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The Giants should consider trading a starter

The Giants’ young starters have been a major strength. They also have the most trade value

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Since June 1, the Giants have led the majors in ERA. Since June 1, the Giants are 46-50. While the Giants have been one of the best pitching staffs for a majority of the season, they’ve been one of the very worst offenses for almost all of it.

Apologies to the 334 of you who voted for a rebuild, but the front office doesn’t want to go into a rebuild especially when Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean are in the final years of their contracts. Assuming everyone keeps their job, the front office is going to try to win baseball games in 2019.

If the Giants are to win baseball games in 2019, they’ll need to score more runs. That much is obvious. What isn’t obvious is how they’re going to do that.

Signing Bryce Harper would fix a lot of those problems. If he’s not dingin’, he’s walkin’ and the Giants could sure use a lot more dingers and walks especially from the outfield. But let’s say, hypothetically, Harper doesn’t want to come to a bad team that plays in a park designed to murder left-handed power hitters. What if, hypothetically, there isn’t another good free agent outfielder under the age of 31? What if the only free agent infielder available under 30 will cost as much as, if not more than, Harper? What then?

Free agency is broken, and the Giants are boned because they did player-friendly things like sign their young players to extensions instead of manipulating their service time and trading them the second they turn 29 like a smart team would have.

To revitalize the offense, the Giants will have to deal from their strength: pitching. The obvious move would be to trade Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is the vet in the last year of his deal. His peripherals are declining, but he has the pedigree. The Giants could still get a top-100 guy for Bumgarner.

But dealing Bumgarner would be a long-term move. Sabean and Evans aren’t guaranteed to be with the organization beyond 2019. They need a way to get players who are ready to contribute now without trading away a fan-favorite who is still the best starter on the team. They could get creative and deal one of their controllable starting pitchers for another team’s controllable outfielder.

The Giants have made this sort of move before. They traded Matt Duffy, a major league caliber bat, for Matt Moore, a controllable starter. This time, they just need to do it in reverse.

Chris Stratton, Andrew Suárez, and Dereck Rodríguez are all under control for a while and have shown themselves to be effective at the major league level. Who would be interested in a controllable starter? Well, just about everyone. Stratton could entice teams with his spin rate. A team might be intrigued by Suárez’s groundball rate. There might be a pitching coach out there who’s confident he can get more strikeouts out of Rodríguez.

The Cubs, for instance, have a glut of outfielders that will only get gluttier when they sign Bryce Harper. The Cubs may be willing to part with Ian Happ or Albert Almora Jr. or an infielder like Tommy LaStella for a pitcher and a raffle ticket.

The Brewers also have an over-crowded outfield and much more question marks in their rotation than the Cubs. Domingo Santana is coming off a down-year and he’s entering arbitration. The Giants could probably get him and prospects for one of their pitchers. The Brewers don’t need him. They sent him to the minors because they didn’t have room for him. They’ve been using him as a pinch hitter. His 93 wRC+ this year would be fifth on the Giants.

Domingo Santana or Ian Happ aren’t going to turn the 2019 Giants into a good offensive team by themselves. I’m not even sure Bryce Harper could do that. But one of them, or someone like them, would be a start.

The Giants would be making their rotation worse. Dealing away a young starter when they’ll be without Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija’s health is in question would be a bit of a gamble. But this doesn’t have to be a zero-sum move. Stratton, Suárez, and Rodríguez aren’t Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner. They’re nice, complimentary pieces, and contending teams would love to have them. They’re not pitchers to build around. They’ve helped the Giants be one of the better pitching staffs in the majors, but they haven’t overcome the abysmal offense. Better to deal one of them and help the offense be less abysmal.