There was a time, not too long ago, when the San Francisco Giants were really good. The team was a lock to be in the discussion for October baseball annually, boasting a strong rotation and a lineup that seemed to have a mix of young talent and solid veterans. In fact, the era in question was still active in 2016, when the Giants beat the Mets in the National League Wild Card game before getting kicked out of the playoffs by eventual World Series winner Chicago.
That era has ended.
Starting right fielder Hunter Pence showed signs of regression, hitting only .260 in 134 games. Shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt were both franchise cornerstones in the past, but both logged disappointing seasons as well.
The pitching wasn’t what the team hoped it would be either, with 2016 trade deadline acquisition Matt Moore performing far below expectations. His ERA was a team leading 5.52 and he finished the season with a record of 6–15. The team finished with a record of 64–98, a number redeemable for entry into the basement of the National League West.
Thus, the era of winning had concluded in San Francisco. It was replaced by a feeling of uncertainty and worry; the team still had large contracts tied to underperforming names. The fans that were used to seeing the Giants win were now eagerly awaiting what direction the team would go in.
Most front offices in recent memory would have started the slow, painful rebuild at this point. This is the strategy that the Houston Astros chose. Sure, it couldn’t have been fun to watch the Astros play through three straight seasons where they lost 100 games (2011-’13), but the team wasn’t shy about their ambition to create a successful team and they maneuvered their way to a World Series title in 2017.
Instead of following that template, the Giants have opted to enter denial.
Rather than accept the fact that the direction that the team’s heading towards isn’t a historically good one and could lead to many tough years in the future, they’ve prolonged the inevitable with a puzzling offseason. The team made a couple of trades that blatantly told the public that they were fine with adding aging players.
Alone, there was little risk in adding Andrew McCutchen, as his contract is up after the 2018 season. At the time of the trade, He represented a major improvement in the outfield over alternatives Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker, and he’s still an iconic name in the sport.
It still didn’t make much sense for the Giants to trade two pitching prospects, and it pushed Hunter Pence out of position when he’s never been a great defensive outfielder to begin with, but it’s not a terrible trade overall for San Francisco when evaluated on its own.
However, when one puts into consideration that the Giants had already acquired former Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria earlier in the offseason, it looks tremendously bad.
The Giants traded outfielder Denard Span, top prospect Christian Arroyo, and two other prospects. Even discounting that Arroyo has a pretty high ceiling and could be a better player than Longoria very soon, trading a top prospect for a 32-year old massive contract when the team had literally no success the previous year doesn’t add up as a very good idea.
Speaking of pitchers, the rotation isn’t very good anymore. In fact, it’s not remotely similar to the one that made the playoffs in 2016. As of early April 2018, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija are all on the disabled list for the current team. The other three names that were on the most recent playoff team are no longer on the team. Jake Peavy and Matt Cain retired, and Matt Moore was traded to the Rangers after the aforementioned disappointment of a 2017. That leaves a rotation of Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, Derek Holland, and Tyler Beede.
It was an already an optimistic viewpoint that the Giants’ offensive woes from 2017 would be magically fixed by adding a few veterans and hoping for better luck. Add the pitching situation into the discussion, and it’s looking impossible that the Giants will have any success in their tough division at all in 2018.
This direction for the Giants is not a good one. It’s time for a complete rebuild, Houston Astros style.