A Quick Update #sfgiants #weekinreview

I’ve been in the midst of a move, staring a new job, and then also the Warriors have grabbed what little sports attention I’ve had recently (they are a good basketball team, but that’s not what we are here for).

Anyway, just a quick couple thoughts today and then I’ll try to be back in a normal rhythm soon.


First Thought: I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the Giants “road woes” and the big split between record, home and away. It still exists (Home: 19-11, Road 14-21). However, the Giants are off to a good start on the current, and long, road trip, and they have the potential to make a dent in that record. They are 2-1 already, with 4 against the terrible Marlins, and then three in LA against the Dodgers whom they have played well so far.

I cannot stress enough how important these four games are in Miami. Anything less than 3-1 would be a let down, in my opinion. The Giants will throw out Madison Bumgarner and Chris Stratton (their two “aces”) to start the series, then the rookies get the second half. They should win the first two games and (AT LEAST) split the last two. Then, if they can get 2 of 3 in LA that would be an awesome road trip and push the road record to 19-23 (.500 is the magic # for a competitive team).

Second Thought: I liked the Giants bench to start the season, but it has really become a tremendous strength for this team. Pablo and Hundly have been great, Alen Hanson a revelation, and the Gorkys and Mac Williamson resurgences have pushed Hunter Pence and Austin Jackson into more appropriate super-sub roles. I like it a lot. (And I’d imagine they drop a pitcher when Brandon Belt returns this week).

Third Thought: Speaking of Brandon Belt, when he returns the offense will be at full strength for the first time in a while, and the team will be as healthy as it’s been in a long, long time (lacking only Cueto and Samardzija). If they can keep guys healthy up to the all-star break the Giants have a real chance to make this interesting.

Fourth Thought: It’s probably going to be interesting no matter what. The last two weeks have done nothing to “unbunch” the division. Arizona is hanging on to first place, the Dodgers have crawled back to contention but still aren’t their juggernaut selves, and Colorado and San Diego are very much hanging in/around. The in-division games this month are going to be very consequential.

Fifth Thought: the Giants released Cory Gearrin this week (and there was much rejoicing). No one picked him up and he may end up in Sacramento. That may not be all that interesting to you, but it should. The Giants really needed someone to take him on, as it would have opened up an opportunity to make a trade deadline move.

All of which is going to make for an interesting July. The Giants did some very creative (and actually pretty awesome) maneuvering this offseason to both improve the 2018 team and create space to go for it again in the offseason (by not going into the luxury tax the Giants give themselves the room to make big moves next year).

As of right now, if the Giants want to make a move at the deadline it’s going to require more creativity if they want to continue with their stated goal of staying under the tax. The obvious move would be getting someone to take on Hunter Pence (maybe an old NBA style bad contract swap?). Some other candidates might include Austin Jackson or Sam Dyson. Or, the Giants may just say “who care about the tax,” throw caution to the wind and go for it. The deadline will say a lot about the team they think they have and their plans for the future.

Sixth Thought: Speaking of Sam Dyson, the Giants bullpen has become everything I hoped for and more. They suddenly have a “big three” of Strickland/Watson/Dyson, while at the same time still having three excellent arms (Melancon/Smith/Moronta) to back those guys up with. Plus, Ty Blach makes so much more sense as a long reliever.

It’ll be interesting to see how the pecking order shakes out over the course of the year, but I cannot remember when the Giants had so many guys I had so much confidence in. They’ve had better “core” bullpens, but I don’t know about a 1-7 that matches this one.

Final Thought: An ode to Brandon Crawford. Get out there on the internet somewhere and check out his game logs (like this one). His season reminds me very much of Dustin Pedroia’s rookie of the year campaign. Crawford was hitting .189 with a .560 OPS on April 30th. I was definitely worried. Crawford does not need to hit a ton to be valuable to the Giants. His defense alone is an asset, and then any sort of league average hitting makes him a ++ player. But when he hits, this team can be deadly.

Since May 1 his average has steadily increased, up to .338 after yesterday’s 4-4 (most of that damage against Max Scherzer, the easy CYA front-runner in the NL). His OPS is .921, far and away the best mark of his career.

