What if the Giants Underperform Again?

SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 9: Johnny Cueto
SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 9: Johnny Cueto /

The San Francisco Giants have been wheeling and dealing, and it has led to optimism that the team will be in the playoff hunt this upcoming season by fans eager to erase any recollection of last season’s dumpster fire.

Fittingly, the team is currently projected to be the fifth best team in the National League in 2018, which would be good enough for a spot in the Wild Card game. So, the team’s going to be better, right?

Well, it’s honestly a more difficult question than it looks.

First, consider that Fangraphs projected the 2017 Giants to be the 7th best team in the Majors. That sounds beyond absurd now, but it was reasonable then.

Going into last season, the team had just shored up its weakest position group by throwing $54 million at Mark Melancon, who was just so consistently excellent up until that point.

But, alas, Fangraphs didn’t necessarily account for almost every player having a down season, leading the team to a whopping 98 losses.

Then, consider the fact that there are still so many free agents available, and barring any sudden change in heart (or luxury cap space), the Giants are likely not going to pursue any of them.

While other teams still may have room to improve, the Giants are basically going to go wherever the current roster takes them.

Their ability to make midseason trades will also be limited by both cap space and prospect wealth, as the team’s system is generally viewed as amongst the worst five.

Honestly, I am sure a big reason the Giants didn’t tear down the current roster is due to the fact that many of the players who had down years are locked into long-term contracts.

For example, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samarzija, and Hunter Pence all struggled to some degree, whether that was performance or injury-related. The Giants would be selling low on most of them and would have to eat a TON of cash if they rebuilt this season.

However, if the team struggles again to even reach .500, a full rebuild should be expected.

Ideally, a few of those players even bounce back to the point where they have some surplus value and the team can choose between saving cash or gaining prospects (hopefully they would go the good prospect route).

Here are the significant contracts after 2018:

  • Buster Posey (3 years, $66.5MM, full NTC)
  • Brandon Belt (3 years, $51.6MM)
  • Evan Longoria (4 years, $67.5MM)
  • Brandon Crawford (3 years, $45.6MM, full NTC)
  • Johnny Cueto (3 years, $63MM)
  • Jeff Samardzija (2 years, $39.6MM)
  • Mark Melancon (2 years, $35MM)

The fact of the matter is, not many of these contracts would be too appealing unless the former All-Star at hand returns to form.

I also wouldn’t bet on Posey or Crawford waiving their no trade clause.

That said, I also don’t think the Giants will find a taker for the entirety of Melancon or Longoria’s (remember the Rays took back Denard Span in a salary dump) contract when they’re each one year older.

On the other hand, I could certainly imagine a team liking Belt, Cueto, or Samardzija enough (if they perform like the above-average players we know they can be) to trade away a decent prospect or two if the Giants are willing to throw in some cash.

This is not to mention players who could be traded during a terrible season like Andrew McCutchen, Nick Hundley, and possibly Hunter Pence who are all set to be free agents after this year.

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However, they probably won’t get the haul they need to actually spur a rebuild that way.

So if they do poorly again next season and decide to rebuild, the team will have to (sadly) strongly consider trading true assets like Joe Panik or, yes, even Madison Bumgarner.

Bumgarner is the premier asset. A lefty ace in his prime with proven playoff accomplishments. If the Giants put him on the block, he would be the premier arm – even with just one more year of team control after 2018.

I can’t even begin to speculate what a Bumgarner haul could get the Giants because, frankly, that’s near blasphemy for San Francisco fans. Just know that they would get back a lot.

In short, a bad season would lead to several fan favorites saying goodbyes, with the exception of Posey and Crawford, which would not be fun.

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So do well this season, Giants. Then, go and sign Bryce Harper or someone so we keep pushing off that inevitable decline. Easy, right?