Much has been made in recent days about the San Francisco Giants M.O. this offseason, and their presence as neither contender, nor full blown rebuilder. The position, whatever you want to call it, is a dangerous one.
Yesterday, a report from Henry Schulman and the San Francisco Chronicle gave much greater knowledge to the San Francisco Giants fanbase of what the Front Office’s “plan of attack” is this offseason.
The report from Schulman included many quotes from Zaidi that give the best indication of their plan that we’ve gotten since he was hired.
"“I will say, unequivocally, that our player-acquisition strategy is not driven by who we think is a, quote-unquote, brand name and who would be perceived as a big-splash acquisition,” Zaidi said. “We want to acquire players who make the team better in 2019 and beyond. “More generally, we’re focused on which guys we think are productive players for us, and not which guys grab the most attention on the ESPN ticker.”"
That sounds like a pretty resounding “no” to free agents like Bryce Harper, and the more obvious “no” in Manny Machado. It’s likely for the best. The Giants have put themselves in the position to not be a major player for two of the most “prime” free agents. With the prior regime, they might still be players in the sweepstakes, regardless of the deeper financial hole they’d put themselves in.
Personally, I’ve been an advocate for them to disregard it and pursue Harper because, despite their attempts to convince the fanbase that the team is getting too expensive, they can still afford it. Obviously, they aren’t listening to me, which I would never expect them to. Their plan is their plan. And despite my wants to bring a superstar to the bay area, they’re probably going to end up doing the best thing for the franchise.
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But what makes this frustrating is that the Giants aren’t very far off from being a serious contender. A few solid additions to the rotation and outfield could put the Giants in competition in the NL West.
With the Diamondbacks throwing in the towel on “now,” and the Rockies at an end to a window due to spending constraints, that leaves the Padres and Dodgers to compete, and my money wouldn’t be on the Padres to be a competitor, at least in 2019. The Giants are loaded with a strong infield and battery, on top of a young rotation that can really only get better. So why play the middle, and why is the middle so dangerous?
It’s dangerous for purely the fact that any extended injury to a key player, or regression from the young players, the Giants could find themselves on the wrong side of .500 for a third straight year, while possessing a top 5 payroll.
It’s also dangerous as the fans know that this roster, as it is, won’t cut it in 2019. The Giants could very well set themselves up to miss out on 3 million in attendance for the first time since 2009.
Fans are impatient. Nobody sells out when they know they aren’t a contender. The Giants would have to average 37,038 people per game to break 3 million. Last season, they averaged just over 38,000 and broke the 3 million mark by 100k. Why does attendance matter? If people aren’t going to fork out money for tickets, they aren’t going to be forking out as much for gear. It’s just the facts. The team’s performance dips for a third year in a row, and the revenue will really start taking a hit.
The Giants, also could work out fine, be a solid competitor and end over .500. But the ultimate goal is to win, right? Winning makes them money. Why would they forfeit the ability to continue to rake in cash just to “potentially” compete in a year or two? Maybe they feel like they can prolong a second window that can open? Who knows.
The problem is, putting yourself in the middle will either leave their fanbase, and ultimately their customers teetering on the edge of disappointment and apathy, or a pleasant surprise. There are no two ways about it, the Giants are likely a rebuilding team. They just refuse to market themselves as such. So they’re “in the middle.”