Dave Flemming mentioned several times on the broadcast yesterday that Crawford has to be considered among the leaders for MVP at this point.

We love Brandon Crawford and have thoroughly enjoyed his contributions to many great Giants moments over the years. But, to become an MVP candidate is truly amazing and ridiculous. He was an all-glove, no-hit sort of prospect who was simply seen as a stop-gap starter when he came up and who would hopefully turn into a nice utility player.

Now we’re looking at multi-gold gloves and a potential MVP finalist. Unreal. And it’s legit too, watching him yesterday, he does not look like a guy who is just hot, he’s hitting everything on rope all over the ball park. Beautiful to behold!

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Brandons and Other Things That Are Good #sfgiants #weekinreview

Thanks to exciting wins on Saturday and Sunday, the Giants turned a potentially disappointing week into something kind of awesome. They started off the week by taking the first 2 of a 3 game series from the lowly, lowly Reds. Then they botched up game 3 and subsequently fell flat in games 1 and 2 of a 4-gamer versus the Rockies.

But, again, those final victories gave the Giants a 4-3 home stand, kept their record at .500 and…wait for it…put them only two games behind Arizona for FIRST PLACE IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST.

What is happening?


First, the Giants strange schedule, along with baseball’s plethora of tanking teams, mixed together with some heavy favorites being banged up and struggling (looking at you Dodgers and Nationals), has meant that it is has been really hard to evaluate how good the Giants actually are.

At this point, though, it is fairly safe to say: the Giants have a good offense (a case made this week by Andrew Baggarly – subscription required), a decent bullpen, and they could use some help in the starting rotation.

Second, the Giants have been very inconsistent. It’s been a feast or famine season. Which means they’ll lose a few in a row, then win a few in a row. They’ll have stretches where they don’t score, and then stretches where they score in bunches. That makes the consistency we all crave hard to come by.

Third, the Giants are playing in a tight division race. Here’s where it gets really interesting. 6 games separate the first place Diamondbacks and the last place Padres. That is easily the closest division in baseball. The next closest has an 8.5 game separation (and note that this is the AL Central where the first place Indians aren’t even over .500 at the moment). Most divisions are 10+ games, and a few stretch into the teens already.

The Dodgers are starting to win more, but they are still massively hurt and, at the very least, it seems highly improbable that they run away from the pack. Meanwhile the Rockies and Diamondbacks are good, but flawed, teams just like the Giants.

Let’s face it: the 2018 Giants are going to be competitive.


Some reasons for hope: Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria have been good, but not great, and McCutchen in particular seems poised for some great to come soon (his “hard hit” #s are among the best in the game, he’s been pretty unlucky).

Joe Panik should return ahead of schedule. Mac Williamson is on his way back soon. (Also: what has gotten into Gorkys?!)

The Giants have a good lineup and a good bench, and it should all come together in early June.

The bullpen has been a nice surprise and should only get better as everyone settles into their roles. Will Smith and Tony Watson have been awesome. Hunter Strickland has taken a step forward. Moronta and Dyson seem well cast in their particular roles.

The rotation has been the weak link, but actually better than expected given the injuries to the “Big 3”. And speaking of that, Madison Bumgarner should be here before the month is out!

Things are looking up.


Which brings us to the Brandon’s. Brandon Belt was just named NL player of the week and Brandon Crawford is a candidate for player of the month.

I have long been a Belt apologist and Bruce Bochy has finally gotten in the game and is now hitting Belt 4th, which I believe maximizes the Giants lineup.

A lineup that gets fully maxed when Brandon Crawford hits. I’ll be honest, I was worried after April. Brandon Crawford feels like the Andre Iguodala of the Giants. He’s the guy you don’t think about when the team comes to town (you’re thinking about Steph and KD, etc), but then you watch him play and you’re like: “dang, they have that guy too.”

It’s kind of ridiculous what a luxury item both guys are. But, we forgot about Crawford during April. Forget no more. When Crawford is cooking with the bat, there are suddenly very few places for opposing pitchers to hide. It’s a beautiful thing.


