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Just how much work do the Giants have to do this offseason?

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A lot! But you still might be surprised that they have a little bit of a head start.

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Welcome to the first part of the 2017-2018 Giants Offseason Preview Spectacular! I’ve been going back and forth between different slogans for the GOPS, including:

  • The 2017-2018 Giants offseason: At least it’s better than actual baseball
  • The 2017-2018 Giants offseason: None of it matters, but the sun will burn out one day, so none of this really matters
  • The 2017-2018 Giants offseason: I guess so, whatever
  • The 2017-2018 Giants offseason: Stanton? More like Stantoff the Giants

We’ve been workshopping these for weeks, and any of them work, really. The Giants lost 98 games, and it’s hard to see how they’re suddenly going to add 20 or 30 wins to make them interesting again.

Except, hold on. I have a sliver of hope for you. It’s chewy. It might get stuck in your teeth. But it’s something, at least.

Over at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan wrote a post about the Royals that he titled, “I Have Learned Something Bad About the Royals.” Inside, there was bad news about the Royals. If you take (early) projections for the 2018 season and group the teams by their five best players, the Royals are last. If you take those projections and group the teams by their five best players after that, the Royals are last. If you focus on the 10 best players players for each team after their first 10, the Royals are last. The Royals have a lot of work to do.

The Giants, however, are not last. When it comes to their best five projections, they’re 15th in baseball. That’s a benefit of having Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey already. I’m not going to pretend it’s as nice as the Nationals having a head start of Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Trea Turner, but it could be a whole lot worse.

When it comes to their next-best five projections, the Giants are 13th in baseball. They have some complementary players who have a place on a contending team, even if they couldn’t help the team avoid calamity last year. That goes for Mark Melancon, Jeff Samardzija, and Joe Panik, I’m guessing. Again, there’s a base.

When it comes to the 10 players after that — their 11th- through 20th-best players, in other words — the Giants are 29th in baseball. Only the Royals project worse. That’s a bad thing, and it speaks to the depth of the current roster. I don’t know which pitchers and hitters are on that list, but it doesn’t matter. There isn’t going to be a good way to polish this bit of information.

I told you there was good news, though, and it’s this: If you had to choose one of the tiers to improve, boy, have the Giants picked the easiest.

That isn’t to say that the 2017 Giants wouldn’t be much better with Giancarlo Stanton in that first tier, 2021 payroll be damned, because they clearly could. If the Giants could somehow make their best five players better than everyone else’s, that would be an unqualified good thing. The Giants should try to acquire the best players in baseball, in other words. This has been a favored organizational philosophy of mine for a long time.

That’s not going to happen, though. The Giants will need to work around the margins. They’ll need to upgrade their very worst players, like Denard Span, who needs to be limited to platoon duty in left field at best. They’ll need to get improvements from Matt Moore, who wasn’t supposed to be one of the worst starting pitchers in San Francisco history. All the stuff we knew about, sure, but let this be a reminder that the Giants have a lot of the heavy lifting done already. They have a Posey, Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, already Johnny Cueto already. Assuming none of them go through age-related declines or injury issues, which several of them did last year, but let’s take a break from wallowing for a bit.

I’m worried about several of those players, too, but the projection systems aren’t as cynical. Let’s believe in the computers for once.

And if we do that, the Giants’ offseason outlook seems a lot less daunting. Get a third baseman. Improve the outfield defense. Get at least one or two bullpen arms. Build the bench up. Get some help from the minor leagues, if possible. It’s all reasonable, and it even seems worthwhile when you remember that the Giants are doing okay when it comes to the 10 best players on their projected roster. Not great, but okay, which is better than what the Royals have to sort through.

It’s ... going to be hard. Don’t minimize how hard it will be to go from 98 losses to 81 losses, even, much less how hard it will be to build a contending team out of this pile of warped Lego. But if there’s an analog, yes, it’s the 2016 Diamondbacks, who failed miserably but still had players like Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock to build around. It’s not a perfect comparison, but it’s a start.

There you have it. A bunch of words about how you should feel better because the Giants grade out okay in a projection system. And you all know how good those projection systems are. For example, when FanGraphs projected the wins and losses for each team before last season, did you know that all six division winners were among the top seven teams? That’s a remarkable success rate.

Truly, truly remarkable. Just think of it: All six division winners clustered at the top, with just one outlier. Amazing. Don’t think about it too hard or you’ll punch through a window. Focus on the six teams they got right. Wow, science is amazing, and it’s telling you the Giants might be aggressively mediocre with just a few tweaks.

I’ll take aggressively mediocre at this point.