This article is by guest author Arushi Nety
One of the less frequently discussed contenders for the worst team in baseball is the San Francisco Giants. Sure, their record may not have been the worst at 77-85, but their situation is probably the cloudiest. Gone are the early 2010s where the Giants won three World Series in just five years, a rare accomplishment in baseball history. Since 2015, the Giants have been in a tailspin, constantly deluding themselves, making risky trades to help them win now. In the aftermath of Bruce Bochy’s retirement and Bumgarner’s departure, the Giants are spinning their tires, torn between the past and the future. Unable to retain the players tethering their organization to the glory days and begin building their next dynasty, the time has come to part ways with the past and begin building the future. Here’s how:
The 2019 Giants have one of the oldest teams in baseball with an average age of over 30 years according to USA Today. This may remind some of the 2019 Washington Nationals, who also had an average age of over 30 and have one of the largest payrolls in the game. However, there’s one key distinction between the Nats and the Giants: the Nats’ aged players were actually good! Giants players over 30 with at least 230 PA had a BA of .250 and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .745, slightly below league average. However, Nats in the same demographic had a BA of .267 and a productive OPS of .812. Moreover, Giants pitchers over 30 with at least 40 IP had an ERA+ of at least 80 and an average of 80 innings pitched. In comparison, the Nats’ ERA+ for pitchers with the same characteristics was 112; on average, each Nationals pitcher was more productive than league average, something older Giants pitchers can’t claim.
Still, the worst part isn’t the old age, it’s the amount that each individual player is getting paid. Posey, Cueto, Crawford, and Belt all have two more years left on contracts of over 15 million/year, not the kind of money any self-respecting, basement team would demand of its owners. In fact, the Giants have the fifth-highest payroll in all of baseball at around 200 million dollars and the second-highest median income, higher than the Dodgers or the infamous Astros. Additionally, the teams above them have all made the postseason or won the World Series in the last couple of years. To sum it all up, the Giants have aging players performing below league average making as much money as star players.
As the 2020 season arrives, here are some potential ways the Giants can ready themselves for the future.
The first is to stop thinking that they can achieve postseason glory after a near .500 record at the trade deadline. This unwarranted optimism has resulted in a team with few future assets. In 2019, their mindset resulted in the retention of pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, both of whom were in contract years. Without the would be acquired pitching prospects, the Giants lost out on both Bumgarner and Smith anyway in free agency this past winter. As Branch Rickey so aptly says, “We could have finished last without you.” Some may say that hindsight is 20/20, but it is a fact that the front office and staff should not have considered their team playoff bound. In the coming years, they should accept their fate and trade whatever pieces they can to secure a more prosperous future.
The second is to take time to develop their prospects. With five prospects in MLB’s top 100, the team will be on an upwards trend in the next 4-5 years. Amongst their top prospects is MLB-ready catcher Joey Bart, who had a combined .875 OPS across two minor league seasons. Additionally, with their position in the first-year player draft climbing up and up, the farm system will start getting much stronger. It is often forgotten that the talent that won the Giants three World Series was mostly homegrown, including players like Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and most notably, Buster Posey. With the haul of exciting first-round talent they’ll sign over the next couple of years, the Giants should look to build a dynasty similar to that of the Blue Jays. Just this year, they signed switch-hitting catcher Patrick Bailey, Casey Schmitt (a two-way player), a solid high school shortstop in Jimmy Glowenke, and three high-floor pitchers in Kyle Harrison, R.J. Dabovich, and Ryan Murphy. With all these top prospects the Giants have propelled their farm system from one of the worst to top 10 in the MLB.
The final step in the rebuild, which perhaps must occur prior to the previous two, is to fully commit your front office, owners, and fanbase to a full rebuild. Some fans, including myself, are still living in those 2010-2014 glory days, just waiting for Buster Posey to revert back to his old self. But, before the future of the club deteriorates anymore, San Francisco must waste no time wondering how to procure star players and instead initiate a full rebuild mode.
To sum it all up, the Giants are overpaying unproductive veterans and retaining an overly optimistic attitude about their club’s playoff odds despite a weak pitching staff and offense. This Giants team cannot build a good future while shaping a roster the way they currently do. However, losing said attitude and completely focusing on talent in their farm system, their future, the Giants will be well on their way to having another dynasty.
All data sourced from baseball-reference.com.