Some reasons for concern: I have three big ones. First, the lack of quality from the starting rotation will have an impact on the bullpen at some point. I worry about guys getting worn out. It may not show up for months, but it will happen. Bumgarner will help, but the Giants need to get some length out of 1-2 more starters (looking at you Samardzija and Stratton).

Second, the weird schedule continues. The Giants finally have a day off today, but then go to Houston for two where they face the defending champions. And not only that they face their two best pitchers, the guys having maybe the two best years of any pitchers. (They get Justin Verlander in game 2, and if Bochy doesn’t start Pablo Sandoval I’ll lose my mind). After that gauntlet they play the Cubs three times in Wrigley and then end a brutal road trip in Colorado. The difficulty of the schedule has made it very hard to sink into any kind of rhythm.

Third, the injury bug looms. It is nice to see so many guys getting close to returning but I fear the next wave. Knocking on wood, that next wave never comes!

Fourth (I know I didn’t say four, but this is my blog), I am concerned about Buster Posey’s lack of power. It’s being well compensated for right now by Belt and several others, but I would really like to see Buster drive the ball again.


That’s it for now. Another interesting week in what has been a very interesting season!

The Weirdness Continues #sfgiants #weekinreview

Let’s get right to it.

The Good:

  • The Giants go 5-2 this week, they have now won 3 series in a row (I think I wrote something about this importance of this), and sit at .500 after, essentially, one month of baseball.
  • The Giants have already hit 30 home runs, just 4 behind league leading Colorado, a welcomed development.
  • Several surprising pitchers have shown signs of being significant contributors (Stratton, Blach, Moronta, Johnson, and Hunter Strickland)
  • Johnny Cueto has been great. Tony Watson has been great.
  • Brandon Belt is great (happy face emoji)
  • Evan Longoria is settling in quite nicely
  • Mac Williamson might be legit
  • And, we got treated to the magnificent sight of Pablo Sandoval on the mound!

The Weird:

  • Overall, the Giants offense is still in the bottom third in the league in most categories. We are still waiting for a few guys to show up.
  • The Giants did win 5 games this week, but both times they lost they gave up 15 runs! Those games were weird for a variety of reasons, but the blowouts really mess with the run differential numbers. The Giants are 14-14 but they sit at a -19 run differential. We are enough games in at this point for that to mean something (but not everything). The Rockies, who sit half a game ahead of them in the NL West standings are -24, and the A’s who also happen to be 14-14 are +3, so obviously it doesn’t mean that much. However, it would be much easier to be confident about the future if that number were positive.
  • The Giants also hit their first big rash of injuries this week. Hunter Pence went down with a sprained thumb, but that was good news as it allowed Mac Williamson to join the show. But then Mac hit his head and is in the concussion protocol. He should be back soon. Joe Panik, however, will not be back soon. He has a ligament tear in his hand, which means we may not see Joe again until July (sad face emoji).
  • All of this means, the Giants have had a parade of guys coming over from Sacramento. Things should settle down in a few days, and there is a looming decision about Hunter Pence and Mac Williamson, but chaos reigns for the time being.
  • Will Smith returns to getting jiggy with it, and so the Giants staff is at about as full strength as it will be until Bumgarner (and Melancon?) are back. Which leads to:

Confidence Power Rankings After One Month. Let’s start with the Starters:

  1. Johnny Cueto (no brainer here, Cueto’s been brilliant)
  2. Chris Stratton (we’ll give him a Mulligan for Saturday. I’m sympathetic to what we’ll call “new dad syndrome”)
  3. Ty Blach (he’s not going to dominate or go deep into games, but he competes and he beats the Dodgers all the time)
  4. Jeff Samardzija (the home run problems are still there, but something about him pitching every fifth day is mildly comforting)
  5. Derek Holland (has shown flashes, but he is quickly moving into long man territory as he can’t even get through a line up twice, let alone three times)

Relievers:

