Houston’s compensation would be. The Dodgers kept saying no to several different players Houston wanted in return. Just when the chances for a trade looked bleak, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow called up Zaidi with what seemed like a reasonable compromise.
“What about Alvarez, the Cuban?” Luhnow asked Zaidi, according to a Los Angeles Times report.
Zaidi again rejected the proposal, telling Luhnow the Dodgers would not be trading Alvarez.
But Zaidi thought Luhnow was talking about Yadier Alvarez, a Cuban pitcher who the Dodgers had signed for $16 million as an international free agent the year before. Although he had been struggling, Zaidi had no intention of dealing him.
The Dodgers, though, were willing to part ways with the Alvarez that Luhnow was talking about, a 19-year-old middling prospect from Cuba who didn’t strike many scouts as much of a prospect.
During Alvarez’s meteoric rise as a major league in 2019 while on his way to winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award, Dodgers president Andrew Friedman was asked about the trade.
“Looking back on it now, we obviously wish we sould have said yes to the other names they asked for before him,” Friedman said. “It’s pretty special watching what he’s doing in the batter’s box.”
It still is, as witnessed by Alvarez’s unquestioned ascension to baseball’s hitting hierarchy. He was the unanimous choice as the 2019 American League’s Rookie of the Year Award, despite playing in just 87 games. Alvarez announced himself as a problem at the plate as a rookie by hitting 27 homers and driving in 78 runs to go along with a 1.067 OPS.
Yordan Alvarez had 7 hits over the final 2 games of the ALCS.
The entire Red Sox team had 5.
He’s the first human, ever, to out-hit the entire opposing team over the final 2 games of any series in MLB postseason history. pic.twitter.com/VHm0jWGugS
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 23, 2021
Since breaking into the majors, Alvarez owns baseball’s fifth-highest OPS (.948), trailing only Mike Trout, Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Bryce Harper.
Alvarez nearly single-handedly pushed the Astros past the Red Sox, hitting an ALCS-record .522 with a homer, six RBIs and a 1.408 OPS while earning MVP honors.
And, like Duvall, each of his hits on the big stage just deals a bit more pain to the team that traded him away.