Giants continue mastery of minor additions

Cody Ross. Travis Ishikawa. Now Conor Gillaspie. The San Francisco Giants have perfected the art of the under-the-radar acquisition.

A 2010 waiver claim brought Ross to San Francisco, where he became the National League Championship Series MVP. In 2014, the Giants picked Ishikawa off the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ trash heap, only to have him connect on the biggest hit of the season and one of just two NLCS-ending walk-off home runs ever (Bobby Thompson, 1951). Even reliever Jose Mijares, a mid-season waiver claim, contributed some key outs to the 2012 World Series run.

Now, Gillaspie, a February free agent signing, has already made his mark on the 2016 postseason hopes, just one game into the run. With his ninth-inning, three-run home run in support of ace Madison Bumgarner‘s Wild Card game shutout serving as the night’s only runs.

The black and orange have made key spotlight moves along the way — Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez, just to name a few — but the true genius behind the organization and its success is finding a diamond in the bullpen dirt.

Gillaspie, like Ishikawa, was drafted by the Giants — taken in the supplemental round (No. 37 overall) in the 2008 draft. After appearing in just 29 games with the Giants from 2008 to 2012 he was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Jeff Soptic, currently with High-A San Jose.

Over three seasons in the American League — two months with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2015 — he hit 24 home runs in 339 games.

Unlike the duo of Giant draftees, Ross brought with him a track record of success, though his greatest success came in October, 2010, his only foray into the MLB postseason.

If Gillaspie is to follow the lead of those who came before him — becoming the MVP of the NLCS — he may have to do so in a platoon role. With big-name mid-season addition Eduardo Nunez on the mend, the left-handed swinging Gillaspie’s splits become ever-important. Against righties this season, he batted .266 (.227 versus lefties) with all of his seven homers — including his game winner on Wednesday. He also closed the season in scalding fashion, batting .333 over the past month.

In their run of three World Series titles over the past six seasons, the Giants have displayed world-class talent evaluation and development — with six of their Wild Card game starters (including Gillaspie) having been drafted by the team.

They have also shown a unique ability to seek out free agents, like Aubrey Huff and Johnny Cueto, while making trades to improve the roster.

But where the organization truly shines is in its ability to apply heat and pressure to what came to them as coal.


Kalama Hines is SFBay’s Oakland Athletics beat writer. Follow @SFBay and @HineSight_2020 on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of A’s baseball.