  1. Tony Watson (dude’s magical)
  2. Hunter Strickland (has had his moments but overall he’s been extremely effective)
  3. Reyes Moronta (had a bad outing on Sunday, but has been refreshing solid all season)
  4. Sam Dyson (seemed destined to get cut, but has turned it around. The sinker is sinking and he is getting big double plays)
  5. Pierce Johnson (very unremarkable and yet surprisingly effective. He’s the Ty Blach of the bullpen)
  6. Will Smith (not even active yet, but he beats out the rest of the list)
  7. Cody Gearren (feels like he should be so much better, but I have zero confidence in him in almost any situation right now)
  8. Other (Derek Law makes me sad. Roberto Gomez in intriguing. DJ Snelton is fun to watch. This is a revolving door, so not much to say, since these guys will all be gone by Wednesday).

Hitters:

  1. Brandon Belt (that’s right haters)
  2. Evan Longoria (he’s hot right now, sorry Buster)
  3. Buster Posey (hard to imagine him not being in the top 2 at any point this season, but the guys above him are hot)
  4. Andrew McCutchen (this is where it gets interesting…McCutchen probably doesn’t deserve to be in the top 5, but some of the other guys are not producing or are hurt, so I’d still rather watch Cutch bat than just about anyone else on the team right now)
  5. Alen Hanson/Austin Slater (again, this has nothing to do with how good they are, it’s just given the rest of the team they are the most interesting at bats to watch).

Looking Ahead. I’ve written quite a bit about the difficulty of the early schedule. Things do get a easier this month, however, the “easy teams” are also on the east coast, which makes them slightly less easy. May will also involve the Astros and the Cubs, and only 9 home games overall (18 road games), and a stretch of 17 games in 17 days.

So, the goal for May is to stay at .500 and hope that Arizona falls back, and then Bumgarner returns in June and the team gets rolling. The Giants will still need to get 5-8 starts out of Derek Holland and whoever else (and that assumes no gets hurt).

In the immediate future, root for another series win. The Padres have been annoying, so a minimum of 2 out of 3 would be a great way to start. They get a day off then head to Atlanta for three this weekend. Don’t sleep on the Braves, lots of talent there! I’m hoping for a 3-3 week and continued consistency throughout the roster.

It’s Not Over…Yet #sfgiants #weekinreview

Of course it’s not over yet, but what an interesting week in Giants-land. There was a little something for everyone: Bumgarner started the healing journey, the triumphant return of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, bad Brandon Belt and very good Brandon Belt, bullpen meltdowns, and some big home runs (and the arrival of Big Mac).

All of which boils back down to the damning-by-faint-praise tagline for the 2018 season: at least it won’t be boring!

In Praise

  • I named Johnny Cueto the most important player to the success of the 2018 Giants, and, so far, minus a short DL stint for a twisted ankle, he has not disappointed. One earned run in 26 innings! 23 strikeouts to four walks! He sure looks like vintage Cueto and that is VERY good news.
  • Jeff Samardzija returned and while he did not set the world on fire, he was good enough for the win, and it was certainly a start to build on. He’s got a tough assignment this week versus the Nationals and Max Scherzer, but it still feels good to have him back.
  • Chris Stratton has been awesome as well. In fact, the entire rotation had a nice showing this week. Stratton is demonstrating that the Giants were not foolish at all to trust his ability to easily replace Matt Moore’s “production” (by the way, it has been an ugly start to 2018 in Texas for poor Matt Moore).
  • Tony Watson continues to be the star of the bullpen, and while he did get touched for his first run this week, is there anyone else you trust as much coming out of the ‘pen right now? And, who was the last guy you trusted this much coming out of the pen? Affeldt in 2014? Romo in 2012? It’s an interesting thought experiment.
  • Evan Longoria is going to be just fine, thank you.
  • Brandon Belt is as streaky as they come, and yet there is something about this current streak that feels a bit more like a “finally” moment. I do believe that if he can stay on the field he will hit 30 home runs this year and put some of his doubters to rest.
  • The Giants won a series! I talked about this last week and I stand by it. This team needs to keep grinding 2 out of 3 and winning more series if they want to compete.
  • Finally, as much as we all love Hunter Pence, it’s going to be hard to deny Mac Williamson. I wrote, a while back, about his natural ascendance as the next system guy to make an impact, but injuries and lack of opportunity held him back. I love this comeback story and I am buying the new approach as being major league worthy.

