It was reported just days ago that the Giants were still planning to sell despite a run of success that has yet to abate. That’s not quite how president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi characterized things, though he certainly left the door wide open to dealing.
While the postseason picture remains about the same now — the Giants don’t have a prayer in the division but are up to one game under .500 and 2.5 games out of Wild Card position — there are increasing indications that the San Francisco organization may seriously consider holding onto its best trade chips. At the very least, it seems the club is going to give its roster as much time as possible to position itself.
There seems to be a bit of a growing sense around the game that the Giants may well hold off on a sell-off. A rival exec says as much to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link), while Andy Martino of SNY.tv reports that top Giants trade candidates Will Smith and Madison Bumgarner simply aren’t available at this point in time. Presumably, the same holds true for all or most of the team’s many other trade candidates, no shortage of whom featured on MLBTR’s latest ranking.
If that’s the case, it seems a sensible initial move for a front office group that is in its first season at the helm. It would be exceedingly difficult to justify sell-side decisions at this immediate juncture when it’s still not known exactly how the situation will look at the deadline. Aggressive, early action is worth considering when you’re certain of the approach, but there’s a reason teams have typically waited until just before the deadline (and even beyond, back when August trades were allowed under certain circumstances) to make moves that can’t be taken back.
Hitting the pause button doesn’t necessarily mean the Giants won’t end up operating on the sell side. There are many arguments in favor of such an approach, as we touched upon in presenting our recent poll on the Giants’ deadline approach. The responses to the poll were interesting: about three of four MLBTR readers urged the Giants to sell. Less than one in ten advocated a buying approach, with most of the optimists preferring the team mostly stand pat.
It’s interesting to wonder whether some kind of blended approach could be pursued if the club has positioned itself in or near Wild Card position by the end of the month. One possibility would be to hang onto Bumgarner, a rightful legend of the organization, with the idea of issuing him a qualifying offer at season’s end (or even extending him). It’s far from clear that the organization will recoup truly significant prospects for the lefty, with nagging questions about just how good a pitcher he really is at this stage of his career and only months of team control remaining. Hanging onto him might represent a justifiable middle ground. Meanwhile, the team could explore deals in which it would recoup youthful talent at or near the majors for some of its veteran hurlers (this trade might be something of a model). The Giants could even contemplate some additions of controllable talent if they see good value and a chance to fill an anticipated need.
For understandable reasons, Bumgarner continues to draw much of the attention. The undeniable allure of his historically exceptional postseason work is tough to ignore or write off. Thirty on August 1st, Bumgarner probably will never return to his peak levels of performance. But it’s also important to note that he has turned things up a notch as the season has gone along. He’s currently sitting at over 92 mph with his average heater and carries a 12.0% swinging-strike rate that’s second-highest in his career. Statcast does suggest some regression could be in store based upon the volume of hard contact Bumgarner has surrendered, but ERA estimators generally see him as a quality mid-rotation starter (3.69 FIP, 3.96 xFIP, 4.01 SIERA).
It’s no surprise that plenty of clear contenders are contemplating a move for Bumgarner. There has been a steady stream of chatter on him for some time. There are a few recent market hints, though none seem particularly strong. The Twins and (less likely) Red Sox may have been eyeing MadBum when they scouted his outing last night, Jon Morosi of MLB.com suggests (Twitter links), though it’s awfully difficult to know what the presence of a scout means when the contest in question features so many possible trade candidates. The Yankees are primarily looking elsewhere but could still enter the picture, Martino suggests.
As for Bumgarner himself, his feelings probably aren’t surprising. Following a gutsy nine-inning performance last night, the surly southpaw told reporters including Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area that his team is “making a push” for the postseason. Do the trade rumors bother MadBum? “I don’t give a …” well, you know. He continued: “I’m here to win games for this team, and that’s what we’re doing.”