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The one remaining hope for the Giants in the second half

There are a lot of things that I want to go right for the Giants. Here’s the biggest one.

San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Alex Pavlovic recently wrote about the reasonable goals the Giants should have in the second half. This was the idea I was going to write about, and he’ll be hearing from my lawyer, Ty Cobb. But while I was bummed that I would have to find a new idea, I realized something: Most of my selections for the reasonable goals would have fallen under one umbrella.

Start with the obvious: The Giants are not going to rebuild. They aren’t going to tear the team down to the studs and scrape up the prospects, settling in for a multiple 100-loss seasons like the Astros a couple years ago. While it’s hard to argue that the Astros didn’t do the right thing, this isn’t a team that’s set up to put up a big, flashing sign of “WE’RE TRYING TO SUCK, STAY AWAY.” It wouldn’t make fiscal sense.

This means the Giants are going to reload and try again next year. Don’t act so shocked. This is so very Giants. And I would make fun of them, but the same strategy worked before, albeit after a far less depressing season. I think the exact approach is highly dependent on what happens at the deadline (does another team take Denard Span if the Giants throw in money? Is Johnny Cueto still here? What about Brandon Belt?), but I’ll start with the assumption that Eduardo Nuñez is gone, along with a reliever or two. That’s it. That’s the fire sale.

That leaves the Giants with a core of this going into next season:

C - Posey
1B - Belt
2B - Panik
SS - Crawford
3B - ?
LF - ?
CF - ?
RF - Pence

SP - Bumgarner
SP - Samardzija
SP - Moore
SP - Blach
SP - ?

That’s the starting point for the Giants in their hopes to build a contending team next year. While we think Austin Slater certainly did enough to stick around, we won’t know for sure. While Christian Arroyo had a shot to jump back in the conversation at third base, he probably won’t be the favorite. While Denard Span might get the chance to keep playing center, there’s a chance the Giants want a defensive upgrade. And we don’t know who will take Johnny Cueto’s place.

The one remaining home you should have for the Giants next year is for this core to seem like a half-plausible contender. It’s going to be the strategy, so you’d better hope the second half helps it make sense. And while it might seem like I’m being snarky or dismissive, I promise that’s not the case. Here, let me show you what that core looks like from the outside:

  • Posey is awesome this year
  • Belt has been fine this year and even better in previous years
  • Panik has been fine this year and even better in previous years
  • Crawford has been one of the best shortstops in baseball for years now, and this season is totally out of character
  • Pence is the hardest to be the optimistic about because of his age, but a strong second half would make the decision to stick with him easy
  • Bumgarner is Bumgarner
  • Samardzija has been a strikeout freak this year, and his control is something new and encouraging
  • Moore is far more likely to be a productive pitcher than the worst pitcher in baseball, at least based on his career
  • Blach is fine for a the back of a rotation

It’s not completely unhinged to think that the players who have disappointed this year will return to their career norms. And if that happens, this core would actually make sense. Sign or trade for a starter here, trust in a young outfielder there, maybe upgrade the defense in the outfield to match the stellar defense in the infield. It would make sense.

There are a lot of ways in which that core wouldn’t make sense, though. Crawford continues to struggle. Moore continues to be ruinous. Bumgarner can’t shake off the rust. There are no young players who assert themselves into next season’s plans. If that happens, the Giants’ strategy will still be to try, try, try again. And you’ll spend the whole offseason wondering why.

But if Moore has a much better second half, if Samardzija’s ERA matches his FIP, if Crawford reclaims his stroke, if someone decides to go off like Brian Dozier last year, then the offseason will be filled with optimism. Potentially dumb optimism, of course, but it would be an offseason worth following.

So that’s the only hope I have for the second half. You know the Giants are going to try again, with most of the same players who helped them fail this year. For the next three months, then, let’s hope that those players are substantially improved. The formerly good players need to be good again. The young players need to develop. The injury cases need to prove they’re healthy. And if they can do all that, maybe, just maybe, it won’t seem so silly for the Giants to jump back into the lake in the offseason.

That’s it, then. Hope that the Giants play well enough to inspire at least a little confidence. Because even if they lose their way to the first-overall pick, they’re still going to reload, not rebuild. And that would be a scary thing indeed.