The San Francisco Giants entered the all-star break with the best record in Major League Baseball. So, they only have two possible outcomes in the season’s second half: hold steady or fall from the top. Right?
Actually, there might be a third possibility.
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The Giants have endured a significant number injuries to key players, and yet that has not hurt them in the win column. Imagine how strong they will be with Hunter Pence, Joe Panik, Matt Cain and, to a lesser degree, Matt Duffy back in the fold. And then, consider they will probably add a player or two by the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline to address the few weaknesses they have.
So, the Giants could very well be better in the second half. How exactly can they do that? Let’s take a look.
Most importantly, as mentioned above, the Giants need to heal up. If they get all their injured players back and avoid losing any other key players for extended periods, the lineup and the rotation will both be even stronger than they were in the first half.
Upgrade the Bullpen
The Yankees supposedly don’t think the Giants have the quality of prospects to pry away either Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. One of those lefties would be an ideal addition to San Francisco’s bullpen, but the Giants can pursue other options.
They could talk to the Brewers about their closer, Jeremy Jeffress, or lefty setup man Will Smith. The Giants and A’s don’t have friendly relations, but either of Oakland’s back-of-the-bullpen duo of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson could help in a setup role. A couple other closers on uncompetitive teams, Philadelphia’s Jeanmar Gomez and Tampa’s Alex Colome, are having great seasons and could probably be had for the right price.
The White Sox and Royals are still in compete mode, but if either team slips in the next couple weeks, the Giants could attempt to raid either of their deep bullpens. The same goes for the Mariners, who currently are holding on to hope but could easily fall out of contention with a bad start to the second half.
Add a Big Bat
Specifically, a slugging outfielder. Ryan Braun, Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce are the most prominent names that should be available. Braun is the best option of the three, considering that his right-handed bat fits better in AT&T Park and that Gonzalez is not nearly as good on the road as he is at home in mile-high Coors Field. The left-handed Bruce’s home-run output would probably suffer in San Francisco, but he would still be productive slamming doubles off of AT&T’s right-field wall.
If the Yankees aren’t interested in sending one of their relievers to San Francisco, that doesn’t mean they would feel the same about Carlos Beltran, who isn’t a great defender anymore but is having a fantastic offensive season at age 39. Then again, the Giants brought in Beltran five years ago to help with a stretch run and it didn’t work (not that it was his fault), so maybe it’s best to avoid replicating the mojo of 2011.
There are some options in the next tier down, though it’s difficult to see any of them being huge difference makers.
Melvin Upton Jr., who is having a resurgence this year, is not quite the power hitter as the previously named, but he has pop and offers considerable speed and defense. The Padres would love to dump his salary. Oakland’s Josh Reddick is a decent ball player with lots of personality. If Oakland wants to flip Khris Davis or Danny Valencia (who can play and left field third base), either could be an interesting add. Matt Kemp offers power, but he’s expensive, injury-prone and not a great all-around player these days. Arizona is overloaded with corner outfielders, but would either David Peralta or Yasmany Tomas add much to the Giants?
A name that hasn’t been discussed but would be an awesome addition: Nelson Cruz. As mentioned above, the Mariners are still fighting to reach the playoffs, so Cruz probably isn’t an option at the moment. But that could change if the Mariners come out of the all-star break cold.
Acquiring a slugging outfielder would mean pushing either Angel Pagan or Denard Span to the bench, or possibly forcing them into a platoon in center field. But there’s nothing wrong with that if it makes the Giants better.
Look to the Farm?
No. The Giants have more exciting prospects now than they have had in recent memory, but there’s no Corey Seager-type (sorry for the Dodgers reference) ready to make a difference at the Major League level—especially at the positions of need.
So, there you have it. The first-place Giants, barring additional injuries (always possible) or Madison Bumgarner forgetting how to pitch (very unlikely), are poised to be even better in the second half. They just need to get their injured starters back healthy and pick up a reliever and possibly a power-hitting outfielder to fortify their roster.