As Kenny pointed out yesterday, the Giants have been only mildly impacted by injuries this season from a performance standpoint and they’re right in the middle of the pack in terms of volume of injuries. Every team deals with injuries every season and so it’s, rightfully, not considered an “excuse” when it comes to teams falling short of expectations.
Since they were one of the worst teams in professional sports last season, the expectations coming into 2018 were very low — and they managed to exceed them. The Giants are capably showing that they have a roster of human beings who have a general idea of how to play baseball. They have assembled a watchable product that will occasionally entertain you — they have met the maximum goal of every sports franchise.
Baseball allows roster expansion at the end of every season that gives teams a chance to rest players and give some prospects a chance to play against major league competition. Usually, that involves activating players already on the 40-man roster (and, therefore, already getting paid the major league minimum salary), and sometimes, that can mean adding players to that 40-man roster to pay them a month of the major league minimum, usually as a reward for stellar prospects and sometimes to cover injuries.
The Giants are in a “neutralized position” — their salary commitments and desire to stay beneath the competitive balance tax (CBT) line has made the season feel like they shifted the car in neutral just before The Incredible Hulk ripped out the gear shifter. They really are stuck. They can’t afford any kindly “cups of coffee” for a deserving Chris Shaw —
and given the nebulous state of the CBT calculations (they’re more or less at the mercy of however Major League Baseball decides to calculate salary and they won’t know the answer until year’s end) they can’t even put themselves in the mindset of making roster moves —
They can comfortably keep doing what they’re doing with the taxi squad of Chase d’Arnaud, Kelby Tomlinson, Ryder Jones, and Austin Slater and they can even bring Mac Williamson back into the mix if necessary. But what happens if the Diamondbacks, in a show of grit, just start plunking Giants hitters because they feel like it?
What if Torey Luvollo himself pile drives Buster Posey into home plate because Buster Posey was too slow to run away from him? What if Zack Greinke goes HAL-9000 on Nick Hundley because pitch framing is cheating and cheating goes against Greinke’s programming? The only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Aramis Garcia. Do the Giants wing it for the last two months of the season with one catcher or do they call up Trevor Brown?
What happens when the Giants decide Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez have pitched enough innings? The only starters remaining on the 40-man are Jeff Samardzija, Chase Johnson, and Tyler Beede (who’s been converted to a reliever). I want the Giants to achieve their dream of resetting their tax penalty so they can explore all the non-Bryce Harper options in free agency, but I also want to see just how weird it can get.
As panicky as I sound, the Giants look like they’re setup to absorb a lot of catastrophe, roster-wise. They’ve very likely already placed Sam Dyson on waivers to get the ball rolling on the waiver process, and if they haven’t, then they’re probably timing it so that they can just let him go to the claiming team (he’s owed about $1.5 million the rest of the season). That’s fine, but what’s disappointing is that we’re more likely to see Andrew McCutchen claimed by the Dodgers or A’s than a Chris Shaw or Shaun Anderson callup, or even a farewell week for Gregor Blanco. In a season where we just have to take what we can get, those meager desires still feel very reasonable.