The San Francisco Giants have, quietly for some time now, been one of the best teams in Major League Baseball. While more talk has been what they’re going to get for their star pitching assets – starter Madison Bumgarner and relievers Will Smith and Tony Watson, they are one of only two teams in the big leagues to have won 8 of their last 10 games.
The Giants’ latest victim was the Colorado Rockies, who they swept in a four-game series. It was a series that showed how much their pitching has developed throughout the season – they swept a team who was in the second Wild Card place just three weeks ago, without the use of MadBum in Coors – the most hitters’ friendly ballpark in MLB by far.
But more impressive has been the teams they’ve beaten during their stretch – they’ve won four consecutive series against winning teams – Cardinals, Padres, Brewers and Rockies, all of which had records over .500 before their respective series against the North Californian franchise.
The Giants now find themselves 2.5 games behind the Phillies for the National League Wild Card and are arguably the hottest of the teams in the chase (let alone the fact that Philadelphia is among the teams with a worst record in the last two months in the NL).
The ace of the rotation’s 1-year, $12M team option was accepted in November. Most people considered this a good situation for the Giants only for one reason – they’re going to get something in return for him. A Bumgarner move would signal the End of an Era for Giants baseball and a start of a rebuild. The signs of that got stronger after closer Will Smith (24 saves, second in NL) and relief pitcher Tony Watson started off well.
But is a rebuild necessary when you have a good chance to win and leave a nice core to improve on? In the Giants payroll situation it’s a little too difficult, but capitalizing on a good season is the right thing to do.
I think that people underestimate the surrounding squad that those three assets have. Usually, when a player or players are so strongly engaged in trade talks, as was Manny Machado last year, they are a good player on a bad team. But that’s not the case with the 2019 Giants.
The Giants have rather been a talented team who has been constantly underperforming since their last playoff appearance – 2016 WC win over the Mets and a Divisional Series exit against the Commissioner’s Trophy-winning Chicago Cubs.
Take Jeff Samardzija for instance. After he made one the worst seasons in his career last season, posting a 1-5 record with 6.35 ERA in just 10 starts in an injury-ridden campaign, he has quietly made one of the most overlooked individual seasons in the MLB this year. He has a 3.93 ERA, just below Bumgarner’s 3.86, 7-7 record, which is two wins better that the North Carolina-born 2007 first round pick.
The Giants clearly have a good enough rotation to compete. Their bullpen in even more impressive as their relief pitching has an ERA of 3.91, the 7th best in all of baseball.
It will be a difficult with the near $170 million current payroll to re-sign all three of them, with Bumgarner possibly leaning towards the $20-25 million a year mark (although I think that if SF was to try and keep him, he would be good for a lot less than if any other team negotiates with him). But if they do, they don’t need a rebuild but one or two good FA signings.
One would argue that the Giants are already in rebuild with all those young players in their roster – Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Alex Dickerson; Dereck Rodriguez is in his second season. There’s actually a threat in continuing to sell that they can become one of those rebuilding teams that go through a number of processes to finally compete (Detroit for example).
So here’s an example of a suitable win-now deadline trade: SS Elvis Andrus (TEX) for 2B Joe Panik, 3B Luis Toribio (#8 prospect) and RHP Melvin Adon (#13 prospect). The longtime Ranger has been overlooked this year, batting .296 and would give them a good bat for a cheap price.
There’s enough talent in 2020 free agency to make a rental deal this year and sign one or two FAs next year to solidify their short-term future at least. There’s no guarantee that a number of unknown prospect which you’ll be waiting until ‘22 or ’23 comes around will make you a contender. And if they don’t you’ll have to start selling again, go through another rebuild.
On the other hand, however, one Scooter Gennett or one Marcell Ozuna, or perhaps Nick Markakis can make a real difference in your season and won’t be too expensive. Josh Donaldson and Didi Gregorius are also going to be on the market, ready to improve San Francisco’s infield. Also, a Starlin Castro or a Jonathan Schoop would be a really valuable rental that would make the Giants real contenders. And all they would have to give up for them would be non-MLB prospects.
The Giants aren’t the Blue Jays or the Tigers – they are too good to go into the full rebuild they are lining up for. And yes, the Astros won a ring after a full rebuild but they had three straight No.1 picks – the closest the Giants came to a first overall pick was a loss away in 2017 but a last-day win gave Detroit that spot. Which gives us the reason to mention another piece of the Giants’ bright future – No. 2 pick Joey Bart out of Georgia tech, the best catcher in the draft, of the best in the minors currently.
At the end of the day all that matters in winning – either now or after years of explained misery. While in an era where young players matter so much it’s rather unpopular to give up prospects after years of not winning, but the 2019 Giants already have young power that’s producing while also having experience on the mound. They’re closer to winning then most “rebuild-mentality” teams and that would require a different path that wouldn’t come alongside losing even more talent.