Do you know who leads the Giants in at-bats this season? Brandon Crawford. That's not wholly unexpected. Crawford has always been a grinder who plays pretty much every day. Do you know who holds the second most AB's? Mike Yastrzemski. Again, that's not surprising. Mikey Yaz is an every day player and he should be up there in AB's. It's a little surprising given the number of injuries Yaz has had, but overall, not surprising. However, after that, things get weird. Just starting the "2nd half", the next two Giants with the most AB's, third and fourth respectively, are Wilmer Flores and Donovan Solano. That is where you see how the Giants season went sideways in terms of line-up construction. I think if you asked Gabe Kapler, Farhan Zaidi, and Scott Harris if they would have penciled in Flores and Solano to have the 3rd and 4th most AB's halfway through the season, they would have scoffed. Surely those AB's would have been taken by Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, the other two Giants who came into the season with everyday starter status. Flores and Solano were supposed to be platoon guys, Flores filling in at 1B, 2B, and 3B and Solano sharing time with Tommy LaStella at 2B and occasionally 3B and, in case of emergencies, SS. The Giants roster was built to have platoon advantages and a bunch of hitters were going to be sharing AB's. That's still been the case, only five Giants have more than 200 official AB's, the top 4 AB guys mentioned above, and Buster Posey, who sits every third game most of the time. Still, it's a little jarring to see Flores and Solano as the guys with the 3rd and 4th most AB's thus far. Flores typically is a lefty masher who struggles against righties, but this year injuries have forced him to play more, and he's actually holding his own against righties. Meanwhile, for the most part, Donnie Barrels has disappeared and only Donovan Solano, journeyman utility infielder, has shown up. He's underperformed for most of 2021 after winning the Silver Slugger award for second basemen last season, and it's unusual to see the Giants give so many AB's to a guy with a .685 OPS. They've done so because they have had to, because of injuries to Evan Longoria, Tommy LaStella, and Brandon Belt. Which leads me to the MLB Trade Deadline!
It's that exciting time of year where every fan of every team speculates who is coming, who is going, and how the pennant races will be impacted by trades made two months before the season ends. Farhan Zaidi has had a weird time as the leader of the Giants front office. In 2019, the Giants were competitive enough around the deadline that he couldn't all-out sell but he couldn't justify buying either. That led him to go bi-polar deadline shopping, where he weakened the Giants strength by selling the bullpen in Sam Dyson, Mark Melancon, Drew Pomeranz, and Ray Black for Mauricio Dubon, a variety of prospects, and salary relief. Most Giants fans loved this. He also held on to Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, arguably his two most valuable trade pieces, for the stretch run. Giants fans were torn about this, some happy to see the Giants not fully give up, others pissed because Zaidi didn't cash in two players who didn't seem to be coming back in 2020. For good measure, he added Scooter Gennett as a "buy" piece for pretty much nothing. However, they replaced their departed bullpen dudes with Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, and Jandel Gustave. None of those guys are in the Giants organization, and for good reason, in 2021. Not surprisingly, the Giants faded from contention rather quickly after the deadline. Zaidi didn't push all his chips in and he didn't cash out all his chips. He was in a tough position. Fast forward to 2020, the fake COVID season, where whomever won the championship is a clear fraud. Zaidi wasn't going to move any prospects, who had zero minor league season, for a chance at a Mickey Mouse ring. Yes, the Giants were in contention all season and they missed the playoffs by one game, and if Zaidi had made some sort of significant move at the deadline, it's pretty likely the Giants and Dodgers would have faced off in the first round. Zaidi didn't want to detract from the farm system in a short season and so, the Giants basically sat on their hands in 2020, making one very minor move to acquire Anthony Banda from Tampa for cash considerations. Banda never put on a Giants jersey as he toiled in the minor leagues and was traded this season for another Zaidi flier. Just like in 2019, however, Zaidi did not sell his top guys either. He didn't trade a resurgent Kevin Gausman, he didn't trade a healthy Johnny Cueto, and he didn't trade valuable reliever Tony Watson. He held serve. The Giants missed the playoffs but fast forward to 2021 and look at how things are shaking out. Gausman is a legitimate ace, the farm system is bristling with talent, Cueto has been inconsistent but mostly effective, and the Giants are owners of the best record in baseball and can go big or small at the deadline.
Ah yes, the 2021 MLB Trade Deadline for the Giants. What you came here to read. It's going to be an exciting deadline for the Giants. They are clear buyers this year. If Zaidi opts to do nothing at the deadline, his players may revolt. On the flipside, he's in Year 3 of his tenure, and he's not ready to just go off and trade every prospect he has hoarded the last few seasons for a rental for a playoff push that could end after one game or, at best, start with an NLDS 5 game series versus the Dodgers or Padres where they aren't guaranteed to move to the next round. Barring an epic collapse beyond that of the 2016 team, the Giants are going to be playing in October. Playoff berths are never guaranteed and after not being in the playoffs since 2016, the Giants ownership may be a bit antsy about getting there again, especially after the 2020 season where they had no fans to purchase garlic fries and cha-cha bowls to line their pockets with and donate to questionable GOP leaders. Playoffs mean more revenue for the club. Playoffs mean a reboot of fans coming in droves to Oracle Park. A World Series run means sell out streaks could return. This should all make ownership very, very interested in splurging at the deadline. This is what Zaidi and Harris will have to navigate. Half this Giants team (not exaggerating) will be free agents after the season. The plan this season was for most of their "rentals" to play well enough that they could be traded at the deadline for more prospects. The more prospects you have, the better chance some actually pan out and become productive cheap major leaguers! Then the 2021 Giants went and messed that up by actually being good. Like really really good. They are basically the Cleveland Indians team from Major League. Despite how good they've been, and all their numbers support their goodness isn't a fluke, most fans from other teams and, heck, even Giants fans feel a second half collapse is inevitable.
So who fits?