With no hope of making the playoffs and the team’s star power either on the disabled list or injured to the point of ineffectiveness, you’d be forgiven for writing off the rest of 2018. I and the rest of the dedicated staff here at McCovey Chronicles will press on and cover the rest of the season, but you can feel free to dream big about the offseason and 2019.
But... before you go wild calling into KNBR or arguing with your friends and foes on message boards, here’s a little bit of information you can use to be more informed as you dominate with your logic and passion...
This will be an overview of the Giants’ offensive situation going into the offseason and a quick guide on the impact moving certain players might have. This will by no means be a comprehensive guide — as the headline says, this is a primer, and it would be counterproductive for us to blow it out before free agency has even begun — but it’ll be a quick and dirty analysis to give you a better, more informed view of the situation.
If you don’t want to read it all, just know that the situation doesn’t seem all that great, but the reality might actually be a little bit better.
Under contract for 2019
Projected starting lineup (with players under contract)
C - Buster Posey
1B - Brandon Belt
2B - Alen Hanson
SS - Brandon Crawford
3B - Evan Longoria
LF - Austin Slater
CF - Steven Duggar
RF - Gorkys Hernandez
I didn’t include Joe Panik in the starting lineup projection because of his arbitration status and possibility that the Giants could trade or non-tender him as a result of that status. They could just as easily move a player under contract, but for now, it’s easier to work with certainties, and right now, the only certainty about those arbitration players is that they’re arbitration eligible.
If you look at MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 rankings for the Giants, you will see there are many other position players in the top half of the system. Bart and Ramos are no brainers, but neither are likely to see any big league action next season. If they do, it’ll likely be as call-ups next September. Given their age and relative experience, it definitely feels like the Giants have their fingers crossed for either or both to be impact players beginning in 2020. That’s not quite the same situation for the other prospects (the Marco Lucianos and Sandro Fabians of the world) — in the other cases, they’re simply too young (under 23).
So, I put Avelino here because he’s set to be a minor league free agent after the season — the same situation Dereck Rodriguez faced with the Twins this past offsason — and it’s very likely the Giants will retain their control over him by adding him to their 40-man roster, the only way to keep him from reaching minor league free agency. There’s a nonzero chance they could add him to the 40-man this season (Steven Duggar could be moved to the 60-day DL to clear a spot for him, for instance) to get a look. In any case, he’s a prospect and given the likelihood of a call-up or 40-man spot, has to be considered “top”.
Tentative trade value
You can come up with your own trade scenarios involving the fringe players on the roster. This section will focus on the “core four” of the team’s lineup. Given Brian Sabean’s public comments about the futility of the offense, it’s highly unlikely that he and Bobby Evans will look at this bunch and consider them worthy of building around. More likely, they will seek out better players and reclassify these four as “supporting players”.
At least, that’s what a progressive, smart club would do.
That doesn’t mean this bunch is without value. Quite the contrary. Buster Posey — assuming his hip surgery restores his catching ability — remains an elite defensive catcher and pitch framer. Brandon Crawford is an All-Star, Gold Glove shortstop. Brandon Belt can pick it at first base and draw walks. Evan Longoria has played a lot of games.
It won’t be easy to trade any of these players even if you think your KNBR call is unimpeachable. Hopefully, you will have considered all the angles of moving one of these players. Everything below is just facts. It’s up to you to decide what to do with them.
Position: Starting Catcher
Trade limitations: Face of the franchise. Full no-trade clause. 3 years, $69,533,334 guaranteed (guarantee includes $3 million buyout in what would be 4th year, a team option). Recovering from hip surgery. Three-year WAR: 10.1
Trade value: Shed competitive balance tax figure of $18.56 million.
Trade loss: The Giants would lose their face of the franchise, starting catcher, one of the top defensive catchers in baseball, and 3-4 WAR player (when healthy).
Is a trade even possible? Nick Carfardo of the Boston Globe reported on August 25th that both the Braves and the Red Sox checked in on Buster Posey’s availability. Atlanta seems like a team Buster Posey would be more willing to waive his no trade for, but given the surgery, the Braves might have lost all interest or be in a holding pattern to see how some of 2019 plays out.
Position: Starting First Baseman
Trade limitations: 10-team no trade clause. 3-years, $51,600,000 guaranteed. Significant injury history over the past five seasons. Will be 31 years old next April. Three-year WAR: 8.4 (2018 in progress, but still).
Trade value: Top 10 first baseman by wOBA (.357) over past three seasons. 2nd in FanGraphs’ Defensive Runs Above Average (Def) over same span, behind Cody Bellinger. Clears $14.56 million from CBT calculations. Goofy, fun teammate. Cheap date.
Trade loss: The Giants would lose their starting first baseman, and second-best hitter over the past three seasons, a 3-4 WAR player when healthy.
Is a trade even possible? The Astros’ Marwin Gonzalez will be a free agent at season’s end and maybe Belt, a Texas native, would be a better fit in the DH/1B role than the remaining Yuli Gurriel. The Yankees might want to see if they can improve upon Greg Bird rather than wait out his own injury situation and slowed development, but both are just speculation. There have been no concrete rumors related to teams having interest in Brandon Belt.
Position: Starting Shortstop
Trade limitations: Secondary face of the franchise. Full no-trade clause. 3 years, $45,600,000 guaranteed. Will be 32 at the start of next season. 3-year WAR: 9.5
Trade value: Top defensive shortstop in the National League. Clear $12.5 million from CBT figure.
Trade loss: Giants lose their secondary face of the franchise, best infield defender, and top defensive shortstop in the National League.
Is a trade even possible? There have been no rumors about the Giants moving Brandon Crawford. In fact, in consecutive seasons, unnamed sources have indicated that Crawford and Posey as the only two Giants the front office were unwilling to here trade proposals for.
Position: Starting Third Baseman
Trade Limitations: Will be 33 years old at beginning of 2019 season. Four years, $65,168,000 guaranteed ($5 million buyout in 2023; Tampa Bay to pay $8 million over next four seasons). 3-year WAR: 7.1
Trade value: Clears $11.17 million from CBT calculations.
Trade loss: Giants lose their starting third baseman.
Is a trade even possible? There have been no rumors concerning Evan Longoria. Since returning from a broken hand, he has continued his spotty season.
It’s easy to see that the Giants need to improve, but it’s less clear where they need to improve. From the outside looking in, moving certainly players just to shed salary or create flexibility seems like a no-brainer, but for an organization that has either cultivated the talented or expended considerable resources to acquire talent, it’s not quite so easy.
But the Giants cannot continue this status quo. They know it, we know it, now it’s just a matter of seeing what they’re willing to do about it.