San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has read this script before.
In July, 2019, a Giants team that was sinking toward the bottom of the National League suddenly came up for air and ripped off 17 wins in a 20-game stretch that suggested the club might have some magic left in it for Bruce Bochy’s final ride.
In the last days before the trade deadline, the Giants began to struggle, losing three of five as the bats went silent and the pitching showed signs of wear and tear.
Even in a condensed 60-game season, the Giants’ path leading up to the 2020 trade deadline looks familiar.
An 8-16 start left Giants fans discouraged, but the club rallied for seven straight victories including a 10-8 walk-off win over the Dodgers on Tuesday. After being shut out twice by Los Angeles on Thursday and falling 7-4 to the D’backs Friday, the club has left its executives with an opportunity to do whatever it pleases at this year’s trade deadline.
Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris will always consider different types of need-for-need trades, but the Giants haven’t played poorly enough to compel the front office to announce a fire sale. Giants executives are approaching the trade deadline with an open mind, but it seems as if this year is shaping up to be a bit quieter after Zaidi executed several trades involving relief pitchers last summer.
Almost everything is on the table, so here’s a look at how the Giants stack up entering a pivotal part of the season.
The obvious trade candidates
Any player on a team with a losing record who is set to become a free agent in the offseason is typically a trade candidate and the Giants have a pair of pitchers who they’ll certainly receive calls on this weekend.
Starter Kevin Gausman revealed his desire to stick with the Giants through the remainder of the season after his last outing, but Gausman is an intriguing option for contending teams because he has a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a devastating splitter that could make him a versatile swing man or even a high-leverage relief option.
Reliever Tony Watson doesn’t throw particularly hard, but he has a long track record of success at the major league level and has showcased pinpoint command throughout the season.
Another pitcher set to hit the free agent market again this offseason is Trevor Cahill, who has been effective in the rotation but would likely be a long reliever on a playoff team. A team looking for extra starting depth might pursue Cahill, but it’s unlikely the Giants would receive much in return.
The big-money veterans
No one predicted Zaidi would be able to move Mark Melancon’s contract at last year’s deadline, so don’t be surprised if the Giants’ president of baseball operations finds a way to unload another veteran signed to a long-term deal this year.
Financial challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic probably limit Zaidi’s possibilities, but there’s no question Johnny Cueto, Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford have improved their trade value since the beginning of the year.
Belt and Crawford both have no-trade clauses and are more attached to the Giants’ franchise while Longoria is under contract through 2022 at a position where the franchise has no obvious replacements waiting in the wings. The Giants might need to kick in some salary to move Cueto, but the team can withstand a loss to its rotation without completely crushing its playoff chances.
If Cueto is traded, Zaidi and Harris will have to scramble to find a rotation anchor for 2021.
The ‘change of scenery’ players
Sometimes players need to change teams to find a better fit for their talents and the Giants have a handful of candidates who could benefit from finding a coaching staff that gives them more opportunities.
The most obvious option is 2015 first round draft choice Chris Shaw, who was added to the player pool on Friday presumably so the Giants can see if a team might be interested in acquiring a power-hitting left-hander who hasn’t been given much of a shot in San Francisco.
Shaw will turn 27 on October 20 while outfielder Steven Duggar will turn 27 two weeks later. Duggar is a glove-first player once considered the Giants’ center fielder of the future, but he’s now at a point where the club is looking at him almost exclusively as a platoon option.
Jaylin Davis, who was acquired at last year’s trade deadline, has tremendous power but the Giants think he lacks the consistent ability to make contact to keep him on their major league roster. Davis might have some value, but the guess here is the Giants would prefer to keep him in their system and help him make adjustments with the hope for a breakout 2021 season.
As far as pitchers go, some of the younger or inexperienced arms at the Sacramento alternate site could find better situations elsewhere and hard-throwing prospect Melvin Adon comes to mind. Right-hander Sam Wolff and Trevor Oaks are waiting on an opportunity and a team in search of more pitching might be able to give it to them.
The controllable building blocks
Early NL MVP candidate Mike Yastrzemski isn’t eligible to become a free agent until 2026, so the Giants aren’t trading him.
Yastrzemski is a core player the Giants want their top prospects to emulate from a professionalism and work ethic standpoint, but there are other players who are under team control who could be included in deadline deals.
Infielders Donovan Solano and Wilmer Flores are under contract through 2021 and the Giants have a team option for Flores through 2022, but the right offer might entice Zaidi to trade one of the players because they have somewhat similar skill sets.
The Giants would be more inclined to keep Flores because he’s younger and has more power, but he would also bring back a better return in a potential trade.
Left fielder Alex Dickerson can’t become a free agent until after the 2022 season, but he has struggled this season. With the Giants focused on improving their lineup against right-handed pitchers, it seems unlikely they’d part with Dickerson.
Rookies Logan Webb and Mauricio Dubón are also building blocks for the future, but Dubón’s early struggles at the plate coupled with his defensive versatility could intrigue a team that thinks it can unlock more consistency from his bat.
Every other pitcher
Gausman, Watson and Cahill seem like the most obvious trade candidates but the Giants would probably part with any of their relievers under the right circumstances.
The Giants are ultimately looking to build a more balanced bullpen and have enough left-handed options to trade two or three and come away unscathed. Wandy Peralta, Sam Selman, Andrew Suárez and Conner Menez would all have appeal to different teams for different reasons and the Giants wouldn’t necessarily have to trade with a contender to deal any of the southpaws mentioned.
Trevor Gott has high-leverage experience and could help a playoff team in a middle relief or set-up role. Sam Coonrod, Rico García and Shaun Anderson all throw hard but have dealt with command issues at times, so a front office that thinks they could make a quick tweak could transform one of them into a late-inning candidate.
In the midst of a multi-year rebuild, the Giants aren’t in a position to trade catcher Joey Bart or any of the top prospects currently training at the team’s alternate camp.
Infielders Marco Luciano, Luis Toribio and Will Wilson could all be in the majors by 2022 while the Giants could start a homegrown outfield featuring Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop and Alexander Canario by then, too. With Yastrzemski likely to stick around for the next several years, the Giants could trade an outfield prospect if they receive a future ace in return, but it seems unlikely the Giants would take a chance and send away an asset from their farm system unless they received another highly touted prospect in return.
We Need Your Support!
Several Giants articles will remain free every 30 days – and I’ve launched a free newsletter and podcast that come Monday-Friday – but for access to all of my coverage you’ll need to subscribe to MercuryNews.com or EastBayTimes.com. Click here for our latest Mercury News offer and here for the latest East Bay Times offer. Thank you! — Kerry Crowley
Dan Carter was a reporter for nomad Labs, before becoming the lead editor. Dan has over forty bylines and has reported on countless stories concerning all things related to tech and science. Dan studied at CSUF.