ST. LOUIS — A tough roster decision felt inevitable for the Giants as they began to get healthier following the return of regulars like LaMonte Wade Jr. and Evan Longoria. With Tommy La Stella not far behind, San Francisco opted to get ahead of its impending roster crunch by trading popular utility man Mauricio Dubón to the Astros in exchange for catcher/first baseman Michael Papierski on Saturday.
To replace Dubón on the 26-man roster, the Giants activated newly acquired infielder Donovan Walton, who started at second base Saturday in his San Francisco debut.
A native of Honduras, Dubón came to the United States as a foreign-exchange student and attended Capital Christian High School in Sacramento, where he became a Giants fan. He fulfilled a childhood dream by eventually landing with his favorite team, which acquired him from the Brewers in exchange for Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black at the 2019 Trade Deadline.
The versatile Dubón endeared himself to the Giants fanbase with his infectious smile and energy, emerging as a valuable contributor due to his ability to bounce between the middle infield and center field. Still, he fell behind Thairo Estrada on the depth chart following a difficult 2021 campaign and entered this season out of options.
Expanded rosters and the injuries to Wade, Longoria and La Stella enabled San Francisco to carry Dubón for the first five weeks of the regular season, and he played well in limited opportunities, going 7-for-17 (.412) with two home runs over his past six games. But with La Stella nearing the end of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento, the Giants wouldn’t have had much playing time to offer Dubón, who has a similar skill set to Estrada.
Manager Gabe Kapler said Dubón took the news “like a pro” and was looking forward to the opportunity that awaited him with the AL West first-place Astros, who entered Saturday riding an 11-game winning streak.
“In my conversation with Mauricio today, I mentioned to him how much growth we saw over the last calendar year,” Kapler said. “I was traded a couple of times, so one thing that it’s hard for players to connect with is that when you get traded, another team is seeing your value. I told him that I thought the way he played this season and the person that he was in our clubhouse this season was a reason that the Astros were interested in him. Because he really came together as a man, as a teammate and as a baseball player. We think highly of Mauricio and want to see him do well. It’s a great opportunity for him.”
Papierski, 26, will report to Triple-A Sacramento and help bolster the Giants’ upper-level catching depth. A switch-hitter, Papierski has a career .358 on-base percentage in the Minors and hit .211 with a .602 OPS and one homer over 26 games with Triple-A Sugar Land this year.
“He is a good defensive catcher,” Kapler said. “A good framer. A good teammate. All of the things that we look for at the baseline, particularly with a catcher. The ability to lead a pitching staff. Smart game-caller. Controls the strike zone very well. We know that that’s an important part of being a Giant, being selectively aggressive. He embodies the characteristics that we appreciate in an offensive player. Very well rounded. We’re looking forward to learning more about him.”