Five years ago, Aubrey Huff was the Giants’ starting left fielder on Opening Day. Buster Posey had played in spring games, but no one was sure if he was ever going to be the same following his injury. Tim Lincecum was a four-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award winner coming off a fantastic season, and his career was holdin’ steady. Brandon Crawford was an unproven no-hit, all-glove shortstop who represented the biggest risk the organization had taken in years.
Which is all to say the obvious: A lot can change for a baseball team in five years. It’ll mess you up just thinking about it. Our job today is to guess what the Giants will look like in five years, and there’s absolutely no way it will be correct. But we can at least guess at a few things.
Assumption #1: The Giants will still be rich
If the team becomes lousy, the fans will stop selling AT&T Park out every night. If the fans stop selling AT&T Park out every night, the Giants might cut payroll. If the Giants cut payroll, the team might stay lousy. If the team stays lousy, the fans will ...
So, yes, there’s a way to give-a-mouse-a-cupcake your way to the baseball apocalypse. But, no, I’m not going to predict it. The brand the team has built over the last few years is the kind of brand that will survive a few down seasons. The Giants play in perhaps the best park in baseball, in one of the wealthiest areas of the country, and they’ve injected championship serum into all of our brains. It’ll take more than a few 90-loss seasons for the Giants to return to the days of the mid-’00s, much less the Candlestick days.
As such, they’ll be spending. It’s up to them whether that means spending on Johnny Cuetos or Aarons Rowand.
Assumption #2: The Giants’ stars of today won’t be so good in five years (if they’re even on the team)
Stupid decaying cells. At this point, though, it’s not even being cynical to point this out. Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford will be 35. Brandon Belt will be 34. Hunter Pence will be almost 40. Madison Bumgarner will still be younger than Jeff Samardzija was when the Giants signed him, but who knows what his contract will look like? And if you need a reminder that five years is a long time in pitcher years, refer to the Tim Lincecum sentence from the opening paragraph.
We’re going to look back at the 2017 team and think things like, “If only they knew, man. If only they knew.”
Assumption #3: The Giants should have room in their payroll:
A list of Giants who will be around in 2021:
- Buster Posey, $21.4 million
- Brandon Belt, $16 million
- Brandon Crawford, $15.2 million
That’s assuming Johnny Cueto opts out, which he almost certainly will. The next season, though? There isn’t anyone currently under contract for 2022.
It’s important to note, too, that Joe Panik is the only key cog in the lineup who’s scheduled to be a free agent before then, so it’s not like the Giants will have a litany of decisions to make before then, like they did with Posey, Belt, and Crawford over the last couple years.
Now, I’m expecting them to spend, spend, spend on some of their own free agents, like Bumgarner and Cueto, so it’s certainly possible that every last dollar will be spoken for. I’m thinking they’ll have a little bit of freedom, though, not unlike the offseason that followed the 2015 season, where they spent a lot of money on two starting pitchers, and they got to pick and choose from several options.
Assumption #4: We’ll be very attached to a player who is currently in the minor leagues
You think it’s a safe assumption, but it really isn’t. The Giants have been excellent at presenting a cavalcade of fan favorites over the last decade, from Pablo Sandoval to Matt Duffy, but there are certainly no guarantees that they’ll repeat this feat. Droughts can last decades.
Still, I’ll take a wild swing and suggest that at least two of the hitters in the system will become familiar faces, as well as at least one starter. Also, there will be at least one player in college right now who is a part of the Giants’ five-year plan, even if we don’t know it yet.
With the assumptions out of the way, let’s look at the starting lineup from 2012 and see what’s happened to it.
- Buster Posey (still here)
- Brandon Belt (still here)
- Marco Scutaro (retired)
- Brandon Crawford (still here)
- Pablo Sandoval (Red Sox)
- Melky Cabrera (White Sox)
- Angel Pagan (free agent)
- Nate Schierholtz (free agent)
- Tim Lincecum (free agent)
- Matt Cain (still here)
- Ryan Vogelsong (twins)
- Barry Zito (retired)
- Madison Bumgarner (still here)
Of the bullpen, just George Kontos remains.
It’s worth noting that of those players, only Vogelsong, Pagan, Scutaro, and Zito were over 30, so it’s not surprising that five of them stuck around. With just Belt, Bumgarner, and Panik as the key cogs under 30 right now, I’d wager the list will be a lot different, even by shifting-baseball-landscape standards.
But it’s no fun if you don’t guess.
The 2022 Giants
C - Buster Posey
1B - Brandon Belt
2B - Christian Arroyo
SS - (random draft prospect)
3B - Jae Gyun Hwang (hell yes)
LF - Bryan Reynolds
CF - Steven Duggar
RF - Christian Yelich
SP - Madison Bumgarner
SP - Tyler Beede
SP (random draft or international prospect)
SP (random draft or international prospect)|
SP - Mat Latos
Just making sue you’re awake. But, sure, that would be a total Giants move in about five years, in the tradition of Steve Finley and Orel Hershiser.
CL - Reyes Moronta
It was tempting to fill the bullpen out right now, but we don’t even know what the bullpen is going to look like by this March, much less five years from now.
Now, I don’t know why Crawford is off this fake team, but you can swap with Belt if you want. Or keep both. Heck, it’s your fake payroll. But I’m guessing that in five years, the roster will be fairly unrecognizable.
The important part is that it will all make sense at the time, because it will be patched together piece by piece over five years. The Giants of 2017 look radically different from the Giants from 2012, but they still have more familiar faces from back then than most teams do. The organization has had a sense of a continuity that some teams will go without for a decade or three.
That’s probably going to go away, if only because it will for every other team, too. In five years, the roster will be totally different. All we know is that the Giants will still be a) playing in a fantastic ballpark, b) relatively rich, and c) looking for the next generation of under-30 cornerstones.
And that we’ll laugh at this post. Oh, how we’ll laugh.