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Who might the Giants target at the trade deadline?

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Since there’s a nonzero chance that the Giants could actually trade for some players, let’s make some guesses.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Improbably, the Giants are 52-51 less than a week from the trade deadline. Yesterday’s loss to the Cubs actually dropped them to three games back of the second Wild Card spot, so I actually don’t think they’re going to be able to pull this off — but don’t say that to them!

So, while it’s highly unlikely the Giants will be able to shock the world, let’s allow for the possibility that they just might do something like sell and buy at the deadline. Who might they be able to grab who could upgrade the roster and help them down the stretch?

Theoretically, when they trade bullpen pieces they could look to get back some major league talent in return, but let’s assume for the moment that the best deals out there might not actually land the Giants such a player. Who could they simply go out and try to acquire without spending one of their big trade chips on?

Jordan Lyles - SP (Pittsburgh)

If the Giants hold on to Madison Bumgarner, the rotation will still be a sore spot. Bumgarner, Samardzija, and then a mix of Shaun Anderson, Tyler Beede, Dereck Rodriguez, Conner Menez, and maybe Drew Pomeranz — although, he’s been really great out of the ‘pen — or Andrew Suarez isn’t a rotation that inspires a lot of confidence and it has a strong chance of simply sputtering out mid-August.

What’s to like?

He has 90 strikeouts in 82.1 innings (9.8 K/9) against 33 walks (3.6 BB/9), averages 92.7 mph with his fastball, and has above average spin rates on his slider and curveball. He’s also just 28 years old and will be a free agent after the season. The Pirates aren’t going anywhere and they would almost certainly be fine with moving him for one of the Giants’ older “prospects” they’d have more control over (Ty Blach?), if years of control really is more valuable to teams now over cost and performance.

What’s the problem?

Everything else. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, which might actually make him unpalatable to Farhan Zaidi. Lyles’ fastball spin isn’t great, his hard hit rate is above 42%, barrel rate is 9.7% (league average: 6.3%), and his ERA is 5.36 (although, a 4.80 FIP). In seven starts since June 1st, he has a 10.00 ERA, having allowed 11 home runs in 27 innings.

He’s never pitched more than 141.2 innings in a season, and that career-high happened all the way back in 2013. So, yeah, Jordan Lyles isn’t really an upgrade, but maybe the Giants can tweak him here and there? He’s still got some intriguing upside, despite his recent performance. In those same seven starts, he struck out 34 and walked 14 in 27 innings.

Drew Robinson - IF/OF (St. Louis)

Donovan Solano has done a nice job, but the Giants’ middle infield situation is a mess. Robinson has played a mix of second base, third base, and the corner outfield across three major league seasons and 10 minor league seasons, so he has the versatility. The Cardinals’ 40-man roster is full, he’s on it, and they might need to clear a spot for whatever trade(s) they make ahead of the deadline. Seems like an opportunity.

What’s to like?

He has an option remaining, so he gives Zaidi flexibility on the roster along with in the field. For his minor league career, he has 514 walks to 995 strikeouts, or 1.93 K/BB, which is well within the range the new front office prefers. He has a little bit of speed (98 minor league stolen bases) and modest pop (.438 career minor league slugging). For whatever his limited playing time numbers are worth, FanGraphs thinks he’s much better as a second baseman than an outfielder.

What’s the problem?

His minor league line (.252/.362/.438 - .800 OPS) hasn’t yet translated to the big leagues: .202/.296/.359 (.655 OPS) in 253 PA.

Tony Kemp - IF/OF (Astros)

Here’s a young, speedy slap hitter from the days of old who I think would be a great fit for the Giants and as of five minutes ago, was just DFA’d by the Astros, suggesting it might not take much to get him — then again, these are the Astros, and they’ve probably already thought twelve steps ahead here.

But still! The Giants don’t actually have a decent backup option in center behind Pillar and while Steven Duggar would seem to fit that role, Kemp has a lot better strike zone judgment (career 9.6% walk rate, 16% strikeout rate) and a recent track record of near-league average major league success.

What’s to like?

Last year, he had a .351 on base with consistent playing time. This year, it’s down to .308, but he’s slugging a career-high .417 in 186 plate appearances. What would consistent playing time look like for him? He had 9 stolen bases last year against three caught stealings. This year, he’s been a little bit better with his outs above average — in previous years of the Statcast era, he’s gone a full season with zero outs above average; this year, he has 2 in just 66 games.

What’s the problem?

Out of options, not a pure centerfielder, and actually not all that great in that spot, but dangit, he’s got speed and strike zone judgment. Take the flier!

The Giants aren’t going to be able to swing a big deal if they aren’t going to give up a lot. They should not be willing to give up much to add pieces to the major league team, either, which means they — and us — should set our sights low.

I’m no doubt way off the mark with these three names, but it still seems a safer bet to assume that Zaidi & co. would target players like this as opposed to, say, Marcus Stroman, Trevor Bauer, or Robbie Ray. These might not be the highest upside players, but as the team has found all year with the Yastrzemskis of the world, adding players with at least one plus skill can be utilized effectively to help the Giants win.