SAN FRANCISCO — With only six days to go until the 2020 MLB trade deadline, the San Francisco Giants are one of baseball’s biggest mysteries.
A week ago, the entire industry thought the Giants would be among the top sellers and willing to part with any veteran player they received calls about. After ripping off six consecutive wins, the Giants may have changed the calculus for president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris.
Under the leadership of Zaidi and Harris, the Giants are searching for sustainable success and have their eyes set on a fruitful long-term future. A glimpse at the Giants’ alternate site roster in Sacramento offers fans a peek into the organization’s future as top prospects including Marco Luciano, Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop are only a few years away from potentially joining catcher Joey Bart on the diamond in San Francisco.
In other words, is it worth giving up on a chance to enter an expanded postseason field in 2020 to have a better chance at success in 2021 and beyond?
That’s the tight rope Zaidi and Harris have to walk now that the Giants have played their way into the postseason mix. Rival executives will surely inquire about the availability of Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman and Tony Watson, but would the Giants be willing to strip their team of top performers at a time when their pitching staff is rounding into form?
“Like hitting is contagious, pitching is contagious I think,” veteran Trevor Cahill said after Sunday’s sweep-clinching victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. “Watching these guys pitch, I feel like the ceiling is there, the capability is there and just the last time through the rotation, everyone came out.”
Another factor on the mind of the Giants’ top decision-makers? The team’s second half schedule is a bit softer and after Thursday, the club will have played all 10 of its scheduled games against the National League’s top juggernaut, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We had some bad luck early on, especially on the early road trip,” left fielder Alex Dickerson said. “The schedule wasn’t friendly so I think things are just coming around and clicking for us right now.”
The Giants can certainly chalk up some of their early-season heartbreaks and late-inning collapses to bad luck, but it’s harder to point to luck as a contributing factor during the club’s six-game win streak. Manager Gabe Kapler’s team outscored the Angels and D’backs 42-13 over a six-day stretch, winning all six games by at least four runs.
“We’re just playing really good baseball and you know you’re always in it and every win matters right now especially in such a shortened season,” Dickerson said. “However we put it together, we’ve just got to keep this roll going and feel good about it.”
The Giants’ hottest stretch of the season is reminiscent of the club’s performance leading up to the 2019 trade deadline. Entering July, 2019, the Giants were 11 games under .500 and expected to trade veterans such as Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith so they could load up on prospects with a chance to contribute to future clubs.
A 19-6 stretch that included 12 wins in 14 games to start the month forced the Giants to reconsider and keep much of the squad together for manager Bruce Bochy’s final season. Zaidi still traded several relief pitchers, but the Giants’ bullpen had the depth to withstand some of the losses and they recovered a few players in trades including Mauricio Dubón and Jaylin Davis who ended up seeing playing time in September.
Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, the Giants’ best player and a leading NL MVP candidate at the midpoint of the 2020 season, said the team’s recent success feels more sustainable than the hot streak the club enjoyed in the middle of last summer.
“It also feels a little more complete,” Yastrzemski said. “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.”
It’s possible a three-game series against the Dodgers could halt the Giants’ momentum and give Zaidi and Harris the assurance that selling is the best near-term and long-term strategy at the trade deadline. Another series against a depleted Arizona pitching staff looms ahead of August 31, but the Giants could be four or even five games under .500 by the time that three-game set begins.
The Giants’ front office will clearly confront some challenging decisions, but that’s not necessarily bad news for a franchise that’s suffered through three consecutive losing seasons. The idea the Giants can remain somewhat competitive during a multi-year rebuild should instill confidence in fans that Zaidi and Harris can eventually turn the club into an annual contender.
Even if the Giants aren’t among the movers and shakers at the August 31 deadline, Zaidi has proven he can improve the margins of the roster and find valuable contributors such as Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano for next-to-nothing.
If the highly touted talent down in Sacramento eventually does develop into a core that can challenge the Dodgers atop the division on an annual basis, the Giants likely won’t need to make any earth-shattering deals at this year’s trade deadline to ensure the rebuilding process ends in success.
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