From 2009-16, the Giants finished above .500 all but once, racked up the fifth-most wins of any MLB team, made the postseason four times, and captured three World Series championships.
But that run has come to a screeching halt. San Francisco's .423 winning percentage over the past two seasons is tied for fifth-lowest in MLB.
Enter new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, poached from the rival Dodgers soon after the World Series. And now, perhaps, enter Bryce Harper?
• The latest Harper free-agent rumors
The Giants are one of the few teams known to be involved in the pursuit of the free-agent outfielder, along with the Phillies and Dodgers. Zaidi, CEO Larry Baer and manager Bruce Bochy traveled to Las Vegas earlier this month to meet with Harper, and a source confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that Zaidi and Baer returned there on Tuesday to continue their pursuit.
While previous reports had indicated that San Francisco was focusing on a shorter-term deal, NBC Sports Bay Area reported on Wednesday that the sides have discussed a 10-year contract -- indicating the seriousness of the Giants' interest.
The Giants have a lot of outfield options at the moment, but all of them are either unproven younger players or veterans in spring camp on Minor League deals.
The 40-man roster features Steven Duggar, Rule 5 pick Drew Ferguson, Alen Hanson, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, and Mac Williamson. None has played even 100 total big league games as an outfielder. Zaidi therefore has brought in experienced non-roster reinforcements, including Craig Gentry, Cameron Maybin and Gerardo Parra.
That's a lot of question marks, in both the short term and long term. Adding Harper would take care of at least one outfield spot for the foreseeable future.
Where would he hit?
Only the Marlins scored fewer runs, hit fewer homers or posted a lower slugging percentage in 2018 than the Giants. Even weighted runs created-plus (wRC+), which takes into account park effects, had the club last in the Majors at 82. The division-champion Dodgers led the pack at 111.
There's a long way to go, but Harper would help -- a lot. He produced a 135 wRC+ last year and has a 140 mark for his career. By comparison, the only remaining Giants who have been above average (100) over the past two seasons are Buster Posey (118) and Brandon Belt (112).
Here is what the Giants' lineup could look like with Harper:
1. Duggar/Maybin, CF
2. Harper, RF
3. Posey, C
4. Belt, 1B
5. Evan Longoria, 3B
6. Brandon Crawford, SS
7. Parra/Williamson, LF
8. Joe Panik, 2B
9. Pitcher's spot
How would this affect 2019 projections?
The Giants currently are projected for a 76-86 record in 2019, according to Steamer. That puts them in last place in the National League West, three games behind the D-backs and Padres, who just landed Manny Machado. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA is even a bit less optimistic, pegging the club for a last-place 73-89 finish.
While this does not take the effects of newly renamed Oracle Park into account, Harper is projected to produce roughly 5 wins above replacement (WAR) this year, per Steamer, along with a 148 wRC+. That would be a massive upgrade for San Francisco, which does not have a single outfielder projected for more than 1 WAR, even assuming a full season of playing time.
If Harper improves the Giants by four or five wins in 2019, perhaps that's enough to push them into the large crowd of potential NL contenders. At present, Steamer has 10 clubs projected for between 86 victories (the Wild Card-leading Cardinals) and 79.
What are some other long-term ramifications?
Even if Harper helps spur a surprise San Francisco run back to the postseason this year, the most interesting implications relate to the future.
Zaidi inherited an organization with a lot going for it but also one whose current roster situation is challenging, to say the least. Madison Bumgarner will be a free agent at season's end. Meanwhile, the Giants have a combined 20 seasons and more than $360 million committed to the veteran group of Posey, Belt, Longoria, Crawford, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Mark Melancon. Each of those players will be 31 or older this season, and to at least some extent, face significant questions about the direction of their careers. It also means that the club already has more than $120 million in payroll locked up for 2020 and more than $90 million for '21, according to Roster Resource.
At the same time, the Giants have a lack of established young players, and Zaidi and company still have their work cut out for them to get the Minor League system back to a point where it's churning out impact talent.
But a big part of what's so attractive about Harper is that he is only 26. In the short term, he could help a flawed but veteran-laden team compete. And yet, even if it takes some time for Zaidi's work for bear fruit, Harper should remain productive and be a star-caliber player at that point, in place as the centerpiece of the next great Giants team.