A Whole Lot of Nothing

2 basic premises: (1) We have no idea what kind of conversations were going on behind closed doors over the past week. The Giants might have been offered absolute peanuts for their players. (2) The Giants’ collapse has been swift and unexpected and perhaps the front office was simply caught off guard by the sudden need to make huge, important, and non-sentimental decisions about players they have strong feelings for.

But man, it sure seems like (1) Sabean was asking for the moon (scroll to the bottom of this) and (2) the Giants front office was too soft.

Question(s): will we laugh at our July 31, 2013 selves next year, when this team is clicking again and everything is great, or will always wonder what we might have gotten back for a Hunter Pence or a Javier Lopez? Or will we simply be satisfied with some draft picks when Pence and Lincecum spurn the Giants for free agency?

Maybe I just wanted something more interesting to write about but I was hoping for prospects today. I got none.

Watch, they are going to get hot now.

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A New Chapter

The majority of our posts over the past two months have focused on trades the Giants might make today. Most of those scenarios were predicated on the Giants being in contention and going for it in an attempt to repeat as champions.

Welp.

By the end of the day the great Javier Lopez should be gone, and there’s a good chance Hunter Pence is too. If something crazy happens, Timmy might be in a new uniform as well.

Who knows how it all goes down, Brian Sabean doesn’t always go by the book, but the Giants are now looking ahead to 2014. This season, unfortunately, is over.

Of course it isn’t, which means that the next two months are about answering one, huge, important, complex question:

  • Was the strategy to keep the team together for 2013 a faulty plan needing a major overhaul, or did the Giants simply get caught in a perfect storm of suck?

My opinion is nuanced here. I think there were parts of the plan that were faulty:

  • The lack of depth at starting pitcher was always going to be a problem. With only 5 major league ready starters available (I’m not counting Gaudin here because no one really saw that coming), the Giants needed health and solid performances from all 5 guys to make a run. That did not happen and the lack of depth has been sorely exposed.
  • I have no way to quantify this, but it does seem like there was a bit of a hang over for the starting staff from last year. Was it the extra innings? The extra strain? The early Spring Training because of the World Baseball Classic? I don’t know, but they’ve looked tired all year.
  • It’s also not like the starting pitching problems dropped out of the sky either. Vogelsong really struggled down the stretch last year before finding new life in the post-season. We all know about Lincecum’s 2012. Matt Cain was good, but not dominant in the post-season (and many have pointed to his decreased effectiveness post-perfect game). Madison Bumgarner was essentially benched in the NLCS and we all head our breath when he started against the Tigers because he was struggling so badly. And Barry Zito is Barry Zito. Enough said. It’s alarming really that the team didn’t do more to back up the staff during the offseason.
  • I’ve said all offseason that Left Field was going to be a problem. Losing Pagan really exposed the Giants in the outfield. Somehow we now have Jeff Franceour on our roster. That’s how bad it is.

But the plan wasn’t all bad:

  • The offense has actually been better than 2012.
  • There are still plenty of good players on the squad, players who will be around for a while too.

So, here are a couple of conclusions and a couple of questions for the rest of the offseason:

  • Conclusion 1: Barry Zito is gone. He’s the odd man out here. Prediction 1: Unless something crazy happens today, I think Lincecum is back next year, probably on a one year deal. The other three pitchers are back too, and I think the Giants will make some kind of move to find an improvement over Zito. I also think they’ll look for a few Gaudin-types to create depth.
  • Conclusion 2: The Giants are not in rebuilding mode, they are going to continue to go for it. This team has too many good player (and good young players) to blow it up. Prediction 2: That said, I expect the Giants to make a big trade in the offseason. This is what Sabean loves to do, and the market these days favors trades over free agent signings. Sabean has worked some magical trades (see Kent, Jeff) and some foolish trades (see Pierzynski, AJ). Don’t be surprised to see Brandon Belt on the move this offseason.

This is an interesting moment for the Giants. Theoretically, they still have enough to be competitive (any team with Posey, Cain, Bumgarner, etc under control for several years is well set up to be competitive over the long haul). They also have some intriguing help at the lower levels of the minor leagues.

But how the Giants choose to bridge the gap between the present and future is going to be fascinating.

In many ways, it begins today.

(-SB)

2nd Half Questions and a Prediction

The Giants get the “second half” (66 games left) tonight against the First Place Diamondbacks. The Giants continue to stand on strange ground. 6.5 games behind the D-Backs, but 8 games under .500. What the?

