With the trade deadline just over five weeks away, the SF Giants will have a decision to make. Do they try to upgrade at the cost of future prospect capital or do they stay the course?
With the trade deadline approaching, the SF Giants are straddling the line between 2020 and 2021
That decision will be made on the baseball field. The front office will react to what it sees. At 39-33, the Giants are comfortably in third place in the NL West and they have the seventh-best winning percentage (.553) in the National League.
Despite the fact that San Francisco has played 72 games, it is a team that does not have an identity. There is no structure for how this team can strategically beat its opponent. On any given night, the hope is that the offense scores more runs than the pitching gives up.
That is not necessarily an identity, but rather a hope that all the cards fall in the right place. One thing is clear: this year's roster has a lot of needs.
There is no one-size-fits-all move that can bring it all together. Do the Giants try to make an upgrade at catcher by trading for Chicago Cubs star Willson Contreras? Absolutely, but does that substantially improve a defense that has been the third-worst defense in terms of Defensive Runs Saved (-24) and Outs Above Average (-25). It is a step in the right direction, but one or two moves do not necessarily improve a defense that has struggled as badly as they have.
Maybe they try to bolster the bullpen? Pittsburgh Pirates closer David Bednar or Detroit Tigers reliever Michael Fulmer would look good in orange and black, but does that considerably upgrade a bullpen that has the 17th-highest ERA in baseball at 4.03?
It helps. But, trading for relievers can be tricky since it is the most volatile area on any team's roster. The best course of action might be to see if Tyler Rogers, Jake McGee, or Zack Littell can regain the form that made them all so effective in 2021.
Maybe the Giants look to upgrade the rotation. Does that move the needle? It feels like Giants starters have pitched better than their 3.99 ERA would indicate, but it is hard to be much more effective given the team's defensive struggles.
Of course, they could add a bat as well to a lineup that has been maddeningly inconsistent recently. That said, they have generally received acceptable production from many of their key bats, but nearly everyone has regressed from last year's performance.
So, this is where the Giants are at. They are 12-12 in June, which is good but not nearly good enough considering that they have played several below-average teams like the Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, and Colorado Rockies.
There is still plenty of time to right the ship and it is a good thing that some of these struggles are occurring at the end of June rather than at the end of July. Right now, the Giants have not played well enough to justify an addition like the one they made last July in trading for Cubs star Kris Bryant.
To be honest, they are not really in a position where making any type of move makes sense if it means parting with an intriguing prospect. This is what the Giants did in 2020 when they had a 17-19 record while making no moves at the trade deadline.
Of course, the front office is always tinkering, so it feels like they will not be silent at the deadline. However, the team on the field will need to play better over the next five weeks to give the front office the confidence it needs to justify improving the roster.