The San Francisco Giants record of 49-46 is hardly inspiring. But, for a team that won their 49th game on August 17th a season ago, 49-46 is far from dismal.
But 49-46 is more than just about the narratives of mediocrity; it’s about the reality of the standings. The Giants are a mere three games behind first place in the NL West. They’re four games behind a wild-card spot.
Fangraphs gives them a 16.9% chance of playing at least 163 games, and that feels about right.
16.9 is a funny number, and not just because the latter two-thirds is nice. It’s a funny number because, used as a percentage, it represents an odd gray area where something is heavily favored to not happen, but if it did happen, no one would blink an eye. It’s virtually identical to the odds that you’ll roll a 6 when you roll a die. You don’t expect it, but you don’t gasp and scream and feel some kind of way when it does happen.
Which is to say this: the Giants are unlikely to make the postseason, but no one should be shocked if they do.
Which puts them in a weird place as they approach the trade deadline. Do they run with that 16.9%? Or do they instead rest on the 83.1% odds of missing the postseason?
It’s unclear what the Giants will do. On the one hand, there have been rumors that the stars are available for the right offer. On the other hand, the team recently made a salary dump, and is reportedly trying to ship Jeff Samardzija’s contract - signs that they may be trying to clear space for a trade deadline addition.
There’s no right answer. Spend 20 seconds in the comment sections of any article on this website, and you’ll quickly discover that there are myriad logical arguments in favor of selling, and an equal number in favor of buying. I’m not here to suggest one or the other.
The important thing, as is so often the case in life, is to not half-ass it.
In addition to the big names such as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, teams have certainly inquired with the Giants about Gorkys Hernandez, Tony Watson, and Nick Hundley. Joe Panik - down year aside - is surely piquing interest, and we know that Brandons Crawford and Belt are on many team’s radars. Andrew McCutchen, a rental, is a prime trade target for any team with postseason aspirations.
If the Giants trade one, they should trade them all. The team is too old, too mediocre, and too cash-strapped to send off McCutchen and Watson for a few prospects, dust off their shoulders, and come back in 2019 with a vengeance.
Should the first domino fall, the team should immediately start fielding offers for Bumgarner, Crawford, Belt, and, yes, Posey. What good can come of punting this year’s odds just to begin next year with the same team and a mildly-improved farm?
They can go all-in on a rebuild. Or they can take their 16.9% lottery ticket, explore additions, hope to catch a whiff of some even-year BS, and take a fringe-playoff team into this winter’s Bryce Harper sweepstakes.
They just can’t reside somewhere in between.