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Is the Giants’ roster worth improving?

Or: don’t give up the future for the present when the present is garbage

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The Giants traded for Evan Longoria on Wednesday, with the main piece going to Tampa being Christian Arroyo, and now they’re better. The 2018 Giants roster has almost certainly improved. Grant wrote a whole article about it just yesterday. What this article presupposes is: Who gives a shit?

Before we get started, it’s definitely not impossible that not only will Longoria be great this year, but the rest of the roster will rebound, the Giants will actually contend, and I’ll look like an idiot for writing this article. That would be lovely. Please do that, Giants. Make me look stupid. I will write a whole follow up article about how stupid I am. It’s kinda win-win for me because either I’m right or I get a free article idea. This is why I’m paid the big bucks.

The original title of this article was “Giants acquire good talking point for season ticket holders,” which, while punchy and memorable (very important!), isn’t entirely accurate. Longoria is a good player, and the 2018 Giants will be better for having him. He does do what the Giants are looking for, which is to improve the team in 2018. And there’s some logic in saying that since a rosterpocalypse is coming down the road, when more than half the payroll is going to be taken up by large, backloaded contracts to a few (presumably) declining mid-30s players, you might as well push all your chips into the middle and take your last shot now.

But what if the rosterpocalypse is already here? What the Giants had the worst record in the majors last year because they were the worst team in the majors last year? What if there is no fixing this roster? Because when you lose 98 games, which is a lot of games to lose in one year, that’s actually a really clear sign about the talent level on your team. So maybe trading Christian Arroyo to improve the 2018 roster is throwing good money after bad. It’s mortgaging your house to buy Bitcoin.

That’s an especially effective metaphor because older readers aren’t 100% sure what Bitcoin is and younger readers aren’t 100% sure what owning a house is.

Here are the things that need to happen for the Giants to be a good team next year: Buster Posey needs to figure out how to hit for power in the second half; Brandon Belt needs to come back whole from his concussion; Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford have to rebound from disappointing 2017 seasons; the team has to find three major league caliber outfielders out of Hunter Pence, the big ticket free agent they’ll sign, whatever center fielder they scrounge up, and a gaggle of minor leaguers who spent all of 2017 not proving themselves; Madison Bumgarner needs to pitch a full season where he’s more effective than he was in 2017; Johnny Cueto needs to not only not get blisters but vastly improve on the way he pitched in 2017 even when he got over the blister problem; Jeff Samardzija needs to stop giving up so many homers; two young starters have to step up and pitch like decent major leaguers for a whole season; and the team needs huge improvements from just about every spot in the bullpen. That’s all before we get to betting on Longoria both staying healthy and performing like the player he was a few years ago instead of his 2017 being characteristic of the player he is now.

It’s every position. Every position needs to improve, and even if that happens, the team will still be fighting for a wild card spot because the Dodgers are so far ahead of them. You can quibble if you want and say that really, they could afford for 3 of those things to not happen and still be a playoff contender, but even if everything goes right, this is a team with a razor thin margin of error, and it’s pretty ridiculous to assume that everything will go right. There are injuries. There are surprise players on other teams who Giants pitching has absolutely no way to get out. One of these years, Buster Posey’s going to be an All-Star but in that Derek Jeter way where you’re like, “This is really for what he did a few years ago but I’ll take it.” That’s all coming.

And none of it happening this year is what the Giants are betting on. That’s what they’re giving up resources for. That’s what they’re losing Christian Arroyo (and Stephen Woods and Matt Krook) for, and that’s what they’re going to lose a bunch of money for when they overpay Jay Bruce (or whoever) to play the outfield. No, Arroyo is not a sure thing. But betting on him to be cheap and good when Johnny Cueto’s in Year 5 of his deal is a much smarter bet than betting on Evan Longoria to be good tomorrow.

One option has a good shot of helping the Giants out of their impending years long darkness. The other one’s a flashlight with batteries you think you replaced in 2012. Even if you’re right, how much does it really help you?