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Sunday, December 10, 2017

So the Giants didn't get Giancarlo Stanton... now what?

First and foremost and by far the most important piece of information in all of this: Giancarlo Stanton is NOT a Dodger. The Giants have basically won the offseason already because Giancarlo got traded to the Not-Dodgers. Oh, and the 2nd biggest offseason sensation went to the Dodgers geographical rival, the Angels. Now the Angels have the best player in the sport and one of the most intriguing Japanese imports since Ichiro. Take that you bullies in blue and white! Now go suck on your Game 7 World Series loss while we Giants fans exalt in a glorious offseason where you for some reason decided not to trade for the reining NL MVP despite him essentially begging you to get him.

God, that felt good.

Ok, so Giancarlo isn't a Giant either though. In fact, he's a Yankee. There was a time when I would have been infuriated that one of the top 5 players in baseball was traded from a small market team (or a team that operates like it's in a small market but is actually in a pretty large market) to the New York Yankees. The rich get richer. A team that constantly wins World Series gets yet another legendary player to eventually enshrine in the Hall of Fame. I mean, if you're a fan of probably any other team outside of the NL West,  you're appalled the Yankees got Giancarlo Stanton for essentially nothing but a willingness to absorb the majority of his contract. And that is well within your right. A line-up that includes Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez in the middle of it is one that should keep pitchers up at night. The Bronx Bombers indeed.

But Giancarlo in a Yankees jersey is much much much better than Giancarlo in a Dodgers jersey. At least for Giants fans. Sure, it's not quite as cool as Giancarlo in a Giants jersey where the team would have petitioned MLB to change their name to the San Francisco Giantcarlos. And sure, the Giants and Marlins had an agreement in place to actually make this a reality except for the minor fact that Giancarlo didn't want to come play in San Francisco because, well, no power hitters like to come play at AT&T Park, not even apparently the most prolific power hitter in the game. It also may have had something to do with the fact that the team was awful in 2017 and it was hard for him to envision the Giants contending in 2018, let alone overtaking the Dodgers. Giancarlo wants to win and the Giants were the furthest thing from winners last season. So he chose to go someplace where he knew the team would win and win often. New York. Where the line-up is young, the money is endless, and the team is set up to start a whole new dynasty. The drama is over. Giancarlo might as well change his name to Gotham Stanton now and we Giants fans can move on.

But move on to what? Therein lies the rub. The Giants were atrocious last season. If you squint your eyes a bit though, a lot of that atrociousness was bad luck. Bumgarner thought he was Super Dave Osborne (spoiler alert: he's not), Cueto was allergic to the new baseballs MLB insists were not different but are, Belt had a magnet in his helmet to attract beanballs, Matt Moore forgot how to pitch, and Mark Melancon and Will Smith's arms decided they needed a tune-up.

However, there were some other underlying bad things that weren't really a product of bad luck but the product of poor decisions or inevitable declines. Signing Denard Span for 3 years to play CF didn't seem like the greatest of ideas considering Span was coming off injury and every other tea seemed wary of giving him more than one guaranteed year. Evans signed him for 3 (with an option!) expecting him to be the same solid defensive CF'er and leadoff hitter he had been in the past. Span was not great defensively 2016 and he fell off a cliff in that department in 2017. He was largely an embarrassment in CF all season long. While his offensive numbers were ok, the Giants clearly need someone that has some speed and can take good routes and catch the ball in CF. Also, relying on Hunter Pence who had not stayed healthy in 2015 and 2016 was too optimistic. Pence stayed relatively healthy in 2017 but his skills both offensively and defensively clearly declined. LF was a black hole to begin with but the team really wanted one of their guys to step up and seize the job. After the season they had, it's hard thinking the Giants will give Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker another shot at locking down an outfield job in 2018. Sort of unfair for Parker but he also probably didn't show enough in his return from a shoulder injury that cost him half the season to really be counted on again. Maybe he can lock down a 4th or 5th outfield role with the team. And finally, there was 3B. 3B was fine with Nunez and started promising for Arroyo until Arroyo started swinging at sliders away every AB. That led to the reunion with Pablo Sandoval and as expected that turned out about as poorly as one could have anticipated.

