The state of the Giants is ...
... bad. It’s really bad, everyone. They had one of the biggest leads the team has ever had in the divisional era, and that was two months ago. Since then, they’ve forgotten how to play baseball. If you pretend that they’re a character in a rom-com, it’s kind of cute! So I wholeheartedly suggest we all do that.
As someone who has written about the death spiral for months now, I’m sort of out of things to say. The Giants are still leading at least one postseason race right now, which is absolutely stunning, and they’ve used the wild card as a springboard to make the rest of baseball sad before. Still, that was unlikely then and unlikely now, and it’s a fine line between giving up and being realistic. There’s a possibility — a strong possibility — that this team won’t even play in the NL Wild Card Game.
This isn’t fun to think about. We’re all dealing with this in different ways. Doug is posting capybaras, bless him. Me? I’m grateful for the horrible, horrible, ineffective, miserable trade deadline. No sarcasm! Which means I should explain myself before you throw things at your screen.
The deadline has been a disaster so far. It could work out before the end of the season — remember that Cody Ross was an afterthought until Jose Guillen got hurt/pinched — but the early returns are a mess. A list of the Giants’ three acquisitions, by Baseball-Reference’s WAR:
Matt Moore: 0.1
Eduardo Nuñez: 0.0
Will Smith: -0.2
Now, WAR for a small sample isn’t worth much, but the numbers feel right. If the Giants didn’t make a single trade and opted to call up Ty Blach, Kelby Tomlinson, and Steven Okert, they wouldn’t have lost more games than they already have, and they would still have Phil Bickford, Adalberto Mejia, and, sob, Matt Duffy.
You’re waiting for the happy parts.
There’s one! But I’ve forced myself to appreciate at least one part of this season: At least the Giants didn’t give up chunks of their future for a rental.
Your mileage may vary if you think that Matt Moore, Will Smith, and Eduardo Nuñez are objectively bad. Which is a position that is worth debating. Moore has a homer problem, and he can’t throw strikes as a Giant. Smith hasn’t been that great this season, and while it’s tempting to blame that on his knee injury, it’s not like "he’s not bad, he’s just hurt" is ever reassuring. And this is only the second year that Nuñez has been even close to an average hitter, which makes his defensive foibles especially concerning. He has to hit if he’s going to be valuable.
That’s a reasonably cynical evaluation of the Giants’ deadline haul. You’re welcome to it. But I’m erring on the other side, and I’m still comfortable doing so. Moore was excellent at a very young age — one of the best young pitchers in baseball — and I’m fine with attributing his ups and downs to a slower return from Tommy John than the typical pitcher. Smith has been a minor strikeout deity for three years now, which is something the Giants have needed. I’m less thrilled with Nuñez as an everyday third baseman, but I’m pretty convinced that he’ll help just about every major league team more than he hurts it.
And they’re all around for a while. Nuñez has one year left on his deal, but he’s just here to buy time. Smith and Moore are around for three years. If you’re as optimistic — naïve? — as I am, that’s a good thing. Both are 27. Both fix anticipated needs for the next several seasons in an area that are hard to fill in the current market.
This ignores the cost to acquire all of the players, which still makes me grumpy-to-ill. But Matt Duffy ain’t walking through that door, so I’ll have to compartmentalize parts of my evaluation. I don’t like the trades when it comes to what the Giants gave up, but that doesn’t mean that the players in question won’t help the Giants in the present and future. I’m still optimistic about the long-term potential, even while going over the waterfalls of pessimism in the short term.
I would imagine that the Yankees were asking for Duffy to get into the conversation for Aroldis Chapman. Considering the strength of the prospects the Dodgers gave up to get Rich Hill and Josh Reddick, it wouldn’t have been outlandish for the A’s to demand Duffy and maybe Bickford just to get in the conversation. The Giants were dealing from a (self-imposed) farm weakness, and that put them at a serious disadvantage. They most certainly could have given up too much for a rental. They were probably asked to do that several times.
So that’s my optimism. The Giants gave up a veritable fortune to get players who aren’t helping right now. But I still believe the players will help one day, and it consoles me to think that the Giants didn’t make these whopper deals, start the death spiral, and leave us lurching toward an offseason of even more uncertainty.
Again, you’re welcome to your utter and complete misery if you disagree. Can’t blame you. My only advice would be to watch that capybara with the puppies again. Those things are like big, dumb Star Wars creatures that we’ll be able to ride one day when the breeders and geneticists wake the hell up, and I really enjoy them.