by DrLefty

I’m nervous about the Giants right now. I read the discussion on TWG following last night’s game and saw a spirited conversation about two reasonable perspectives: (1) the team’s offense in particular has been “putrid” over the last month or so; and (2) the Giants are nonetheless 7-3 over the last ten games, playing great on the road, and currently tied for the lead in the NL wild card race, just three games behind the Dodgers in the NL West. You can isolate stats all you want, but the results, as in wins and losses, are what matter, right?

To which I say: You’re right. All of you. And to add to the glass-half-empty comments about the sputtering offense, there’s the extremely bad last turn through the rotation (Anthony DeSclafani, Ross Stripling*, Alex Cobb, and Alex Wood, with bad bulk-innings performances by Sean Manaea and Jakob Junis mixed in there, too). If the Giants are not going to hit, they need their pitching to carry them, and with the exceptions of the real relievers (Camilo Doval, Rogerses, Scott Alexander, Ryan Walker) and Logan Webb, the pitchers have not been doing their job. It’s also concerning that the offense is this bad when they haven’t been facing good pitching on this road trip. They missed the Pirates’ best starter, All-Star Mitch Keller, and the Reds, for all their appeal as a young, athletic, exciting team, ran out a bunch of no-names with bad ERAs. Last night, the Giants were stymied by a mediocre Nationals rookie having a mediocre year (and that’s being generous–he’s really not very good at all). The Pirates, Reds, and Nationals are 11th, 14th, and 15th in the NL in team ERA, respectively–and yet the Giants are being shut down by them. Nonetheless…look at the L10 and the standings.

Reflecting on this, I realize that I’m currently in the glass-half-empty camp, though it wouldn’t take much to push me back to the other side. The offense is a problem. The rotation is a problem. There doesn’t appear to be an easy or quick way to fix either of those things (except the Oh-word, which ain’t happening, folks). Even “play the kids” isn’t an answer–they are playing the kids, and that’s part of the problem. So playing more of them (e.g., Heliot Ramos or Tyler Fitzgerald) isn’t necessarily a solution, either.


*I know some of you will argue that Stripling’s six innings/three runs wasn’t a “bad” performance, but I’m looking at the big picture with him: His ERA for the year is nearly 6, his HR/9 is a horrific 2.3, and he has the worst WAR (-0.4) of any pitcher on the team. And the three runs were via a third-inning three-run homer that put the depleted offense into an early hole they couldn’t climb out of, losing 3-2. The Giants are 3-11 in games he’s appeared in this year. Calling his latest appearance “good” is grading on a generous curve.


The Trade Deadline

All of this brings us to the imminent trade deadline, which is now ten days away. Andrew Baggarly finally reappeared in The Athletic today, and he said the Giants are definitely buyers, no question about it. Of course they are; look at the “glass-half-full” arguments above. Despite all of the visible/glaring problems, they are still figuring out ways to win games, and plenty of them. They need help and they’ve proven to their front office that they deserve help. It’s very hard to predict who will be available and whom, if anyone, the Giants might be able to obtain. But this is an important ten days, and not just for the remainder of the 2023 season and hopefully the postseason, but also for the future, which we’ll get to in the next section.

Baggarly, to his credit, did not go further down the Oh-word rabbit hole. In fact, in his podcast with Kerry Crowley (guest-hosting for the vacationing Grant Brisbee), he said that he couldn’t imagine Farhan Zaidi gutting his farm system after years of building it up for a rental–any rental, even one as transcendent as Ohtani (there, I said his name). In fact, they said they couldn’t imagine why any team would. Rather, in his article, Baggs suggested some incremental improvements as trade targets: Mark Canha from the Mets for the right-handed outfielder they need, Matt Duffy from the Royals, for the veteran middle infielder they at least temporarily need (also to reverse the Curse of Skeeter), and Michael Lorenzen from the Tigers to provide rotation help. These all seem like reasonable suggestions that would provide incremental help and wouldn’t break the bank. I think those are the right ideas, or similar ones along those lines.

I’ve said this before, but I also think the trade deadline could be productive for the Giants with some market timing and judicious selling. There are a lot of contenders out there who need starting pitching even worse than the Giants do, hard as that may be to believe, and some of them might bite on Wood (a rental who’s had some good outings sprinkled in with the bad), DeSclafani, or Stripling. When you open up the Giants’ Baseball Reference page, it shows the current top 12 players by WAR. Among those top-12 players is Tristan Beck, who, incomprehensibly, is currently in AAA–not because he pitched poorly, mind you, but because they needed roster spots for the never-ending list of mediocre bulk-innings pitchers. That is ridiculous. They need to get rid of somebody(ies) and bring back Beck and Keaton Winn, stat. Trading from excess mediocrity could also open a spot for Mason Black, who’s made two solid starts in AAA already. (If the Dodgers, who are in first place, can bring pitchers up from AA to plug into their rotation, I think we could take a chance on Black.) Finally, and this is a more controversial suggestion, I’d see what I could get for Joc Pederson, who’s still hitting well enough to help someone and whose postseason resume would surely appeal to some teams. Then I’d bring up Joey Bart to back up Patrick Bailey and move Blake Sabol to DH/LF, maybe giving Michael Conforto some DH days, too.

If the Giants actually proceeded as outlined above, I’d be happy with the trade deadline. I don’t want them to gut their farm system, but I do think they need help.


The Future

The next ten days are also important for the short-term future. If the Giants are going to attract any good free agents to complement the homegrown core that we hope will continue to emerge over the next year or so, they need to (a) win this year and (b) demonstrate that they have a plan to be a sustainable contender for years to come. That’s why, if they have any hope of luring the Oh-word here as a free agent, they need to NOT empty out their farm to obtain him as a rental. Right now, their best arguments for That Guy to sign with the Giants are named Patrick Bailey, Marco Luciano, Luis Matos, Kyle Harrison, and so on. So the Giants need to keep them, give them good opportunities to develop, and demonstrate to That Guy and others to be determined that they have a bright future.  By “win this year,” I mean “make the playoffs” and ideally go beyond the first round. They don’t have to win the pennant or the World Series to show that they’re headed in the right direction. But their first-round exit in 2021 followed by a disappointing 2022 makes it too easy to write off the 107-win season as a fluke. They need to change the narrative back to “We’re a savvy organization that knows what we’re doing” instead of “We’re weirdos that think we’re smarter than anyone else.”

I’d also say that the 2022 and 2023 draft classes are potentially a good sign, not just for the organization itself but also for possible free agents. They already have Carson Whisenhunt (their 2022 second-rounder) on the top-100 prospect list, and the surprising Wade Meckler (2022 eighth-rounder) in AA, and the intriguing Reggie Crawford moving along. Their 2023 draft class may turn out even better, with four top-50 picks in their haul (if they can sign Maui Ahuna, which isn’t a done deal yet).

When I think about the minor league prospects and the two recent drafts, my mood returns to glass half full. But that’s why these next ten days seem fairly critical, and why I feel like it’s nervous time.


Tonight’s Game

Giants at Nationals, 4:05 p.m. at Nationals Park

Logan Webb vs. Josiah Gray

This is the best pitching matchup of the series, unfortunately for the Giants. They need to try to win on Webb Days (he has an unconscionable 8-7 record despite being fourth in the NL in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts and first in innings pitched), but Gray, whom the Nats obtained in the 2021 deadline deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers, was the Nats’ All-Star representative this year.

I know Greek Giant already provided the RIP for Tony Bennett yesterday, but we’ll let this #ForeverGiant take us out today, and we can remember him with a smile every time the Giants win a home game. Lefty out.