By Doug Kelly
Special to InsidetheSeams.com
Yes, the San Francisco Giants remain in the NL West netherworld. Will they remain there for the rest of time, er, season?
Well, possibly. For a squad that entertains the Rockies Monday through Wednesday, the Giants are attracting a lot of attention throughout baseball.
Not for what their record is, but for what they have in abundance.
Madison Bumgarner, quite possibly the biggest Giants hero of all time for his World Series-winning pitching performance in 2014, is a free agent at the end of the season. His name has been linked to most every franchise this side of the Nippon Ham Fighters. Bumgarner helped his leverage with the recent announcement of his no-trade list. All were and are contenders. It is quite likely he will end up with one of them.
San Francisco’s bullpen has been one of the team’s few bright spots in an otherwise difficult year. Yet, it too, could see revision as closer Will Smith and Tony Watson, a capable set-up man, are both left-handed and free agents as well. One or both could be dealt as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi attempts to rebuild the farm system with prospects who are close to major league ready.
Zaidi was hired by the Giants last winter after successful stints with both the A’s and Dodgers. He is a person used to rebuilding franchises, and the Giants are certainly his biggest challenge yet.
Last decade, San Francisco won three World Series [2010, 2012, 2014] but it’s been five years since the last championship that a loyal if misguided fan base thought it was theirs to win every other year. Instead, the team is staring at its third consecutive losing season.
Why the drought? Many theories abound. Most prevalent, and the area Zaidi was brought in to fix, is that the farm system has not produced enough young players to become impact players. Several top college and high school draft picks between 2014 and 2017 are no longer with the organization. Several trades fizzled, and not in the Giants’ favor. The team’s ‘core’ group [Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval] is aging. Each has played over a thousand games in a Giants uniform.
As most fan bases in any sport share impatience as a mantra, those calling the shots take a more measured approach. As the market develops prior to the July 31 deadline, Zaidi will assess the offers compared to the assets he has that others covet. Will the Giants look different come August 1? Almost assuredly. But they will be better positioned to climb back to contending status sooner than later.