If There Were a 2020 San Francisco Giants Team…

by DrLefty

The Orange Friday Sim Giants beat the Braves at Oracle Park last night, 4-1. Logan Webb started for the Giants and went five innings, giving up one run on three hits with seven strikeouts. The Giants did all of their damage in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, when three-time Gold Glover Nick Markakis fell down trying a chase a ball in right field. Two runs scored on that, and then pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval hit a two-run splash homer. This version of the Sim Giants is in second place with a 24-21 record, and their hottest hitter remains Brandon Belt, though he went 0-4 last night.

YouTube hasn’t posted last night’s game yet, but all the others so far are here on this page. Next week’s game is back at its usual 7 p.m. PDT slot and will feature the Giants on the road in Pittsburgh.

Watching last night’s sim game was bittersweet. This weekend is Mr. Lefty’s Big Birthday, and before all this hit, we had Big Plans. We were going to stay in San Francisco for the weekend, go to “Hamilton” last night, and to a Giants game either today or tomorrow. I had Alexa play the “Hamilton” soundtrack while we ate dinner last night. Not quite the same experience.

Ah, well. The big news for this week, besides the publication of the Willie Mays/John Shea book, 24 (sitting on our coffee table–no Kindle version for this one), was the plan agreed upon by MLB owners and submitted to the MLB Players Association to start the 2020 season. Among other details, it includes:

  • camps opening around the second week of June (locations TBD); games starting around July 1
  • 78-82 game regular season
  • teams playing only other teams in their own division and in the mirror division in the opposite league (i.e., the Giants would play only NL West and AL West teams) to reduce travel
  • an expanded playoff plan, with seven teams from each league (three division winners and four wild cards) making the tournament, and a best-of-three wild card round before the NLDS, NLCS, and World Series
  • universal DH

Now, before we go any further, we should note that there are a lot of barriers to any of this actually happening. On the latest “Baggs & Brisbee” podcast, Grant put the odds at 30-70 (against the season being played), and Baggs put it at slightly above 50-50. The initial roadblock is the two sides reaching agreement on compensation. The owners want a revenue split, and the union wants the deal they agreed to in March, which involves the players receiving a pro-rated portion of their contracted salaries. It’s a big gap, and as several players have pointed out on social media, they’re the ones taking all the risks, so why should they accept an even bigger pay cut? Most notably, 2019 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell said this.

As you might imagine, Snell’s remarks have led to a lot of controversy. People who have been laid off, or workers risking their lives in hospitals and grocery stores, don’t want to hear about millionaires complaining over a pay cut. On the other hand, the players (and coaches and other staff and their families) are the ones who would be taking all the risks, so it’s a bad look for the fat-cat billionaire owners, sitting comfortably and safely in their mansions, to start crying poor mouth.

Even if this compensation issue can be resolved–and Baggs for one thinks there’s a lot of momentum towards making a deal–there’s the bigger and much more important issue of safety. Will local officials even allow games to happen in July and August? Will there be enough testing and tracing to keep all the personnel safe by then? What happens if/when a player or coach or trainer gets sick? Does everything stop again?

With all of these “buts” in mind, let’s take a few minutes to play with the notion of a 2020 Giants team. We had a pretty good idea of what the season was going to look like before the COVID-19 stoppage in March:

(a) a bad major league product that would be well under .500 and never in contention;

(b) some key pieces that they hoped would be showcased and flipped at the trade deadline (Gausman, Samardzija, Smyly, etc.);

(c) the major league debuts of several top prospects;

(d) the excitement of following a minor league system on the rise with exciting young players getting one year closer to helping the next great Giants team.

Oh, and (e), watching curiously to see how the whole Gabe-Kapler-and-his-cajillion-coaches thing played out.

So now the 2020 season isn’t going to happen as expected. Will there even be a trade deadline? What happens to all of those minor leaguers if there is no minor league season? All that said, if there is a 2020 season, what might it look like for the San Francisco Giants? Here are some possibilities.

  • The major league results might not be as terrible as we were expecting.  Any team can have a hot streak. Why, I remember a particular team that was projected to be awful going 33-19 over a two-month period last year. Project that out over 80 games, and you have a team that’s 51-29 and playing over .630 baseball. (Similarly, a certain team that was projected to be a juggernaut could get off to a slow start. It could happen.)
  • The DH thing could actually work out kind of OK for the Giants. Pretend it’s Feb. 1, 2020, and there’s no coronavirus. However, the league has suddenly decided to move to a universal DH, effective immediately. The Giants have to scramble and figure out whom to sign. They target a right-handed power hitter with recent success as a DH, and…wait. The Giants actually did that already. Well, what about someone from the left side? How about a talented but fragile outfielder who helped the 2019 team go 33-19 in June and July, whose bat could be in the lineup more if he wasn’t exposed to playing the outfield? How about a switch-hitting roly-poly Venezuelan who’s nails at hitting off the bench?
  • Might as well call up Joey Bart. Andrew Baggarly did a deep dive into this topic this past week, and it’s hard to argue with his logic. Why in the world have Bart sit around and twiddle his thumbs for a whole season if there’s no AAA baseball? Bart is already older than Buster Posey was when Buster made his major league debut and came back to stay in 2010. By the time the 2021 season starts, Bart will be 24. Even if they started his service clock in July, he’d still be pushing 30 by the time he hit free agency. There’s just not a compelling reason to wait. And who would you rather watch?–Tyler Heineman or Rob Brantly, or Joey Bart?
  • This could turn into a fun lineup to watch. How does this sound: Bart C, Posey 1B, Flores 2B, Crawford/Dubon SS, Longoria 3B, Belt LF, Yaz CF, Puig RF, Pence/Dickerson/Sandoval DH? Throw in Billy Hamilton and Yolmer Sanchez for some primo defense off the bench, and…that’s not bad. Let’s not squint too closely at the pitching staff for now. After what we’ve watched the last few years, I’d take a Giants team that lost games 9-7 or 5-4 over the ones that don’t even roll out of bed until about the fifth inning.

If this happens at all, it actually has the potential to be quite entertaining. Throw in Farhan Zaidi wheeling and dealing with the roster and Kapler and the coaches doing all kinds of strange stuff, and we could have plenty to talk about and take our minds off the virus, the economy, and the election.

What do you think? Let’s talk some hypothetical 2020 Giants baseball!  Lefty out.