It seems rare in a baseball time such as this, but the Giants have consistently “gone for it,” and sometimes in the ways we consider to be irresponsible; or, at least we view it irresponsible with respect to getting the best value, or putting together the most flexible roster.
But you have to admire the chutzpah of scooping up talent when it’s available and putting your best chips forward. Hell, the Giants are the best example out there that if you get into the dance in the first place, it’s always possible to win the whole thing. Their last World Series win was not even a 90-win team, and none of them this decade yielded more than 95.
Unfortunately that process of going all in didn’t work in 2018, as the team went 73-89, which was just a total disaster from every angle. The major moves last season—namely, bringing Evan Longoria from the Rays and Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates—yielded a mixed bag, as Longoria hit just .244/.281/.413, and McCutchen had a .772 OPS but was better off being shipped to New York at the trade waiver deadline.
Madison Bumgarner, still hobbled after an injury-shortened 2017, didn’t make his 2018 debut until June 5th due to an injured pinky of all things, and he got essentially a half-season of work in—a 3.26 ERA over 129 2⁄3 innings. Johnny Cueto tossed just 53 innings after having to undergo Tommy John surgery in early August, so they will be without him for basically all of the 2019 season.
Jeff Samardzija had issues with shoulder inflammation and a strained pectoral muscle, and pitched just 44 2⁄3 innings. The Will Smith-Sam Dyson-Tony Watson trio were largely phenomenal, though, but it’s hard to compete when you give the lion’s share of starts to Chris Stratton and Andrew Suarez.
The Giants go into 2019 with basically the same squad sans Hunter Pence and McCutchen, and they added just Yangervis Solarte and Gerardo Parra. With a payroll around $175 million they still could have added Bryce Harper, and they were on the list to obtain Giancarlo Stanton after he backed out last offseason, but this is a team that is largely set and finished for the remainder of the season. And while this team won’t be good—God, they will absolutely not be good—there are still things to look at as bright spots.
- They do still have Bumgarner and Cueto, even if the latter won’t return.
Even though the former will be a free agent, there is hope in the organization that he can be re-signed, and I would imagine they can considering declining prices for free agents, especially now a recently oft-injured one. Cueto will return in 2020 at (hopefully) full form, and that isn’t nothing!
- They still have Buster Posey.
Posey is still one of the best—if not the best—catchers in the game and the best of this generation, and he’s still very much in his prime. PECOTA projects a 4.6 WARP season out of him, so while the next core will likely be as he is fading, it will still very much be his team to guide into the next phase.
- Farhan Zaidi.
The biggest acquisition the Giants actually made was in November when they made former Dodgers and Athletics executive Farhan Zaidi the President of Baseball Operations, which is essentially the GM in new-baseball parlance. Zaidi comes from a legacy of patching together the last run of successful Athletics teams, and then putting together super-teams, full of flexibility, in Los Angeles. Considering their emphasis on diversifying risk but still utilizing payroll, and investing heavily in the international market, there is a lot of hope that this brain trust will be just as successful as the scouting gut of Brian Sabean in yesteryear, which leads me to...
- They already invested heavily in the 2018 international amateur market.
The Giants got to go over their amateur pool in 2018, and they went wild, signing the second-best prospect to Victor Victor Mesa in Marco Luciano to a $2.6 million deal, and Cuban outfielder Jairo Pomares to $1.1 million. They signed 30 players in total, and while those won’t bear fruit for five or more years down the road, it shows that while the farm system sans Joey Bart is decimated, they will have a base of talent to build on going forward.
It’s going to be a rough year for Giants fans; there’s no doubt. Innumerable time will be spent squinting to find a bright spot here or a bright spot there, but this was the same organization that won three championships this decade, and added one of the best executives in the game into the fold, with one of the most flexible owners in the game. 2019 won’t be the year, but the next decade is sure to be another Giants decade.