SAN FRANCISCO -- When Farhan Zaidi took over as president of baseball operations for the Giants, he insisted that the team would try and be competitive as deep into the 2019 season as possible. It seemed like PR spin at the time, but Zaidi stuck to that message, holding Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith at the trade deadline because the Giants were as hot as anybody in late June and through July.
The Giants did move several lower-tier relievers at that deadline, but for the most part they have not been sellers with Zaidi and Scott Harris in charge. The front office opted to play things out in 2019 and take the draft pick compensation for Bumgarner and Smith, and a year later the pandemic led to a shortened season without a true deadline. In 2021, the Giants were surprise buyers en route to 107 wins.
That history makes the next week a fascinating one for a team that has been leaking oil since the start of May and dropped under .500 with a six-game losing streak to start the second half.
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The Giants are still just 2 1/2 games out of the third and final Wild Card spot in the NL. They also rank 18th in the Majors in winning percentage and are a game behind the Baltimore Orioles, something nobody could have seen coming.
Beyond just their positioning, the Giants simply have not looked like a contender for most of the last three months. They're one of the worst defensive teams in franchise history and supplement that with far too many bullpen meltdowns, a bad combination for October.
Nobody would blame Zaidi and Harris if they looked at everything that has transpired and decided that the time is finally right to make some huge moves, to try and get younger and more athletic for future seasons.
But what exactly would that look like?
San Francisco Giants
The obvious starting point would be Carlos Rodón, who immediately would become the best starting pitcher and possibly the best player available, depending on what the Washington Nationals do with Juan Soto. Rodón has been a Cy Young candidate in orange and black but he also recently triggered the opt-out clause in his two-year deal, so barring an injury, he's going to hit the open market and seek the type of deal that Kevin Gausman ($110 million) got last winter.
The return for an ace at the deadline is always high, but the Giants have plenty of others looking at free agency. Joc Pederson was moved at the deadline last season and helped the Atlanta Braves win a title, and he could help any contender. Wilmer Flores is having a career year, although he's extremely popular in the clubhouse and the Giants surely will try to re-sign him this offseason. Dom Leone and Curt Casali are veterans not signed beyond this season.
Regardless of their path, the Giants would like to move the $11.5 million owed to Tommy La Stella next season, although that would require eating a lot of money. It would come with the huge benefit of opening up the DH spot for the many others who are best suited to play there. Like La Stella, Evan Longoria has spent a lot of this season on the IL, but he has played very well when available.
If the Giants truly wanted to step back, they could look into the markets for pitchers like Alex Wood, Alex Cobb and John Brebbia, who all are under team control next season.
That would leave a hole for 2023, but at the moment, next season isn't looking too appealing either. The only top prospect who is having a good season and is also already in Double-A or Triple-A is lefty Kyle Harrison, so the goal of any deadline sale would be to add more advanced young players who could help make sure the 2023 team has more upside. That shouldn't be too hard to sell to a fan base that has shown little desire to fill Oracle Park this summer.
When he sat down in the home dugout of the ballpark during the second week of July, Zaidi said he didn't intend to sell. He hoped the team would go on a run and give him a reason to add at the deadline.
"There's a lot that can happen in three weeks," he said at the time.
Not much of what has transpired since that day has been promising, with this latest skid dropping the Giants to 8-15 in July. Without the extra playoff spot, selling would be an easy decision. Even with it, that's a path that still could be appealing to the Giants before the Aug. 2 deadline.