The San Francisco Giants have become a black hole.
Yes, the team that has won the most World Series in Major League Baseball in the current decade (three) has a murky road ahead. And for their sake, it’s difficult to pinpoint any positives.
Now, going into spring training, the Giants weren’t viewed as a threat to win the National League Pennant, but they still resembled the qualities of a respectable team that could potentially compete for a Wild Card seeding. To this point, it looks like they won’t have a chance of even doing that. Currently 12-17, they’re in last place in the NL West.
Going into their Monday night matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Giants were 28th in MLB in runs (90), 28th in hits (194), 27th in home runs (24), 27th in total bases (319), 29th in batting average (.210), 30th in on-base percentage (.271), 28th in slugging (.346), and 30th in OPS (.617).
When you see the likes of Buster Posey (32), Brandon Crawford (32), Brandon Belt (31), Evan Longoria (33), Joe Panik (28), Gerardo Parra (31), and Kevin Pillar (30) — who they acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays days into the regular season — you’d likely think they would form a respectable offense. Instead, they’re off to treacherous starts, for their standards. Posey is hitting .247; Crawford is hitting .206; Belt is hitting .234; Longoria is hitting .210; Panik is hitting .200; Parra is hitting .190; while he has driven in a team-high 17 runs, Pillar is still hitting just .226.
With that said, the Giants veteran lineup has been steadily mediocre, in terms of production, in recent memory anyway. Their starting rotation has been their identity — which makes some of their more prominent starter’s struggles alarming.After a historic run of dominance early in the decade, the @SFGiants are merely a black hole now, as @RPStratakos authors.Click To Tweet
Madison Bumgarner, Giants’ royalty, owns a 4.30 ERA; Derek Holland owns a 5.34 ERA. While he’s off to an encouraging start, Jeff Samardzija has been plagued by inconsistency in his three years with the Giants, and they’re holding their breath that the right-hander stays healthy after making just 10 starts due to injury last season. Meanwhile, Johnny Cueto may miss all of 2019 with an elbow injury.
A sagging offense of veterans with little to no room for growth and an underwhelming starting rotation spells trouble. Then there’s the potential for two significant individuals in the organization to be elsewhere next season.
As of now, it’s expected that Bruce Bochy will retire after the 2019 season. That’s a gaping hole to fill, and replacing the skipper will be the first signature decision Farhan Zaidi makes as the team’s general manager. The same goes for Bumgarner’s upcoming free agency. Given how the Giants are fifth in MLB in payroll ($178 million), there’s reason to believe that the Giants could potentially let the southpaw walk in free agency. Plus, with Justin Verlander and Chris Sale signing extensions with their respective teams, Bumgarner may be the most sought-after starting pitcher on the open market in the winter; that will only raise the amount of dollars he can command.
But let’s say the Giants re-sign Bumgarner, for argument’s sake: They’re still the same team — one of the oldest in the league for that matter — and have little money to spend in the offseason, especially if they give the left-hander a nine-figure deal.
Going into last season there was a lot of optimism surrounding the Giants. After acquiring Longoria and Andrew McCutchen via trade and getting back a healthy Bumgarner, they seemed poised to make a playoff push. But it all went wrong. Longoria hit a career-worse .244, Bumgarner made just 21 starts, Posey had a season-ending hip injury in August, and the Giants traded McCutchen towards the end of the regular season when they were realistically out of playoff contention.
To acquire Longoria, the Giants surrendered, most notably, top prospect Christian Arroyo. It’s not to say that forking over the highly regarded prospect for Longoria wasn’t fair at the time, but now the Giants are losing and have little depth in the minor leagues to replace their veterans to begin with in the scenario they endure a midseason fire sale.
Then there’s the Giants’ competition in the NL West. The Dodgers have won the NL pennant in each of the last two seasons, conquered the division in each of the last six, and are arguably the deepest team in the NL; the Colorado Rockies have begun to wake up and have a deep lineup, as well as some reliable starting pitchers; the Arizona Diamondbacks are capable of being a .500 ballclub given their reliable pitching staff; the San Diego Padres are trending upwards with their high-octane offense, headlined by Manny Machado.
The Giants have the darkest future out of every team in the NL West and could very well finish 2019 in last place.
They don’t have much that signifies hope; Bumgarner is a free agent after 2019 and has struggled to be the formidable pitcher the Bay Area fell in love with; Posey has struggled to stay healthy and is off to a disappointing start at the plate; Bochy is expected to retire after this season. There are holes to fill and uncertainty about how to go about doing as such.
Could they do the unlikely and get in the playoff mix as the season goes on? Sure, they have veterans capable of righting the ship. But if the last two and a half years prove anything, it’s that some of those players appear to be past their primes and/or on the decline.
Posey has suffered a number of significant injures in recent memory, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s talk about moving him to first base; Crawford and Belt are great fielders, but inconsistent hitters; Longoria is one of the best third basemen of his generation, but has seen a rapid drop in production since being traded to the Giants; Panik and Parra’s offensive production have severely dropped; Pillar is a steady contact hitter, but isn’t going to propel the Giants lineup; is Bumgarner still a postseason assassin, or are his best days behind him?
They’re one of MLB’s most renowned franchises, but the Giants are several years away from a return to contention.