It's hard to fight through the tendency to overreact. So the Giants have lost six straight, with two of the losses coming on brutal late-inning meltdowns. That doesn't mean it's time to give up. That doesn't mean it's time to start trading whatever productive players we have left. That doesn't mean the postseason window has closed. That doesn't mean...
Wait, seven straight losses? Three of them were brutal late-inning meltdowns?
It's not that simple. The Giants are still technically in a race, only four games behind an average team. But it's getting impossible to take the "anything can happen in the playoffs" mantra seriously. Yes, anything can happen. At some point, though, the quality of the team starts to make a huge difference. It would be possible for the Kansas City Royals to win 11 of 18 against the best teams in the game. That kind of upset is more probable in baseball than any other professional sport. But talent is a factor, and the Giants were just swept by two of the worst teams in baseball. That variety of stink isn't just going to wash off with a little Lava soap. They appear closer to the Royals than the 2002 Giants in terms of magic upset potential.
The losing streak is serving up a veritable McDLT of the soul, with the enraged fanboy side calling for blood and the rational side knowing that it is far too easy to make too much out of any losing streak. The timing and the circumstances surrounding this particular losing streak happen to be new triumphs in the field of regular season ugliness. The idea of "sell" is a visceral reaction to an embarrassing stretch of baseball, and a completely understandable one. The important question, though, is what could the Giants get back? Would it be worth giving up the best chance at the playoffs for at least the next couple of years?
Assuming the Giants don't resign any pending free agents for the purposes of this post, here are the positions that will be open next season:
Pitching is always welcome, even if you're the `71 Orioles.
I'm content with plugging Eliezer Alfonzo behind the plate if Mike Matheny doesn't recover, and I'm not opposed to giving Todd Linden a shot as a starter. Kevin Frandsen could fill the 2B hole, but then it starts to become a slippery slope. Using one or two of the above names doesn't bother me, but starting to count on all three in concert seems silly and wildly optimistic.
Jason Schmidt would create a bidding war, and could help the Giants fill at least one of the holes with a cheap, young player. A list of possible suitors:
Those are teams that could offer up a pretty nice bounty. The Rangers could start with Hank Blalock, who has been a disappointment but is still only 25. If the Mets want a pitcher with eau de ace, they're going to have to part with one of Lastings Milledge or Mike Pelfrey. The Red Sox could start the bidding with either Coco Crisp or Wily Mo Pena, and add some prospects to sweeten the pot. Most of the Yankees' best prospects are teenagers, but they could still put something very nice together. Philip Hughes would look just dashing in orange and black. Brandon McCarthy's name has already been attached to Schmidt.
Looking at the list of teams who might be bidding against each other, there is every reason in the world to trade Jason Schmidt. It would be a lot harder to reach the playoffs without him, and almost impossible to contemplate a miracle run through the playoffs without him, but them's the breaks. Trading Schmidt could give the Giants a healthy head start on the post-Bonds era, and they won't have this chance again for a while. At the same time, they wouldn't be completely giving up on 2006. They kinda sorta would, but it isn't as if they're winning the games Schmidt starts right now.
The other players on the team shouldn't be jettisoned just to get anything back. Moises Alou might get some interesting returns, but it would be a total white-flagger if he goes, and that isn't the idea. Pedro Feliz wouldn't have enough suitors to create a bidding war, and dumping someone like Steve Kline or Steve Finley would likely only garner token prospects.
There are a couple of teams who might be interested in a marginal improvement over the second baseman they've been starting -- Toronto and the Mets, for two -- but aren't dissatisfied enough to include anything resembling a top prospect. If it comes down to Ray Durham for some random A-ball flamethrower, or offering arbitration to Durham and settling for the draft picks, the latter would seem more prudent for a team still contending. However, it might be possible to throw Durham into a Schmidt deal and get a younger player back. The Yankees could include Robinson Cano if Durham went over with Schmidt, and the same might apply to Texas and Ian Kinsler. That would be the absolute ideal situation.
And, again, as ridiculous as it seems, the Giants are still in a race. Teams do get hot. The Giants can get hot. It's a little difficult to visualize that at the moment, but the idea's there if you squint. Dumping just to dump would be irresponsible. Getting a couple of A-ball prospects for Schmidt isn't an option. Either the Giants get some of the best young talent in baseball to help build a contender as early as next season, or the team should remain content to take the draft picks for all of their pending free agents. But the past seven games have really been a reality check for the organization, and the best thing for the future of the Giants would be to trade Jason Schmidt today.