When Farhan Zaidi has hired by the Giants to be their president of baseball operations, it was clear that the team was heading for a rebuild. The team went just 137-185 in the past two seasons, had an aging core, and desperately needed to add to a barren farm system. That looked to continue to be the case as of June 29; they had a 35-47 record and were completely out of the playoff picture. Since then, however, they have a 16-3 record, and now sit only two games out of the second spot of the NL wildcard. Now, what seemed to be a certainty is no longer likely; with Jon Heyman of MLB Network reporting that a trade of starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner is “unlikely”, and no indication the team is looking to trade pieces from their strong bullpen, it appears the team will no longer be “sellers” at the trade deadline. This may seem logical for many teams in the thick of the playoff picture, but the Giants aren’t the “normal team”. They need to trade Bumgarner, Will Smith, and all of their assets, and failing to do so would be a massive mistake.
First, let’s examine the team’s hot streak. The offense has been strong with a 116 weighted runs created plus (wrc+) in July that ranks seventh in the MLB, while their position players rank fourth in WAR (4.2) during that span. Yet, there are plenty of indications that this offensive surge is a fluke. Their .335 batting average balls in play (BABIP) during this streak is the second-highest in baseball, and considering that they only rank 13th in hard contact rate (39.4%), it’s clear that they are benefitting from a lot of luck. Furthermore, the team’s outfield has been strong after so much reshuffling, but each of Alex Dickerson (.441/.397), Mike Yastremski (.336/.306), and Austin Slater (.398/.335) all vastly have higher weighed on-base averages (wOBA) than expected weighted on-base averages (xwOBA); they are all overperforming by a significant amount and are prime to regress eventually, while middle infielder Donovan Solano (.376 BABIP) and catcher Stephen Vogt (.337 BABIP) are also prime regression candidates. It would also be nothing more than foolish wishful thinking to assuming shortstop Brandon Crawford (.355 BABIP, 31.4% hard contact rate) and catcher Buster Posey (.364 BABIP, 58.3% ground ball rate) will continue to produce at such high levels, and the only two quality offensive producers for the team in the first half, first baseman Brandon Belt (92 wrc+, .351 BABIP) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (17 wrc+, 20.5% hard contact) have fallen off a cliff to start the second half. When projecting this team for the rest of the season, there’s only one player (Dickerson) how likely can be counted on an above-average hitter, while only a few (Belt, Slater, Evan Longoria) can be counted on to be average offensive producers. That’s not enough; San Francisco has no chance scoring the number of runs needed to contend with playoff-caliber teams.
Then there’s the starting pitching, who has benefitted from luck even more. Yes, they rank seventh in FIP (4.01) and 12th in xFIP (4.39) and 11th in skill interactive ERA (4.39) in the month of July, but that doesn’t tell the whole picture at all. With the fifth-lowest BABIP allowed (.272) despite allowing the SECOND MOST hard contact and having the fifth-lowest GB/FB ratio, they’re clearly undeserving of their current success. Veteran Jeff Samardzija’s 2.70 ERA in July, for example, comes with a .214 BABIP allowed, a 46% hard contact, and an 87% left on-base percentage. Short story short, there is a 0% chance that he continues to pitch at a 2.70 ERA level, or even anything short of a 4.50 ERA type of pitcher hard contact rate allowed, for that matter. Could youngster Tyler Beede be breaking out? After all, he has a 3.36 FIP in July, and was once a big-time prospect. Not so fast; with a .200 BABIP allowed, 53.2% hard contact rate allowed, a 91.6% left on base rate, and a very low 6.65 K/9, he’s an even bigger beneficiary of luck than Samardzija. Meanwhile, Shaun Anderson (5.68 July FIP) has gotten worse throughout season, and do we really think there is a chance that Bumgarner will continue to pitch at the tune of a 1.13 July ERA when he’s allowing hard contact at an alarming 53.2% rate and has yet to allow a home run, which is unsustainable? Through all the numbers, there is one clear theme: this success will not last.
Now that we’ve debunked the notion that the Giants are a true contender, let’s closely examine their trade chips. There’s obviously Bumgarner, who has drawn the interest of multiple teams, primarily the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, and the Houston Astros. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the return for Bumgarner will likely be something similar to what the Rangers got for Yu Darvish in 2017. In the package for Darvish, Texas received at the time a high-end prospect in Willie Calhoun; the Giants can get at least one key piece for Bumgarner, whether it be a pitcher such as Bryse Wilson (Braves), JB Bukauskas (Astros), or Jonathan Loaisiga (Yankees), or a position player such as Trevor Larnach or Wander Javier (both Twins). That’s much more value than the alternative, which would be to keep Bumgarner and either re-sign him, which I highly would advise not doing given his declining peripherals, or let him sign elsewhere for a compensatory pick. The same can be said with closer Will Smith, who has been highly coveted by contenders. He could bring back a nice haul for the team, similar to when Mark Melancon brought back an MLB ready reliever in Felipe Vazquez and a solid pitching prospect in Taylor Hearn for the Pirates, a deal that has obviously worked out for them. Meanwhile, reliever Sam Dyson likely could bring back a high-end prospect, similar to Justin Wilson when he was traded from the Tigers to the Cubs in 2017, and reliever Tony Watson and Sandoval could also bring back some young organizational depth. With the Giants farm system on the uptick with the breakout of outfielder Heliot Ramos, and the recent arrivals of catcher Joey Bart (2018 Draft 2nd Overall), shortstop Marco Luciano (2018 international), and outfielder Hunter Bishop (2019 Draft 10th Overall), now is the perfect time to add to that trend with a couple more top-notch prospects. Then, San Francisco’s young core would go from decent to exceptional, and all of a sudden, the chances of them keeping up with the Padres’ surplus of young talent and the Dodgers would increase significantly. Or, they can blow that opportunity on a blind attempt to face Max Scherzer in a one-game playoff if they can pass four other teams, when all the numbers show that they can’t.
It’s a very simple choice for Zaidi: SELL, SELL, SELL. He has the chance to change the future outlook for the Giants by bringing in a wealth of prospects, and honestly, his pedigree is too significant to suggest that he isn’t aware of that. He’ll always have to be wary of the response from ownership and fans, but he has the chance to be the savior of the franchise, and all he has to do is stay true to their plan. So, Mr. Zaidi, whatever you decide to do at the trade deadline, just remember; there is only one sensible choice here, and that’s to go with logic rather than emotion; don’t let a gimmicky hot streak ruin the chance to give the Giants a tremendous future outlook.