In Critique

  • Is the Hunter Strickland show over? Folks will be pulling for Watson to take over the closer duties, but I do believe he is better suited coming into big situations like he did yesterday against the Angels. I think the best set up, for now, is to press on as is and hope Hunter can get back to the calmer innings we saw earlier. Plus, there doesn’t seem to be any answer yet to when Mark Melancon may return. This will be an interesting week given Strickland’s history with the Nationals.
  • The offense continues to be sporadic and inconsistent. The positive signs are certainly the increased power, and they do continue to face some outstanding pitching. It would be great, though, to see more consistent 4-5 run games.
  • In particular, the Giants inability to get hits with runners in scoring position is very weird. They have the lowest production in the majors in that stat category, and I have to believe it will normalize. It may simply be a function of facing some of the top pitching staffs in the game, again that’s a task that doesn’t get easier this week, but one trend that has to level off at some point.

Looking Ahead

  • The Giants have another tough week, although all at home! They start off with 3 against the Nationals who are off to a similarly up and down start. The Giants will have to face Scherzer on Wednesday, but get to avoid Stephen Strasburg in this series. Again, it will be interesting to see what happens should there be a show down between Bryce Harper and Hunter Strickland. My prediction: Giants take 2 of 3, but lose the game in which Harper takes Strickland deep.
  • There’s a day off on Thursday, and then 4 games in 3 days against….wait for it…the Dodgers. It seems like that’s who the Giants play every other series this season. Here is a tremendous opportunity to do some damage in the division. The Dodgers have not been playing well, but have turned a bit of a corner recently, and are actually back to .500. This is a big week for them as they could build some serious momentum or continue to tread water. If the Giants can sweep or take 3 of 4 it could slow that train down significantly. My prediction: they split the series, which is a let down, but a 4-3 week would actually be quite welcome as the Giants wrap up a tough first month.

Is It Over Already?

Lots of tweets and commentary along these lines in the last 24 hours:

I’m not going into full-pessimistic mode yet, but the Giants finally got a full week to show who they were, and they did not show well.

One of the alarming stats to come out of 2017 is that the Giants only won 3 series away from home all season. Well, to start 2018, they have yet to win ANY series. They split with the Dodgers, split with the Mariners, split with the Dodgers again, and then lost series to both the Diamondbacks and Padres this week.

A 10 game win streak would be amazing and make us all feel better, but a more realistic quest is to put together a run where they split/win several series in a row. The challenge though, is they may be entering one of the toughest stretches of the season over the next two weeks:

  • In Arizona for 3 starting Tuesday
  • In Anaheim for 3 to face the Angels who are setting the world on fire right now
  • Home to face the Nationals 3 times
  • Home for 4 against the Dodgers (including a doubleheader)
  • Home for 3 against the Padres

16 games. Let’s play out a few circumstances:

  1. Best case scenario, based on what we’ve seen so far, is to go 8-8. That would put the team at 14-17, they would have Cueto, Samardzaija, and Will Smith back by then, and they’d be heading out on the road, but against “easier” competition.
  2. Really best case scenario, involving a vast improvement in at least a couple of areas, would be for the Giants to go 3-3 on the rest of the road trip, and then turn it on at home and actually win some series. Let’s 2-1 against the Nationals, 3-1 versus the Dodgers, and 2-1 against the Padres. That would put them at 16-15, and position them to stay alive until Bumgarner returns.
  3. Worst case scenario, and it feels like this is entirely possible, is for the Giants to continue losing series, especially on the road. 1-2 against LAA, 1-2 against Arizona, 1-2 against the Nationals, 2-2 against the Dodgers, 1-2 against the Padres. That sort of run would leave them 12-19 and in a world of trouble. That’s when the season might be over.

