The trade deadline is fast approaching, and the Giants have decisions to make. According to our Official MCC Source, everyone except Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford could be traded in the right deal. So what should the Giants do? Here to argue the two sides of the issue are Doug Bruzzone, saying they should sell, and Kenny Kelly, saying they should buy.
The Giants should sell
Well, it’s not like they’re good.
That’s it. That’s the argument. I’m gonna add a bunch of extra words here, but if you want the absolute core of the argument, there it is. This is an okay team. Don’t get me wrong! That’s a huge, huge improvement from last year. But every time they go on a hot streak that puts them a few games above .500 and makes you think, “Oh dang, here they come, my Giants, making an Even Year Run™,” they proceed to lose a bunch of games.
This is because they’re not good.
Do the Giants have some talented players? They sure do! But mostly what they have is a bunch of players who should be better than they’ve been this year. You look at Joe Panik’s .240/.309/.345 line and you think he should be better than that. You look at Evan Longoria’s sub-.300 OBP and think that’s uncharacteristic. You look at Buster Posey’s lack of power or Johnny Cueto being hurt most of the year or Jeff Samardzija’s everything and expect more. But that doesn’t mean it’ll happen. These are big pieces of the team, and even when the injured guys on that list are healthy, that doesn’t mean they’ll get better. It’s likely that this core just doesn’t have it in them to be better than they are right now.
Again, they’re fine. Right now, they’re a .500 team. This goes beyond just the fact that they seem to be attracted to .500 like people who want to be depressed are attracted to Twitter. If you look at Baseball Prospectus’s adjusted standings, their second order and third order Pythagorean win percentages both put the Giants pretty much right at .500. BP’s playoff odds give them a 15% chance of making the playoffs. A good team would look a lot better in both of those areas. The Giants, being an okay team, don’t.
When you think about this year’s Giants, what makes more sense? Is it Option A, where they shop guys like Sam Dyson or Andrew McCutchen, eat some money, and make their farm system a little more interesting? Or is it Option B, where they throw prospects into the wind in a desperate attempt to make fetch happen? There’s risk in both strategies, but there’s more upside (several years of production) and less downside (moderately decreasing that 15% chance of making the playoffs) in the first one.
For the record, I’m not advocating trading Madison Bumgarner. Bryan told me to write this section. He didn’t tell me I had to be an idiot about it.
The Giants should buy
This argument isn’t just driven by sentimentality. There’s some of that there, certainly. I don’t want to see Madison Bumgarner or Brandon Belt or Joe Panik in another uniform. You know if the Giants trade Madison Bumgarner to the Yankees, they’ll make him shave, right? It’d be like turning over an apostate mage to the templars with the intent of making him tranquil. Or to use an analogy that you’ll understand: It’d be like castrating him.
2018 is probably a lost cause. It’s hard to make an argument that the Giants are somehow going to leapfrog the Diamondbacks, Phillies, Braves, and Brewers into a Wild Card spot. Even if they did, the Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Astros are all a tier above them. They could 2006 Cardinals their way through this, but I’m not sure Even Year Bullshirt can contend with Cardinals Devil Magic.
But they can add at this deadline in ways that make them better in 2019 and beyond. Not only that, it would be more effective than dumping salary and reloading with free agency. It would also offer more certainty than stocking up on lottery tickets.
The trade with the Rangers opened up about two million for the Giants to spend. If they want to make a meaningful move, they’ll need to part ways with someone else. The Giants probably can’t add any meaningful pieces at the deadline without dealing away someone like Andrew McCutchen or Jeff Samardzija. Dealing someone away should only be done with the intent to add another who is major league ready.
It’s not as if the haul of prospects the Giants would get in return are guaranteed to turn into anything worthwhile. The White Sox have been rebuilding competently for years. They traded Adam Eaton for Lucas Giolito, and everyone thought the White Sox won that trade.
Giolito was the top pitching prospect in 2016. This year, he has the highest ERA of any starting pitcher, he’s walked as many batters as he’s struck out, he’s been worth -0.8 fWAR. The Giants can trade for all the surefire prospects they want, but there’s no such thing as a surefire prospect.
The Giants could dump salary for a smattering of prospects and use that flexibility to sign free agents in the offseason. The 2018-19 free agent class was supposed to be the greatest assortment of talent we’d ever seen. Writers have been salivating over this free agent class since 2015. But uh, things have changed. Here’s a list of good-to-great 2018 free agents that will be under 30 in 2019:
· Bryce Harper
· Manny Machado
· Kelvin Herrera
· Jeurys Familia
· Nathan Eovaldi
· $300 million contract
· 3B who insists on playing the same position as Crawford
· Starter coming back from Tommy John
Reloading is contingent on getting Harper or Machado then. The Giants could afford both even if they went over the luxury tax threshold. But are either going to even consider San Francisco? Why would a left-handed power hitter ever want to play half his games at AT&T? Why would a guy who very badly wants to play short very badly want to go to a team that says Brandon Crawford is off-limits? Why would either want to go a team where they would be the centerpiece of a not-quite-rebuild when they could go to an already good team?
There are other good players over 30 such as Josh Donaldson, but at that point, the Giants would just be trading their current old players for other old players. Is the difference between Evan Longoria’s declining years and Donaldson’s declining years going to push them over the top? As hilarious as it would be for the Giants to get Clayton Kershaw, this year has gone so poorly that he might not even opt out.
What they should do instead is target players who are under team control or on team friendly deals. They shouldn’t go for rentals like Cole Hamels or Machado. They should go for something like the José Quintana trade last year. Admittedly, this is also the kind of trade the Giants tried to make for Matt Moore. They should just, you know, not do it for the worst pitcher in baseball.
They should be pursuing guys like Adam Conley, Drew Steckenrider, Kyle Barraclough, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Kevin Pillar. The Giants probably don’t have the prospects for someone like Syndergaard. Or DeGrom. Or even Barraclough. But trading for players they can keep is the best way to set the Giants up for the future.