Giants, on upswing, face Deadline decisions

August 27th, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO -- On Aug. 17, the Giants were reeling.

Fresh off another gut-punch loss to the Angels, the Giants found themselves in last place in the National League West with an 8-16 record. FanGraphs pegged their playoff odds at a mere 3.3 percent, seemingly putting them in position to sell at the Trade Deadline.

But much like last year, the Giants are making a push to stay together and continue their surprise run at the postseason. They entered Wednesday riding a seven-game win streak that catapulted them back into the thick of the National League Wild Card race and caused their playoff odds to spike to 39.7 percent.

Mike Yastrzemski, who has emerged as an NL MVP candidate in his second year with San Francisco, believes the Giants have the depth to sustain their momentum and avoid fading from contention like they did in the second half of the 2019 campaign.

“It also feels a little more complete,” said Yastrzemski, 30. “I don’t know if that makes much sense, but it feels like we’re doing things on both sides, we’re really comfortable where we are and we’re doing good, so hopefully we’ll be able to ride it for a little bit longer than we did last year.”

San Francisco’s surge could create tough decisions for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, who will once again be tasked with balancing the club’s short- and long-term needs ahead of Monday’s 1 p.m. PT Trade Deadline.

An important wrinkle to this year’s Trade Deadline is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate site). Clubs are permitted to include players to be named later in trades, however. Additionally, scouts have not been allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments of prospects have been done based on provided video and data and past knowledge.

Here’s a look at the course the Giants might set by Monday:

Buy and sell: The Giants emerged as the hottest team in baseball last July, going 19-6 and convincing Zaidi to hold on to his two biggest trade chips, Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, to give the club a chance to contend in Bruce Bochy’s final season as manager. But Zaidi was still active at the Trade Deadline, dealing relievers Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson, Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black to bring back pieces for the future, including Mauricio Dubón and Jaylin Davis.

Zaidi could again do a mix of buying and selling now that the Giants have climbed back into playoff position this year. Several veterans on expiring contracts, such as Kevin Gausman, Tony Watson and Trevor Cahill, could be swapped, but perhaps Zaidi will be less inclined to trade Johnny Cueto, who would be more difficult to move since he’s owed $21 million next year plus a $5 million buyout option for 2022.

“Certainly the conversations are happening,” Zaidi said when asked about the Trade Deadline last week. “I think everybody's sensitive to the challenges of any player movement right now. But I think front offices are going through their usual due diligence and then probably going to layer on the complexity and difficulty of the times we're in right now later on.

“But the kind of table setting for the Trade Deadline, the conversations are happening like they would happen any year. It's just hard to answer the question of whether that materializes into the same number of trades we’re used to seeing.”

What they want: The Giants could use young, upper-level pitching, particularly if they chose to part with some starters. Cueto, Tyler Anderson and Logan Webb are the only members of the rotation who will be under team control next year. Gausman, Cahill, Drew Smyly and Jeff Samardzija will be eligible for free agency this offseason, so San Francisco could look to recoup some depth with younger arms.

The Giants’ bullpen, which entered Wednesday with a 5.37 ERA, remains spotty due to inexperience, so they could also look to add more established relief options from the right side. Their current bullpen has a bit of an odd balance, with six lefty relievers (Watson, Jarlín García, Wandy Peralta, Sam Selman, Andrew Suárez and Caleb Baragar) and only four righties (Tyler Rogers, Shaun Anderson, Trevor Gott and Sam Coonrod).

What they have to offer: Gausman could generate the most outside interest after signing a one-year deal with the Giants over the offseason. The 29-year-old right-hander features an effective fastball-splitter combination and has the ability to pitch out of the rotation or the bullpen. Anderson, who is healthy after recovering from left knee surgery, also boosted his trade value by throwing his first career complete game against the D-backs on Saturday. Watson and Cahill, both of whom have long track records of success in the Majors, could similarly be on the radar of teams in search of pitching help.

Chance of a deal: 65 percent
The odds that at least one starter is subtracted from the rotation feel high, though these decisions will likely come down to the wire for Zaidi and the rest of the Giants’ brass. The onus will be on the players to show that they can remain competitive over the final month of the regular season, though their self-belief is clearly on the upswing.