The Giants, mired in a slump over the past three-plus weeks, have fallen to 45-42 on the season and now sit a whopping 11 1/2 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the National League West. Even if their hopes for a repeat division title are largely dashed by this point, however, San Francisco remains just 1 1/2 games out of the newly created third National League Wild Card spot. With that proximity in mind, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi told reporters last night that his team has not yet considered selling and probably won’t make any large trade-related decisions until closer to the Aug. 2 deadline itself (links via John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle and Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area).
“…I think until we get into the last week of July, it’s a little bit of wheel spinning because so much of it is the context and the situation at that point,” Zaidi said when discussing the possibility of selling. He also emphasized that if the Giants are either in possession of a playoff spot or in their current position just outside a potential Wild Card berth, the team is “definitely going to look to improve.”
Zaidi outwardly lamented the poor defensive performance of a team he feels has not played up to its true level of talent with the glove, and he pushed back against the idea of making an immediate trade to replace injured righty Anthony DeSclafani, who won’t pitch again this season after undergoing surgery to repair a tendon in his ankle. Righty Jakob Junis, the latest reclamation success story from the Giants’ pitching factory, is expected to take DeSclafani’s spot in the rotation when he returns from the injured list next week.
The majority of teams in today’s game wait until closer to the deadline before making a clear choice on how to approach the summer trade market, typically leading to a quiet few weeks followed by a frenetic few days of chaos and relentless transactions. In that sense, the Giants are hardly an exception; we could see several others — the Guardians, Rangers, Mariners, Phillies and even the Orioles — take a similar tack.
That doesn’t mean that San Francisco isn’t at least performing diligence on what the deadline might look like should they indeed look to improve. The Giants are among the teams interested in Reds utilityman Brandon Drury, and they’re surely pondering other means of bolstering their lineup, defense and likely their relief corps. Giants relievers rank 21st in the Majors with a collective 4.22 ERA, and their 19.9% strikeout rate is the second-lowest in all of baseball.
For a team that has had its share of defensive issues, that lack of strikeouts from the relief corps is particularly glaring. The Giants have the third-worst Defensive Runs Saved mark in baseball (-25), and they’re dead last with -34 Outs Above Average. Darin Ruf and Joc Pederson are among the most poorly rated outfielders in MLB this season, and Thairo Estrada’s glovework at second base has been similarly panned. Longtime defensive stalwart Brandon Crawford hasn’t fared well this year at shortstop, while Evan Longoria and Jason Vosler have mixed reviews at third base.
With the Giants just a year removed from leading the majors with 107 wins, Zaidi and his staff are certainly hoping to be in position to add to the roster. Along with possible bullpen and infield moves, San Francisco looks like an on-paper fit for star Cubs catcher Willson Contreras. They’d need to remain right in the thick of the playoff race to top the market for a player who’s headed for free agency after the season, but San Francisco has split time between Austin Wynns and Joey Bart of late given the latter’s lofty strikeout totals.
If San Francisco did fall far enough out they considered selling, they’d have some notable players to market. Carlos Rodon is soon to reach the 110-inning threshold that’ll vest his opt-out clause after this season. With how well he’s performing, he’s certain to test free agency barring a collapse or serious injury. The Giants would have to view Rodon as more or less an impending free agent, and he’d draw plenty of calls as the top “rental” arm who’d be available.
The southpaw would be the club’s primary trade chip, but San Francisco has a few other impending free agents who’d attract interest. Pederson had an All-Star first half at the dish and is a strong left-handed platoon bat. Wilmer Flores is a quality hitter from the right side, and he’s capable of covering the three infield spots besides shortstop. This summer’s market figures to be light on infield help, so Flores would certainly have some appeal. Brandon Belt has full no-trade protection but is a perennially productive hitter; Dominic Leone is a solid middle reliever.
Other teams will surely be monitoring the Giants’ progress over the next few weeks, but Zaidi made clear his club will have an opportunity to play themselves out of any possibility of a sell-off. Given the quality of the roster and their proximity to the postseason picture, the likelier scenario still seems they’ll hang around enough for the front office to add and make a push for 2022. Their next eight games are against the division-leading Brewers and Dodgers, but they’ll have softer series versus the Cubs and Diamondbacks to close out July.