Power Ranking of Concerns

  1. Starting Pitching: The offense is getting a beating on twitter and talk radio. I get it. It hasn’t been pretty. But, it’s actually been better than last year and has shown signs. I still think they will be fine, but fine is consistently scoring 4-5 runs per game. That works if the starting pitching is on point, and it certainly has not been recently. There have been a few moments here and there, and Chris Stratton looks legit, but we are seeing the effects of having the 3 best starters spend time on the DL.
  2. Relief Pitching: The Giants could have a very good bullpen. Melancon at closer, Strickland and Watson for the 8th. Smith and Moronta (who has been a revelation) for the 7th. Gearrin to fill as needed. Blach as the long man. That could be an extremely effective pen. But, right now the depth is not there and so we are seeing too many innings from Dyson, Osich, et al. And one of the reasons we are seeing so many innings is the starters have not been good. These things are obviously connected.
  3. Brandon Belt: I know Belt gets the most heck from people of anyone on this team. But even Kruk and Kuip are on him these days, which is a bad sign. Dude needs to swing and miss at strike three at least.

The season is far from over, I’m not ready to burn the whole thing to the ground just yet. But the next two weeks are VERY critical.

Bryce Harper

The hot rumor from yesterday is that the Giants are likely to make a run at Bryce Harper next off-season.

First, let’s temper any enthusiasm this might engender.

  • Several teams are going to go after Harper next winter.
  • All the big $ teams will be in play to some degree.
  • The frontrunner is currently the Cubs with the Nationals a close second.
  • This contract is going to be absolutely insane (I’m going with somewhere between 10 years, $350 million, and 12 years, $500 million. Insane).
  • Finally, John Heyman is not a Giants’ beat writer, comes from the national perspective, seems to enjoy linking the Giants to every free agent, and almost is never right (or always right because of his widely thrown nets).

Which raises an interesting question for me: do the Giants seem to fail at signing the big names because they aren’t really that interested (and the interest is manufactured by national writers like Heyman looking to fill column space and get some clicks), or is there a real issue here with not being able to close these deals?

That’s a question for another post. For now, let’s indulge some sweet, sweet Bryce Harper fantasies.


Could/Should/Would this happen?

Let’s start here: the Giants have worked really hard this offseason to get under the competitive balance tax (the “cap”). If they stick to this plan it will prove to be a very wise move when it comes to signing a Bryce Harper type mega-contract. The reset will allow them to go over the threshold again, but with a fresh start. The CBA will be redone in a few years and who knows what that will look like. At least the Giants will be in good shape for a couple of years, and potentially really good shape depending on how the next negotiation goes.

While much has been made of the amount of money the Giants already have tied up in future contracts, they might actually be in decent shape to do this deal and extend Bumgarner, and, here comes the real crazy part, continue to get younger! This is where this off seasons moves really begin to make sense.

Next winter the Giants will say goodbye to Hunter Pence and Andrew McCutchen. That’s almost $33 million in AAV (average annual value) contracts gone right there. They also will likely say goodbye to Nick Hundly, and a few other small contracts, so let’s say that’s another $3-5 million off right there.

So, saying goodbye to those 3-5 players more or less creates room for Bryce Harper. Since this is an entirely optimistic post, let’s say he signs for the 10 year/$350 million deal.

But then, the Giants also extend Madison Bumgarner for, say, 10 years, $300 million. The press conference would champion how the team has the most expensive player and pitcher together for the next decade!

If going $30 million into the tax is too much for the Giants to handle, they will be in a much better position to trade a couple of players next offseason.

If this is your preferred vision of the future, you need to root for Brandon Belt to be healthy and have a good year. Brandon Belt for 3 years and $45 million might look pretty good to a few teams after the winter of 2018 dust settles.

Also, root for Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon. They will both have 2 years left on their current deals, and again, those deals may look pretty good to some teams come January of 2019.

I’m going to say the Giants move Samardzija and Belt next offseason (thanks to the emergence of Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede), which would mean that they would still have flexibility to add a few other pieces if need be.

