It took fans a long and unexpected road to get here this season, but the MLB trade deadline has passed and the SF Giants made no major moves. Marc Delucchi discusses why it’s not as crazy as it seems.
SF Giants Trade Deadline Inactivity: Why couldn’t they find a deal?
The SF Giants trade deadline decisions were complicated this year. As laid out in the ATF Giants deadline primer, there was an argument to buy and sell. When there’s a case for both, there’s a case for neither.
Obviously, the franchise is still at a transitional stage in their rebuild under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris. The league’s condensed season and expanded playoffs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic added another complicating factor to their circumstances.
The Giants are clearly not an upper-echelon team. However, since more than half of the teams in the league will make the playoffs, they’re firmly entrenched in playoff contention. Following the team’s 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, the Giants entered deadline day just a half-game back of the final playoff spot in the National League.
Obviously, teams, like the New York Yankees, were interested in players like Kevin Gausman. Any team should’ve been. While Gausman’s ERA is a pedestrian 4.54, his strikeouts, walks, and other numbers suggest he’s been a legitimate mid-rotation starter. But the exact reason teams were calling about Gausman is why the Giants had a pretty strong case to keep him: he’s good.
Even if he’s a free agent at the end of the year, the Giants can always offer him a qualifying offer if he exceeds all expectations. If not, they’re still in prime position to bring him back into the fold next year.
The reality is the Giants organization is made up of Zaidi’s guys at this point. Sure, many of the team’s top prospects and big-league players were acquired by the previous regime, but if Zaidi and co. viewed any of them as worse than industry consensus, they’d already be in another uniform.
SF Giants Trade Deadline Inactivity: Then why is Zaidi always making minor moves?
Sure, the Giants churn on the edges of the roster constantly. That doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike the players they have though. Fans seem to easily confuse the desire to acquire more players they like with the perception that they don’t like the players they already have.
While money was the team’s “biggest asset,” according to at least one insider, it’s not that easy to use that as a framework for a deal. First, a team has to want to get rid of a contract so bad they’re willing to attach an asset to it, then the Giants have to believe the asset is worth more than the cost of the contract, and then the Giants have to feel like it doesn’t hamstring their future budget.
Before anyone reacts too strongly about what the Giants didn’t do at the deadline, or what Zaidi’s done in his tenure, look at the players currently under their control in 2021 (with the best prospect at each position in parenthesis):
C: Buster Posey, Joey Bart, Chadwick Tromp (Patrick Bailey)
1B: Brandon Belt (Logan Wyatt)
2B: Donovan Solano (Will Wilson)
SS: Brandon Crawford (Marco Luciano)
3B: Evan Longoria (Luis Toribio)
Utility: Wilmer Flores, Mauricio Dubon, Daniel Robertson
OF: Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Alex Dickerson, Joey Rickard, Steven Duggar, Jaylin Davis (Heliot Ramos)
SP: Johnny Cueto, Logan Webb, Tyler Anderson, Tyler Beede (Seth Corry)
LR: Caleb Baragar, Shaun Anderson, Andrew Suarez, Rico Garcia (Jake Wong)
RP: Jarlin Garcia, Trevor Gott, Reyes Moronta, Sam Selman, Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers, Wandy Peralta (Camilo Doval)
SF Giants Trade Deadline Inactivity: Where do they go from here?
The roster doesn’t have an obvious hole. Does it lack star power? Absolutely. But what were the Giants going to do about that at the deadline?
Moving Gausman or even paying all of Johnny Cueto’s contracts weren’t going to net an immediate difference-maker. Would the Texas Rangers have accepted Austin Slater, Heliot Ramos, Trevor McDonald, and Chadwick Tromp for Joey Gallo? It’s possible. I don’t know if that’s a good trade for the Giants though. And that still might not have been enough.
Stars cost a premium for a reason. They’re rare. The best way to get them is to develop them yourself. Zaidi knows that. It’s why even with all the wheeling and dealing we’ve seen from the SF Giants during his tenure, they’ve never moved a top-10 or even top-15 prospect in their system. He believes in his scouting and player development staff to produce the real difference-makers.
At the end of the day, there just wasn’t a lot of reason for the Giants to sell unless there was a substantial return. At the same time, there wasn’t much incentive to buy unless it didn’t cost anything in terms of prospect capital.
Now, the Giants team remains intact. They are still right in the thick of the playoff hunt. A strong second-half should be enough to get them to the postseason. The Padres didn’t make their life easier at the deadline by upgrading across their roster but with 7 games against the Diamondbacks (who traded everything but the kitchen sink) their schedule has plenty of opportunities to move up the standings.
In the end, the Giants made just one minor acquisition before the deadline, adding infielder Daniel Robertson. That isn’t as surprising as it seems. Even though it’s less exciting right now, Zaidi’s built a deep roster up and down the organization. Fans have plenty of reason to believe contention is right around the corner.