The Giants appear to be in a bit of a predicament. They were not expected to be competitive this year, and they were not through June, finishing out the month at 36-47, the second-worst record in the NL. They were 19.5 games out of first place, 7.5 games out of the last Wild Card slot, and had only a 0.2 percent chance to make the playoffs, per FanGraphs.
Then July happened. As of this writing the Giants have gone 13-3 in July and are sitting on a record of 49-50. Believe it or not, they are in third place in the NL West over the Rockies and the Padres. Sharing a division with the Dodgers means that they have no shot at the division, but they are only 2.5 games back of a Wild Card.
The problem is that there are four teams in front of them for that last Wild Card spot, and honestly, the talent just is not there. Their pitching is okay, but they have one of the worst offenses in baseball. Only two qualified hitters have a wRC+ of 100 or better: Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt. Lowering the PA minimum to 200 brings in Pablo Sandoval of all people, who has a 106 wRC+. Nobody else even cracks 90, and that includes Buster Posey, who is sitting at an 87 wRC+.
Despite the Giants’ hot streak, FanGraphs has them as having less than a five percent chance to make the playoffs, and I am sure the team’s internal projections are not far off from that. Furthermore, their new President of Baseball Operations is Farhan Zaidi, who is the kind of smart baseball executive that understands all this.
I am sure the Giants were planning to be sellers before the season even began, and though the team is hovering around .500, I would be very surprised if Zaidi plans to do otherwise. Perhaps some fans will be upset, and perhaps some in the local sports media will be critical, but you have to do what is best for the team, even if there will be a backlash. Let’s be honest, though, winning three championships this decade in a five year span buys you a lot of goodwill!
The Giants’ farm system is in pretty rough shape, and Zaidi needs to strike while the iron is hot in order to improve it. Madison Bumgarner will be a free agent after this season, and even though he is not exactly vintage MadBum, he is still a solid mid-rotation starter with a 4.42 DRA and 5.0 BB%. Brandon Belt is an interesting trade target, too. Unlike Bumgarner, he would not be a rental, as he is under contract through 2021. He is 31 years old and declining, but he is still a solid overall first baseman with good OBP skills.
The bullpen has been quite good this year, and offers some interesting trade options for the Giants. Will Smith has been one of the best relievers in baseball with a 2.61 RA9, 6.4 BB%, and he has struck out nearly 40 percent of batters faced! Sam Dyson has been quite good, too. His strikeout rates are mediocre, but he has a 3.26 RA9 and has walked only 3.3 percent of batters faced. Reyes Moronta has a 2.84 RA9, 31.8 K%, and is not even arbitration eligible. Like Smith, Tony Watson would also be a rental, but he has a 2.95 RA9, and even though he suffers from a poor strikeout rate, his walk rate is even lower than Dyson’s.
I would be surprised of Zaidi does not make some big moves by the trade deadline, especially with respect to Bumgarner. It will be exciting to see what happens!
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.