Now, here’s where I really want to go with this post. The Giants always get slammed for going after veterans and this offseason is no exception. But, if Harper is the long play, this offseason’s moves are quite brilliant in their ability to stabilize the franchise and make the team competitive in the short-term (and it is very important to the long con that the Giants have a good 2018…Harper is not coming to a non-contendor/rebuild), while enabling them the flexibility to go big and kick open another decade long window of competitiveness by getting better and younger at the same time.

For the sake of example: the 2018 opening day lineup vs 2019 opening day lineup by age:

  • Panik 2B…27                        Duggar CF…25
  • McCutchen RF…31              Posey C….32
  • Posey C…31                          Harper RF…26
  • Belt 1B…29                           Longoria 3B…33
  • Longoria 3B…32                 Shaw 1B…25
  • Crawford SS…31                 Slater LF…25
  • Pence LF…34                       Crawford SS…32
  • Jackson CF…31                    Panik 2B…28

Average age of 2018 starting lineup: 30.8 years old
Average age of 2019 starting lineup: 28.3 years old

Then there’s the potential, come 2020, for that lineup to get even younger with the addition of Heliot Ramos, who would be 20 years old for that season’s opening day.

Furthermore the pitching staff would get younger, most likely, with the subtraction of Jeff Samardzija.

This is obviously looking too far ahead, because who knows what will happen, but the main reason this rumor is interesting to me is not because I love Bryce Harper so much, but because if the Giants pull this off, it sheds a whole new light on the moves they’ve made in the past couple months.

The Thing About Giancarlo Santon

After a long hibernation, a season of solitude and silence, it is time for baseballmonk to speak.

First, props to Houston for beating the Dodgers. That was awesome and your contributions to making 2017 a slightly brighter place are deeply appreciated.

Second, man the Giants were bad. When last we spoke, it was early September and I started previewing the roster through the lens of what was, at that time, the biggest question/mystery of the Giants future: would Jonny Cueto opt out? September was a bleak time.

Third, the Giants brass, to their credit has (a) realized this was a bad year, (b) realized that some trends in the game have passed them by, and (c) seem hell-bent on at least shooting for the moon in pursuing Giancarlo Stanton.

And so, I have thoughts.


First, a philosophical thought. I have NO REGRETS about the Barry Bonds era. Bonds essentially saved the franchise from moving to Tampa Bay, got a new stadium built, provided endless highlights, and darn near won a World Series along the way.

During the Bonds era the Giants philosophy of roster building was centered on two core ideas: (1) Bring in enough veterans to keep Bonds happy, (b) pay Barry a bunch of money and spread whatever was left over around.

After Bonds “retired” the Giants went in a totally different direction, a much more strategic direction (pitching and defense) and won three titles.

Now, a couple of differences between now and then. During the early Pac Bell Park days the Giants scrimped on some money because they were paying down the park. They are no longer in stadium debt which is sort of like getting a couple “free” players back every year.

Another significant difference: also in the early years of Pac Bell (I know it’s AT&T now fools) they were learning the dynamics of the park and they discovered that basically only Barry Bonds and a couple good right-handed hitters could make the place remotely resemble a “hitters park.”

So, the pitching and defense (and develop and sign) philosophy made a lot of sense and paid off handsomely.

And part of the payoff has been the increased ability to spend money. This a major change for fans who have followed the team for 3 decades. For many years the Giants were a “mid-market” team, but the TV deals and the #3Rings propelled them to the upper echelons of MLB. They are a big market team now, no questions about it.

All of that to say, I get wanting Giancarlo Stanton, I really do. And if he comes to the Bay I will be happy to watch him take aim at the Coke Bottle for the next decade. Totally cool with that. But, are we cool with a return to an approach that didn’t work as well as the one that produced an unprecedented championship run?


Second, a more practical thought.

The Giants front office spoke a lot at the end of the season about getting more athletic, improving the defense (especially in CF), bolstering the pitching depth, and adding power. In particular (note #3 in this article), the Giants identified needs at 3B, CF, and the bullpen.

Again, I will LOVE Stanton in a Giant’s uniform. But he does not play 3B or CF, nor does he pitch out of the bullpen. Yet. Just kidding.

