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The Giants are extremely unlikely to have a fire sale at the trade deadline

It’s bad, but it’ll need to get so much worse to say goodbye to Johnny Cueto in July.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies
“Well, little friend, I guess this is goodbye.”
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 San Francisco Giants are, to this point, one of the very worst baseball teams in baseball. They’re having one of their worst stretches in the Buster Posey era, both on and off the field, and they’re incredibly difficult to watch on a voluntary basis. If you saw me on the street and asked, “Say, Grant, are the Giants doing well?”, I would look you right in the eyes and respond, “No, friend, I can’t say they are.”

Andrew Baggarly, tolerator of the program, has some thoughts about this year’s Giants, and he presented them in an article titled ...

Could tanking this season be wisest course for Giants?

I want to yell at him for this suggestion, except I’ve had several readers tweet at me and send emails with the same sentiment. People are wondering if the Giants could wave the white flag and focus on next season, if not the longer term. That’s what a supremely disappointing start will do to folks, and I can’t blame them. Look for excitement wherever you can find it, really.

However, I’m here to throw cold water on these thoughts. And I’m going to use the power of ~anecdotes~ to do it.

The year was 2006, and the Giants were bad. They were bad the year before, and they were going to be bad for the two following years. They were four games under .500 at the trade deadline in ‘06, and they were in the middle of a nine-game losing streak. The only ray of hope was that the rest of the National League West was struggling, too, so they were just 4½ games back, but they were as bad as a team with Barry Bonds could be.

They had an ace, Jason Schmidt, who was having a great season. He was a free agent after the year. Rather than trade him and get one or two of the best prospects in baseball — Brandon Wood probably was too much, but I could see the A’s giving up Daric Barton — the Giants held onto Schmidt, hoping to sign him in the offseason and contend in 2007.

Schmidt signed with the Dodgers. The Giants did not contend in 2007.

If that’s too far in the past for you, or if you empathize with a team going for it when they’re 4½ games back, there is a more recent precedent.

The year was 2013, and the Giants were bad. When the trade deadline came around, they were 12 games under .500 and 10 games out of first. They couldn’t hit, they were in last place, and they couldn’t hit. The championship vibes were gone, and the team was a mess.

They had an outfielder, Hunter Pence, who wasn’t having a great season, but he was highly regarded, and he was a free agent after the year. They had Tim Lincecum, who wasn’t having a great season, but he was striking out nearly 10 batters for every nine innings pitched, and teams were reportedly interested in him as a reliever. He was also a free agent.

There were articles like this:

Ideally, the Giants would like to keep three of their potential free agents — right fielder Hunter Pence, right-hander Tim Lincecum and left-handed reliever Javier Lopez. But at this point, club officials feel they must listen to any reasonable proposal, sources say.

It was so natural, so neo-baseball for a struggling team to ditch all of their free agents and start over. The Giants were going to trade Pence, Lincecum, and Lopez, rebuild a lackluster farm system, and contend another day.

The Giants held on to all three before re-signing them to new contracts. They won the World Series the next year, and I’m not entirely sure how.

Look, I’m trying stay optimistic, but IT’S GETTING MORE AND MORE DIFFICULT AS THE DAYS GO ON. There’s a chance the Giants will be interested in prospects more than veterans this July. These two seasons, nearly a decade apart, inform how the Giants will look at the 2017 deadline if the team is still lousy.

My guess is that they would trade Eduardo Nuñez without much thought, considering that Christian Arroyo is likely to play third base next year. Even if it isn’t Arroyo, it’s hard to see the Giants planning long-term for Nuñez, who is going to be 30 in a couple months.

However, that wouldn’t bring an exciting return. A worthwhile return, sure, but nothing that should get you excited about selling in April.

That brings us to Johnny Cueto, who would bring a huge return. At least a top-50 prospect, if not top-25. Even though he would be a rental, he would bring the Arroyos and Beedes from other organizations, and more Arroyos and Beedes would be a very good thing.

Except, what did we learn about 2006 and 2013? The Giants value their own free agents in the hand more than the prospects in the bush, and they have a championship to support this worldview. Unless Cueto explicitly told them, “Not interested, this place smells like crab meat and seal fur,” there is almost no way they would give up the exclusive negotiating window they would have with him. We know this because they didn’t deal Schmidt away, just like they didn’t deal Pence, Lincecum, and Lopez.

Or, more simply: The idea of Johnny Cueto on the 2018 Giants is far more important to the organization than the idea of Jason Groome on the 2022 Giants. This is how they’ve acted in previous selling situations. This is how they would probably act this year, and it would be deflating to anyone looking for a prospect haul. It would take multiple dirt bikes for the Giants to consider rebuilding in a traditional sense.

Regardless, the Dodgers are coming into town, so here comes the winning streak, right? We’ll look back at these suggestions of selling and laugh. It’s still early, ha ha! Who’s with me?

C’mon, who’s with me?

Yeah, me neither, so stay tuned. Pretty sure we shouldn’t get delusions of deadline grandeur, though. Not yet.