It’s August, and the Giants are involved in Justin Upton rumors, which made some folks scratch their heads. There are a lot of reasons why the rumor doesn’t make sense, and I would be flabbergasted if the Giants made a deal before the end of the offseason. The teams don’t have to worry about the August 31 deadline because the Giants aren’t exactly worried about making sure Upton is eligible for the postseason, but, still, it’s not going to happen.
The idea of the Giants being interested in Upton, though? Totally, completely believable. He’ll be expensive, and he just turned 30, but that’s not something they should worry about a whole lot. The reason for this is the Giants are absolutely, totally hosed in several different ways. They have no choice but to reload with a vengeance.
First, consider the players who will be under contract next year and are unlikely to be traded. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Brandon Crawford are different combinations of expensive and valuable, and only Bumgarner and maybe Posey would bring back a Chris Sale-like package of top prospects. The Giants aren’t trading them.
Second, think of the players the Giants would actually consider trading in the right deal. Brandon Belt isn’t cheap, and his health is a concern. Joe Panik is cheap, but he hasn’t been an above-average hitter for two seasons, and the second-base market is saturated. Hunter Strickland is fine, but he’s limited because of his struggles against left-handers. Jeff Samardzija cleared waivers, but the Giants would have to pay his salary down, and they wouldn’t get prospects that would excite you. Matt Moore’s value is shot. Mark Melancon would need to be traded along with a sack containing $15 million or so, I’m guessing, and that doesn’t sound like something the Giants will be interested in. None of them are bringing back franchise cornerstones.
Third, think of the players the Giants probably can’t trade, even if they wanted to. This is the spot with Denard Span and Hunter Pence. Unless the Giants pay about 75 percent or more of those deals, they’re not going to interest anyone.
It would be possible for the Giants to storm into the offseason and trade Panik, Belt, Melancon, Samardzija, Moore, Strickland, Sam Dyson, Span, and Pence, getting maybe a couple of top-100 prospects, while paying scores of millions for contracts of the more expensive players. The Giants would be left with a barren roster, a little money to spend on veterans like the ones they just ditched, and a couple of top-100 prospects. They would be even worse, with no guarantees of getting better.
Fourth, the Giants’ farm system is in a bad way. For every prospect like Chris Shaw or Ryder Jones, who has become more interesting and valuable, there are seemingly five whose stock has gone way down. While I’d never bet against a young player breaking through and surprising the team (like Austin Slater this year), there isn’t a cavalry of 21-year-old superstars charging over the hill to revamp the entire team.
There are three choices, really.
- Blow most of the team up for a handful of prospects who won’t excite you or the fans who pay for tickets.
- Blow everything up, including Bumgarner and Posey, to get some prospects who will excite you, while crushing the fans who pay for tickets.
- Hope that all of the good baseball players are good again, pretend that 2017 never happened, and add veterans to the team because rebuilding isn’t an option.
Three is what the Giants will do. The more I look at it, the more I’m convinced that it’s the only thing they can do. This isn’t me being a homer, either, because I came to the same conclusion with the Angels last year.
There isn't a damned thing the Angels can do other than hope for assorted miracles until the good young pitchers heal.
And then I praised them for their semi-creative offseason, even though it was just about the only thing they could do.
Rebuilding was out of the question because they still had Trout, and there’s no sense in not building around him. Reloading would be hard because the farm system was empty and the budget was stretched. The Angels needed to make quiet, smart moves that didn’t cost a lot of money, and they needed to get their starting pitchers healthy. Good luck with that.
Now the Angels are contending. They’re probably not very good, but they’re playing meaningful games. The difference between the two teams is that the Angels had far more roster holes to fill, which meant they had to spread their limited money around. The Giants will have a lot of spots that are already spoken for, with just a couple outfield spots, maybe third base, maybe a rotation spot, and maybe a bullpen job available. Of all those, the outfield is the most pressing need, and the Giants can concentrate whatever spending power they have left on one or two positions.
Say, a right-handed hitting outfielder.
Even if he’s expensive.
Because if the Giants don’t spend money on an over-30 luxury this offseason, guess what? They’ll still have a roster filled with untradeable, expensive veterans and a farm system in disrepair. Adding one more untradeable expensive veteran isn’t going to delay a rebuilding timetable. It’ll just add another one to the pile and force the Giants to spend more money to confirm what we’ve suspected for a while. It won’t delay anything; it will just be more expensive.
This is the purest use of the it’s-not-my-money philosophy I’ve seen in a while. You’re right to be worried about the Giants’ ability to build a stable roster in 2019 and 2020 and 2021. But you’ll be worried about that even if they get someone on an expensive four-year contract this winter, too.
Yeah. It’s not my money. If “Operation Everybody Just Play Better, Dammit” doesn’t work, the Giants are screwed. If they abandon it to accumulate prospects, they won’t actually accumulate that many prospects, which means they’re screwed. They don’t have a lot of help coming from the farm, which means they’re screwed.
But if Operation Everybody Just Play Better, Dammit actually works, they won’t be screwed. It’s their only chance for the near future. And as long as they’re forced into trying it, they might as well give it their best, most expensive shot. I don’t think a Justin Upton trade is likely, but a pursuit of Upton most certainly is.
Also, Jay Bruce, who fits this team like a long snapper. But we’ll get to that problem when the first rumor falls from the sky this winter. Until then, the Giants are interested in an expensive 30-year-old who would help them win, and it’s not as unreasonable as you might think. Even if the team is screwed in almost every realistic scenario.