Yes, he is a good athlete, and HECK YES he would bring the power, but Stanton is not the final piece to any puzzle that makes a picture of a good 2018 Giants team.

Let’s walk through a couple of scenarios. And let’s make a couple of assumptions. It’s clear that if Denard Span is on the 2018 Giants he will play in left field. There’s a good chance he and Hunter Pence would form some sort of platoon over there. Let’s also assume that while the Giants are bringing back Pablo Sandoval for “free” they do not want him to be their everyday third basemen. Ok, let’s go.

First, let’s say the Giants and Marlins swing a deal where essentially the Giants take Stanton’s contract. No other players change hands. (This would never happen, obviously, but hang with me).

Here’s your 2018 SF Giants:

  • Span/Pence LF
  • Panik 2B
  • Posey C
  • Stanton RF
  • Belt 1B
  • Crawford SS
  • Arroyo 3B
  • Steven Dugger/Hernandez/Parker CF

Even without giving a single player the Giants would enter 2018 with a question about Arroyo at 3B (something I’d be all for, for the record), and a bit of a mess in CF.

Second, let’s examine the most rumored package for Stanton: Joe Panik, Tyler Beede (SP), and Chris Shaw (1B/OF). Let me just say that while I love Joe Panik, if the Giants get Giancarlo Stanton the baseball gods have looked favorably upon them. There’s no way in the world the Dodgers and/or Cardinals could not easily beat this deal, maybe even several times over. What this would mean is that either the Dodgers/Cardinals were not really serious, did not want that contract, or Stanton, for some reason, did not want to go there (he has a full no-trade clause).

Anyway, here’s your team:

  • Span/Pence LF
  • Arroyo 3B
  • Posey C
  • Stanton RF
  • Belt 1B
  • Crawford SS
  • Kelby Tomlinson 2B
  • Somebody CF

We can argue the optimal order of this lineup until the cows come home, but that’s not the point. The point is, you’ve now thrust Arroyo into a major role, and have a gaping hole at 2B, not to mention the CF problem.

This is why you are seeing this deal rumored as well: Third, the Giants send Panik/Beede/Shaw and Denard Span for Stanton, the contract, and 2B Dee Gordon. 

Ok, this is interesting:

  • Gordon 2B
  • Arroyo 3B
  • Posey C
  • Standton RF
  • Belt 1B
  • Pence LF
  • Crawford SS
  • Somebody CF

Somethings I like about this. Dee Gordon, though not my favorite player by a long shot, could be a good leadoff hitter for this team. He also plays a more than decent 2B. He might get 30 triples playing in AT&T. This also allows Hunter Pence to be the everyday LF, something I think he can do for a year. AND (I am so passionate about this), it breaks up the glut of left-handed hitters in the bottom half of the lineup.

I also, for the record, am not opposed to Steven Duggar getting a real shot at CF next year. But, I don’t think they will do that.

Which means: something else is going to happen. #HotTake.

There is no way the Giants go into 2018 with a both Christian Arroyo and Steven Duggar as key cogs in their every day lineup. If they do this I would be shocked (pleasantly surprised too, but also shocked).

What will this other move be? Do the Giants move Brandon Belt for a CF? Perhaps the Red Sox lose out on a couple of guys (like Eric Hosmer and JD Martinez) and get deperate for more power so they go after Brandon Belt (who would be great in Fenway if he can deal with the fans). Imagine this lineup for a moment:

  • Gordon 2B
  • Arroyo 3B
  • Posey C
  • Stanton RF
  • Pence LF
  • Crawford SS
  • Somebody 1B
  • Jackie Bradley Jr CF

That is a much more athletic and much better defensive team than what we’ve seen in a while. But, now there is a hole at 1B.

Which brings me, finally, to my thesis: Giancarlo Stanton would look so good in a Giants uniform. No doubt. But, he is not the silver bullet. He is not the answer to everything. The Giants are a couple moves away from really getting to a good place.

(Also, none of this addresses the pitching/bullpen issues.)

So, hope and pray for Giancarlo, but know that he will not solve all of our problems.