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What if the Giants started the season like they started the second half?

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It would have been a mess. What kind of mess, though?

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for a thought exercise you didn’t ask for! While sitting in a locked bathroom and thinking about how the Giants are on pace to have their worst second half in franchise history, as I’ve been spending most of my mornings lately, I started wondering about the sequencing of the season. '

Specifically, what would have happened if the Giants started the season with a 17-32 record?

If you want, you can tack on the 12-13 April record, too. That would be a 29-45 team at the end of June, a dozen games back in just about every race, and a first-overall-pick countdown on this very website. Because it’s not like they were going to have one of their best stretches in franchise history to catch up.

No, there’s just no way. So the Giants are bad. It’s almost July. What happens?

Matt Duffy sticks around

I’m okay. I’m okay. Give me a second.

The trade is still supremely logical. It will be harder to find a Matt Moore over the next three years than a Matt Duffy. I’m pretty sure of that. It stings, but it still makes so much sense.

There’s no play-for-now, play-for-later deal like this if the Giants are terrible. At least, probably not. Which means the Giants are planning to use [redacted] in the rotation next year. Options!

  1. Sign Jorge De La Rosa
  2. Sign Edinson Volquez
  3. Sign Jeremy Hellickson
  4. Trade for Mike Pelfrey
  5. Trade for Ricky Nolasco

I really can’t figure out what the Giants would do. Maybe there would have been a way to trade Duffy or Joe Panik in the offseason, but ... how is that less painful? The Giants were either going to get a crappy pitcher for too much money or too many prospects, or they were going to trade one of those guys.

I’m not saying I’m all-in on the Matt swap now, but I’m certainly curious what the plan would have been without the deal. Because, remember, in this alternate second-half-first reality, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, and Jeff Samardzija all have ERAs between 3.66 and 4.18, which means it’s not like the Giants would even feel super-confident about the front of their rotation as the All-Star break approached.

It would have been a much, much different flavor of panic.

The free agents get traded

Except, who are the free agents? Let’s see, Santiago Casilla is one, but he’s, uh, struggling in the second half.

Still, he would bring back a prospect. Don’t sleep on just how low the supply for relievers is. Not when the demand is this high.

Sergio Romo would probably bring back some prospects, too. He has 20 strikeouts in 17 innings after the break, and if the Brewers could snooker a top prospect from a misguided team for Will Smith, why, I’m sure Romo would have a market.

Angel Pagan’s second-half numbers aren’t anything special at this point, but he’ll still draw a little interest in the alternate universe. Maybe a C prospect. A B- prospect if we’re lucky.

Gregor Blanco would probably be released before he was traded. The .352 OPS is a point under Johnny Cueto’s.

So that’s the haul: A pretty good prospect for Romo, with a couple of middling prospects for Casilla and Pagan.

Does the entire organizational plan get reworked?

Perhaps! Because right now the Giants are built on a pile of under-30 hitters, some of whom are about to turn 30. Buster Posey has one home run in the second half. Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt have 11 combined home runs. The outfield isn’t hitting enough dingers to make up for it all. If the Giants were this bad in the first half, there might have been a summit that concluded with, "No, we can’t win with singles-and-doubles hitters."

Maybe that gets fixed in the offseason, with a squillion-dollar contract to Yoenis Cespedes. It might be as simple as that. Get Cespedes, trade for Nolasco, and call it an offseason.

But maybe the Giants pull levers and pulleys that extend beyond that. Maybe they shatter the mold and ditch the high-contact/limited-power blueprint. That doesn’t seem like the kind of knee-jerk move the Giants are known for. But look at that second-half record and pretend it’s happening in the beginning of the season. You have to wonder what the endorphins and misery would have made the Giants do.

Conclusion

So which reality do you prefer?

In this scenario, the Giants have Matt Duffy, Phil Bickford, Adalberto Mejia, and Lucius Fox. They also have prospects for Romo, Casilla, and possibly Pagan. But the second-half surge wouldn’t have any reinforcements. Also, if we’re hung up on sequencing, those eight-game winning streaks probably don’t happen if the players are bummed out about being failures who got their friends traded. I’m not too hung up on intangibles, but that scenario seems reasonable enough.

In real life, the Giants are leading the wild card race. They’re fighting with two teams for two spots. They don’t have Duffy. They don’t have those prospects. But they have a shot to moon the baseball universe again. Not a great shot. But a shot.

I think I lean toward the latter. But I honestly can’t decide. I’m in such a pessimism swamp right now, I might take the prospects and Duffy. Sweet, sweet Duffy.

At the same time, the Giants are still in a great spot. The odds are in their favor to play that coin flip of a wild card game. Do you know where they were at this point in 2014? Leading the wild card race by 2½ games. Also, we hated them for blowing the huge lead.

That’s all we have to cling to. And now I’m glad that it happened like this, if it had to happen at all.

Maybe.

This will all be over soon.