Giants shut out rivals, turn to Deadline

July 30th, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants received an internal boost with the return of All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford on Thursday afternoon, but the clock is ticking for them to bring in external reinforcements ahead of Friday’s 1 p.m. PT Trade Deadline.

Crawford delivered a two-run double in his first at-bat since returning from the injured list to spark the Giants’ 5-0 win over the Dodgers, clinching a series victory at Oracle Park. The win extended San Francisco’s lead for first place in the National League West to three games, but the competition continues to intensify in the toughest division in the Majors.

The Padres, who dropped to six games behind the Giants pending the outcome of their game against the Rockies on Thursday night, acquired closer Daniel Hudson after reportedly losing out on the Max Scherzer sweepstakes. Instead, the Dodgers were nearing a blockbuster that would bring both Scherzer and Trea Turner to Los Angeles.

The Dodgers needed the rotation help, as Clayton Kershaw is on the injured list with left forearm inflammation, Trevor Bauer is on paid administrative leave amid assault allegations and Dustin May is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. They also acquired injured Royals left-hander Danny Duffy, who had been linked to the Giants.

“It’ll make these next 24 hours pretty interesting, I think,” Crawford said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

What will the Giants do before the Trade Deadline?

Odds are the NL West will produce three playoff teams this year, so winning the division will be paramount for the Giants, who will be motivated to avoid finding themselves in a potential NL Wild Card Game against Dodgers ace Walker Buehler, who is 3-0 with a 0.79 ERA over three starts against San Francisco this year, or Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who dispelled concerns about his health by topping out at 97 mph while working six innings of one-run ball against the Phillies on Thursday.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has said he’s most concerned about pitching depth, and the Giants’ reported interest in Scherzer suggests they’re open to pursuing possible additions to a starting rotation that already features five talented arms in Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Logan Webb and Johnny Cueto, who struck out five over 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a vintage performance against the Dodgers.

With no current openings in their rotation, the Giants decided to shift Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen upon activating him off the 60-day IL on Thursday, though that won’t stop them from exploring the market for other starters.

Twins right-hander José Berríos is still available, though he won’t come cheap since he’s under team control through 2022. Rockies righty Jon Gray, Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney, Twins righty Kenta Maeda and Rangers righty Kyle Gibson are other potential fits for the Giants.

If they prefer to focus on bullpen upgrades, the Giants could instead turn their attention to closers like the Cubs’ Craig Kimbrel, the Angels’ Raisel Iglesias and the Pirates’ Richard Rodríguez.

While Crawford is back after missing nine games with a left oblique strain and Buster Posey is feeling better after a concussion scare on Wednesday, the Giants are still without Evan Longoria (left shoulder strain), Tommy La Stella (right thumb fracture) and Brandon Belt (right knee inflammation), leaving open the possibility that Zaidi could pursue another impact bat before the Trade Deadline.

La Stella and Belt have started rehab assignments with Triple-A Sacramento, but Longoria will be out until at least Aug. 5 after being placed on the 60-day IL. The Giants have been linked to Cubs star third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, who could bring another big right-handed bat to the lineup while Longoria continues to work his way back.

Bryant, an impending free agent, earned his fourth career All-Star selection after batting .267 with an .861 OPS and 18 homers through 93 games, and he has logged double-digit appearances at first and third base as well as all three outfield spots this year. Bryant’s defensive versatility -- and his background with general manager Scott Harris, who previously worked in Chicago’s front office -- could make him an ideal fit for the Giants, who have also been mentioned as possible suitors for Rockies shortstop Trevor Story.

“I think we’re in a pretty good position,” Crawford said. “First place is a good position to be in. I think we could always add pieces. I think there are some guys that are available that could probably help us, but we have the best record in baseball right now. We’re doing things pretty good right now. If we add, great. If we don’t, great. We’re playing well with the team we have right now.”