Due to the above, the Giants started the offseason by saying they needed help in CF, 3B, and the bullpen. They then immediately went hard and fast for an MVP that plays RF and a two-way Japanese player that throws 100 MPH in the rotation and crushes bombs as a DH in the batter's box. Not that the Giants didn't need either of those guys. They need all the help they can get regardless of position. But now that the Stanton and Ohtani dream is over, what does this team do now?

This is a tough call. Getting Stanton and/or Shohei Ohtani (and how fun it was to dream of getting both for awhile) would have been transformative. You could almost imagine a 98 loss team, with a little luck and a new franchise star, rebounding to contend in 2018. But now those dreams are gone (though again not turned to nightmares since the Dodgers got neither as well) and the Giants are left trying to fix that team that lost 98 games. So what will they do? With the winter meetings starting tomorrow, it's easy to see them shift back to the areas they wanted to address: CF, 3B, and RP.

There's some problems here. The Giants due to their extremely crappy season have been rewarded with very high draft picks. That is great news. But it's bad news if you want to sign a free agent that was offered a qualifying offer from their previous team and declined it. That would mean if the Giants signed one of those players they'd be punished by having their draft picks lowered. A team in the position of the Giants right now should NOT be forfeiting high draft picks. So that would rule out a few free agents that otherwise would have been pretty good pickups. Namely CF Lorenzo Cain, 3B Mike Moustakas, RP Greg Holland and Wade Davis, and SP Jake Arrieta. If the Giants sign any of these guys, Giants fans should be pissed. None of these guys are transformative players. Are they improvements over the status quo? Yes. But they wouldn't magically make the Giants a winning team. So the Giants should avoid these guys like the plague.

However, the Giants farm system also just got finished being shat on during all the Giancarlo talk. The Giants don't really have any really good prospects. Their lone true blue chipper was drafted last June in the form of Heliot Ramos. He likely is now untouchable unless the Yankees decide they now want to trade Giancarlo Stanton. The Giants have tradeable prospects but if they target a player they want to trade for there's an unfortunate reality where another team will likely be able to offer something better. This goes for the likes of maybe available players like Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Evan Longoria, and Eugenio Suarez.

Couple ALL this with the fact that the Giants have so many holes to fill that they probably really ought to rebuild but won't and you'll get whatever happens this offseason. What will happen this offseason? The most likely scenario is that the Giants may sign some players with underwhelming name value or trade for players that aren't exactly awesome that fill some holes and don't tie down their payroll. That means no JD Martinez no matter how many people assert the Giants will target him now that they didn't get Stanton. JD Martinez's right handed power bat is great and is exactly what they need. But his not-so-great defense in the OF makes him less ideal and he'll turn 30 shortly after Opening Day. As a free agent, that' not too bad actually in terms of age. But he's looking for a 6 year deal and the Giants probably don't want to pay a 35 year old JD Martinez something like 24M in 2022. The Giants also want to get under the luxury tax. This should not be overlooked. They were willing to blow by it for Stanton. They will not be willing to do so for JD Martinez or any combination of free agents that don't truly improve the team by several wins all at once.

If you ask me, the Giants are probably going to do the following: They'll sign either Eduardo Nunez or Yunel Escobar to be a stopgap at 3B until Arroyo proves he can hit MLB pitching. I'd say Todd Frazier but Frazier is a power hitter and will not choose SF if he has a choice and he'll have choices. Repeat after me: Power hitters don't come to play at AT&T Park willingly. For CF, they'll make a minor trade to upgrade the defense (Billy Hamilton or Kevin Pillar) or they'll just sign Jarrod Dyson or Rajai Davis. Finally, they'll sign a reliever like Jake McGee. They'll hope and pray everyone has a bounceback year while not tying themselves down to any new onerous contracts. They'll sell the Bumgarner and Cueto got hurt narrative and that they were a playoff team with the same guys in 2016 (nevermind that terrible 2nd half). It's not glamorous but it's smart. They keep what little prospects they have, get another shot at drafting the next great Giants in June, and improve on areas of need.

It likely won't lead to a postseason appearance in 2018 but it may make the team better in the short term and long term. And that's really all we can ask for now that the two guys that could have had a major impact for this team are now both with the Not-Dodgers.

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