The Giants have their work cut out for them as they head into 2019, but the same could be said of the situation heading into 2018. Of course, it’s impossible to ignore that a lot of the team’s wounds (the offense, the defense, the organizational depth) are self-inflicted, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t issues that need to be addressed, and those issues will be addressed by the current front office staff, led by Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean.
Sabean has been with the Giants since 1992 and Evans since 1994. They’ve literally seen it all, and have either aided over overseen remaking or revamping the organization several times over. That alone suggests that the 62-year old Sabean and 50-year old Evans are as worthy as anybody in overseeing yet another remake of a putrid offense that can compete at a championship level over the next decade.
But, I get it. You want to say “no”. You want to say Bryan, you piece of trash, look at the record! Look at the talent! or you want to say “yes” and add Bryan, you waste of life! Stop suggesting the Giants need to improve! Baseball is about the joy of the game, not competing, you feckless wimp!
I get it. We all approach baseball in our own way. For the sake of this article, however, I’m approaching the baseball industry as being populated by paid employees whose goal it is to compete and win major league baseball games. As such, they can’t just sit back and build rosters filled with familiar names beloved by fans if that group doesn’t wind up winning more games than losing (and winning enough to compete in the postseason with some regularity).
Specifically, Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean will be concentrating their efforts on one of the worst lineups ever intentionally assembled to see if they can improve it via free agency and trades. You might think that’s the wrong way to go — Bryan, you garbage blogger, the Giants won three World Series based on the strength of their pitching. They don’t need to score ANY runs in order to win! — but that’s the way they’re going to go, whether you like it or not.
The Giants have been very successful — usually, if not annually — finding hidden gems in free agent pitcher signings and even in the occasional trade and the 2018 team’s staff has absorbed a lot of injuries and setbacks to still be a solidly above average group in the National League. You could still argue that they should try to return to their 2009-2011 level of pitching to ameliorate their dreadful lineup, but consider this:
Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija were huge free agent spends that are now huge chunks of the payroll that won’t contribute very much going forward (even if Samardzija avoids surgery, he has been a below average MLB pitcher in his Giants tenure). And then there’s Mark Melancon, who might enter 2019 penciled in as the team’s closer (both because of his late-season performance in 2018 and because they spent so much money on him to be the closer). They’ve been trying very hard to return the team to that level of quality pitching.
The 2009-2011 group arrived through the draft and scouting... and the Giants being really bad for four years. I doubt the people advocating for the Giants to focus on building a pitching staff that allows 1.5 runs per game have the stomach for four more years of garbage baseball (which would actually make it a six-year run), and Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean don’t have the time left on their contracts to pull off that plan, either, so let’s all agree that the Giants are going to focus largely on the lineup this offseason.
We know a few things that the duo have to work with in the offseason before this season even ends:
- The team managed to stay under the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $197 million payroll. This means their overage penalty resets to 20% per dollar over the threshold (it had been 50% this season). Also, the threshold jumps from $197 million to $206 million next season and to $208 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021.
- They’re not beholden to their core players, except for Buster Posey and (probably) Brandon Crawford:
So, we’re more open minded than ever — whether it’s now or especially, going into the offseason — to shake things up; and, you know, guys are really playing for their place in the ‘19 team, in my mind, right now.
- No power-hitting free agent will sign with them, given the park factor.
The first two bullet points are encouraging from a philosophical perspective, but that third point is clearly sub-optimal if the goal is to remake the lineup. There’s every reason to believe the Giants will deploy an impressive entourage comprised of front office people, famous Giants, and Buster Posey in order to woo Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado, because they’ve done this basically every year for the past several.
They’ve also failed miserably every time they’ve sent their entourage, so, consider that the Giants will not be able to improve the lineup through one player alone.
Even if the Giants’ front office was to be purged, the incoming group of 20-something brain geniuses would still be saddled with the issue that it’s literally impossible to score runs or field a lineup or play recognizable baseball at AT&T Park. They might come up with the idea of developing an app to fix it or simply moving in the walls — which would require changing the resistant minds of ownership — but their immediate problem would be the same one the current front office faces.
I think the Giants might benefit from a humidor next season, and MLB will probably mandate that every park has one installed for 2019 just to maintain uniformity. That won’t make AT&T Park Coors Field, but it might boost home runs a little bit. And that’s to say nothing of more doubles and triples. A savvy bunch might be able to exploit that to convince a hitter or two.
But back to those first two points: the Giants have money and CBT flexibility to work with and they’re not afraid to pay free agents a market rate. When they strike out on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, they’ll definitely set their sights on some other targets and probably add 2-3 players for the cost of one of those top of the market players. They might even put themselves in a situation where they can add a couple of hitters with pop to the lineup and still swing around to throw an offer at Patrick Corbin (who will sign for more money elsewhere, but still) to try to improve the rotation.
And they have the will to clear the board. That’s my biggest counterpoint to your “NO” vote. They’ve demonstrated the ability to take a good long look at what they’re doing and maintain a sober view of what is and isn’t working. A lot of people aren’t willing to change. Few management types have the ability to adapt to circumstances, either, or simply admit that what they’ve done in the past no longer works in the present. The Giants have tried to remake themselves in ways they thought would work best for what they know to be true and now that they know all that stuff is no longer true.
Still, for all the front office reshuffling of the past offseason and triage trades to bail out a 98-loss roster, they still hamstrung themselves with Evan Longoria. There might always be a small voice in the back of their minds that says for every potentially risky forward-thinking move they have to make one back of the baseball card / name-brand move that brings back a little bit of certainty.
It’s impossible to make a winning team through trades and free agency alone, and every time you trade from “depth”, you hobble your potential depth development. Teams need development success to buoy competition windows, but Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean have always seemed willing to rob Peter to pay Paul, and maybe that’s a habit that can’t be broken.
Are you confident in the front office going forward?
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