The San Francisco Giants remain an enigma as the MLB Trade Deadline nears, and it leaves the team in a tough spot.
The San Francisco Giants decided to compete. After a disastrous 98 loss season in 2017, most pundits called for a rebuild. The Giants were only getting older and many thought it was the best time to unload their remaining assets and reset.
However, those critics failed to recognize one large reality. Even if the Giants wanted to sell, they had little that other teams wanted to buy. After all, the Giants weren’t the 2nd worst team in baseball last season because of one underperforming player. The 2017 season was a catastrophic series of injuries and disappointment. So the Giants choice was between selling low on a long list of players or rolling the dice once again.
They decided to give it another go. They went big game hunting and brought in Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, but other than the contract dumps of Matt Moore and Denard Span, the Giants expect,ed bounce backs from their core. For the most part, it’s worked. After last night’s loss to the Chicago Cubs they remain only 4.0 games back of first place and are still in contention.
With just a few weeks to go before the trade deadline, the Giants now find themselves in a much more favorable predicament. The Giants have gotten bounce-back seasons from players like Crawford and Belt and even some unexpected contributions from players like Dereck Rodriguez, Alen Hanson, and Pablo Sandoval. They are right back in the thick of it but still might not have much flexibility.
The Giants are flush with solid starters at every position and are facing a roster crunch in the infield and starting rotation. Their depth has carried them, but they lack the star talent that would make them a legitimate world series contender. This is not news to the front office. The Giants made hard pushes for the only two elite talents available this off-season, but Giancarlo Stanton’s no-trade clause helped him maneuver his way to the Yankees and the DH was too much to pass up for Shohei Ohtani.
The players of the type the Giants need are rarely available and even then, the Giants farm system is unlikely to have the firepower to bring one back. So the Giants are once again left in no man’s land. The Giants probably should not forfeit some of their best prospects for a marginal upgrade, but the flip-side is standing pat and missing out on the playoffs.
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Many will point to left field as the hole they need to address. It has been a black hole in San Francisco for years. But, the Giants believe Steven Duggar is ready to play every day in center, which moves Gorkys Hernandez to left. Duggar did struggle against lefties in the minor leagues, so Hernandez will move back to center against southpaws and Hunter Pence (to the chagrin of Austin Slater fans) will get those at-bats.
Sunday’s trade with the Rangers suggests the Giants might see it differently. The San Francisco Giants were willing to part with a solid pitching prospect to unload Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin. The trade opened up two roster spots and opened up some luxury tax room. The order of those priorities will become apparent in the coming weeks.
The luxury tax space is not going to be enough to get a big-time salary, but someone in the $2m-3m range now requires no corresponding move. However, the prospects of Duggar and reliever Ray Black (the fireballer they called up to replace Gearrin) may have actually been the primary motivation for the move. Black has the stuff that scouts have drooled over for years and Duggar is already their best defensive center fielder.
Over halfway through the season, the San Francisco Giants remain competitive but are only 2 games above .500. They are average. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but this is an era of extremes. Super-teams are stacked and bad teams are getting worse. How the Giants maneuver the trade deadline will be one of the most intriguing storylines in baseball.