Here are the pertinent questions:

  1. Buy or Sell? In or Out? Two questions, I know, but essentially the same: are the Giants really in this thing, or is the 6.5 games out just a fantastical mirage meant to befuddle and entice the weak of mind and heart? If they have a good weekend and sweep, or even take 2 of 3, from Arizona, I’d expect the Giants to think they can go for it. If, the reverse happens, then I think it’s time to bite the bullet and see what they can get for various pieces. In the end I think the Giants will straddle the fence for as long as possible, make a minor move, and see if the core crew can’t find some magic.
  2. What of Tim Lincecum? He just threw a no-hitter. Other teams want to add him to their bullpen. Maybe he wants to be a Giants for life. Maybe he wants a fresh start. My gut tells me he stays through the season, but probably not beyond that. I could be wrong here in many directions. No matter what, enjoy every opportunity to see him from here on out…it might be the last time you see him in this uniform (tear).
  3. Can the Pitching Recover? Finally, a true on-the-field baseball question! This is a huge question, not just for the rest of the season, but moving forward as well. In 2009-2012 the Giants were among the best staffs in all of baseball, not just during that span, but historically. There is no doubt the team has the talent to put together an 8-10 turn run of excellence. In order for that to happen Madison Bumgarner and Timmy need to keep at their current pace. Matt Cain needs to get it together and fix his mechanical issue out of the stretch (or whatever the heck is wrong with him). Ryan Vogelsong needs to come back soon and he needs to be 2012 playoff caliber Vogey, not early 2013 Vogey. Finally, the Giants need to leave Gaudin in the rotation and send Zito to the pen. Not only does that give the team a stronger rotation it ensures that Zito won’t hit his inning mark (thus locking him in for one more expensive year), and gives the Giants a lot more flexibility heading into next year. The reality: that’s a lot of “what-ifs”…not out of the realm of possibility, but unlikely.
  4. Who Will Hit? Pablo seemed to be getting it together in San Diego before the break, but the Giants will need Pence to get hot and they will also need the Brandon’s to continue to contribute down the stretch. I never thought this team would miss Angel Pagan so much, but they do, and they need a couple of other guys to step up and take some pressure off the pitchers.
  5. What About the Future? As uncertain as the next couple of weeks and rest of the season may seem, it still doesn’t compare to what lies ahead this off-season. 3/5 of the rotation will be up in the air. Pence is likely gone, leaving 2 outfield spots open, plus lingering questions about Pagan’s ability to stay healthy as he ages at a tough position (CF). The Giants don’t have immediate help waiting on the farm, and will have to bridge the gap somewhere. Lot’s of interesting moves lie ahead.

Bold Prediction: As crazy as it sounds, I’m going to go with my heart, and not with my head, and predict that the Giants will win 87 games and the NL West. That will require them to go 44 and 22 over the final 66 games. Seems like a tall order for this club, but IF the pitching can get on a roll it is entirely possible. This is the Giants’ version of the 2000 Yankees, the final year in their great run, where they were able to sneak in despite being an inferior version of their former selves. Bring on the second half.

(-SB)

Halfway To What?

Last we posted, we explored some options for the Giants as the trade deadline nears. Suddenly, at the halfway point in the season the Giants find themselves at a crossroads.

To The Left: The Giants can look at the world today and say this: as bad as we’ve been, as injured as our roster has become, even after being no-hit by a guy named Homer (who happens to be on my fantasy team: very conflicted emotions about that)…despite all that, we are only 3 GAMES OUT OF FIRST PLACE!

What kind of crazy world is this???? The way the Giants have hit, pitched, ran the bases, and caught the ball…the way they have accumulated a -31 run differential…they SHOULD be in last place (where they haven’t been since 2007).

But, they are also three game out of first place. There is hope. All is not lost. Let’s make some trades, let’s get Vogey back, let’s bolster the pen, let’s hope Pablo and a few other guys get hot…we can still win this thing.

That’s one way the Giants can look at the world.

To The Right: The Giants can look at the world this morning and say, hey, it’s been a good run, no one thought we’d win 2 titles in 3 years, but it’s time to retool. We don’t need Bud Norris, or Ricky Nolasco, or Joba Chamberlain, not at the expense of the few decent prospects we actually have.

The Giants can say, instead, let’s trade Timmy, let’s move Pence, let’s shop everybody (with the exceptions of Buster, Matt, and Madison) and see if we can’t restock the farm system, clear some salary, and get after this thing again next year.

The Path Ahead: I’ll be honest, there’s a big part of me that wouldn’t protest to waving the white flag and restocking the system. I don’t like the idea of giving up on a season, but this roster is only engineered properly if the team is healthy. Moreover, this team is designed to win close games, riding the strong backs and arms of its rotation. It is my belief that the rotation, as it is currently constructed, is not able to do what it did from 2009-2012 (see this insightful post from Giants OC).

I think expecting everything to magically fall into place for a stretch run is wishful thinking.

But 3 GAMES!

And that’s why there won’t be any dumping. As long as there is a sliver of hope, they’re going to ride this thing out and try to find some magic.

I really hope I have to swallow my words, but I think the brass will mortgage the future to try to salvage what might be a lost cause.

(-SB)