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SF Giants’ Plan for 2018: Slap a Team Together to Keep the Money Rolling In

The one thing you have to say about the state of the San Francisco Giants is that the team’s front office executives actually seem to have a baseball plan for 2018, and they are proceeding forward with its implementation.

Which doesn’t suggest that, a) it’s a good baseball plan; or, b) it’s a plan that in any way creates or supports sustainable excellence for the San Francisco Giants in or beyond 2018.

I mention those two points because of this: the San Francisco Giants’ plan is not a good baseball plan, and the plan doesn’t support sustainable excellence for the Giants now or in the future.

Quite the opposite.

The Giants’ recent trades for Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen and Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria perfectly illustrate the narrow, short term focus of the team’s management and ownership group.

Because all the moves being made this off-season are strictly about the economics of baseball’s wealthiest MLB franchise—ensuring that San Francisco’s enormous revenue streams continue to flow freely and the fanbase is tossed just enough chum so they don’t abandon ship.

If that sounds a little harsh it is because the high stakes business environment of Major League Baseball is a tough, unforgiving playground. You either continue to move ahead or you’re on the outside of the playground looking in.

And the San Francisco Giants organization has built a brilliantly successful business empire and it’s growing in leaps and bounds. Actually, more like bounding leaps.

Getty images.

But the Giants are much more like Walt Disney World than they are like a successful baseball franchise.

Because like Disney World, there’s no way the San Francisco Giants can shut down their mass entertainment venue, even for a second. Because AT&T Park is a prime money generating destination, whether it’s from national and local TV revenue, from MLB’s generous cash distributions to each club, or from the Giants’ pliant, easily manipulated fanbase.

Whatever “baseball” problems need to be fixed will only be fixed with all the rides, attractions, and concessions going on at full speed. Because the customers need to see that it never stops.

Which means there’s only so much you can do on the baseball side before you start getting in the way of that enormously long line of dump trucks filled with cash continually rolling up to AT&T Park.

So not only will the Giants never do a “total rebuild”, at this point they can’t even do a “rolling rebuild” the way the New York Yankees did the past two years. Because Disney World has to appear to be open for business and always loads of fun 24/7.

So how does baseball’s wealthiest franchise work around this annoying problem?

The Giants’ bottom-rated farm system prevents the front office from making high impact trades or getting quality minor league prospects in deals with other organizations. And San Francisco’s ownership would prefer to stay under or near the $197 million luxury tax line in the sand.

Those two immovable rocks led the Giants to recently trade away three of the very few quality minor league prospects in their organization for two aging veterans—McCutchen and Longoria. Both of whom were simply salary dumps by their former clubs.

Think about this. San Francisco had one player on MLB’s top 100 prospects, third baseman Christian Arroyo. To get the 32-year-old Longoria, the Giants traded 22-year-old Arroyo and two promising minor league pitchers, besides picking up most of Longoria’s long-term contract.

In the McCutchen deal, the Giants had to pay $12 million to rent Andrew McCutchen for the 2018 season. But they may have also given up something much more important, and valuable, than mere money—two minor league players with enormous potential.

Sent to the Pirates in the McCutchen deal were pitcher Kyle Crick, 25, who has the potential to be a very effective bullpen piece. And in the modern game, effective relief pitching is now foundational for winning teams.

But the most damaging part of the McCutchen trade for the Giants could be the loss of 22-year-old outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. In his first two minor league seasons Reynolds slugged 69 extra base hits with an .832 OPS in 177 games.

Bryan Reynolds could end up being the only name remembered in this deal– as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So, did the Giants just make two bad trades? Absolutely not.

While the actual value of individual minor league players is being assessed more precisely than ever, how those players develop at the big league level always remains to be seen.

Poor management of the Giants’ organization the past five years has put the team in a difficult position; because of that, San Francisco was forced to trade what little minor league talent they had in order to address critical needs at third base and the outfield. In doing so, they picked up two legitimate run producing veterans.

Now that the Giants continue to stumble down the old-player road, they need to complete their make-up makeover.

One of the following available free agents needs to be playing in center field at AT&T Park in 2018: Carlos Gomez (about $12 million/yr), Cameron Maybin (about $10 million/yr), Jon Jay (about $9 million/yr), or Austin Jackson (a piddling $2 million/yr).

But even if yet another aging “name” player joins the team, is there anyone who seriously believes the San Francisco Giants have made themselves competitive in 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks, or the Colorado Rockies?

Buehler…? Buehler…? Walker Buehler…?

12 thoughts on “SF Giants’ Plan for 2018: Slap a Team Together to Keep the Money Rolling In

    1. Judy–
      Austin Jackson is the most financially attractive FA who would be acceptable to put in center field this season.
      But there’s a reason he is so cheap– he’ll be 31 this year and he has hardly any power, something the Giants are in desperate need of right now. He’s also just an average defender in CF.
      But… the positives are that Austin Jackson is that overall “league average” player who can help a team like San Francisco. In 8 years he has a 102 OPS+ and a .739 OPS and he definitely improves the team’s outfield defense from what we saw last season.

      The player Giants fans are eager to take over in center field, minor leaguer Steven Duggar (24), also has shown little power. In 232 minor league games he’s hit only 17 HRs. Duggar has a lot to do and a lot to prove before he gets anywhere near the starting CF job at AT&T.

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  1. you are right on about Jackson. sign him for 2 years, because at next years end we will be losing mccutcheon and pence. if Duggar can work out in center then they can move Jackson to right, Slater ,Parker, Williamson somewhere in the mix. Gorkys needs to go, but bochy likes him, so he will stay and start before someone more deserving.

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  2. And the alternative? Dump Bumgarner, Posey, Cueto, Samadzija, Crawford, Belt and Melancon? For what peanuts? Guess what, they’re contracts make them worth less than peanuts especially in this financial climate with everyone trying to stay under the tax. So you would have to pay other teams to take these guys off your hands. That’s right, not only would you end up with no talent, no prospects and 122 losses, you would still have a $100 million payroll because you would have to pay Posey and Cueto to play against you.

    And you would have to lose 122 games a year for the next 5 or 6 years before you could build back your farm system and become competitive again. Is that your plan?

    At least this way the Giants can stay afloat until they can get some of these veterans off their books and then they can do a smarter more manageable rebuild for the future.

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    1. I have the exact same opinion. There was no way to get rid of some of these contracts due to them being injured last year (Melancon, Cueto, Belt), too old (Pence, Span) or because they are legacy players (Bum, Posey, Crawford). This writer seems to enjoy writing negative posts instead of thinking about the positives here. Probably because it’s easier to create that way and get more pageviews. I’m not trying to insult but that’s how the internet rolls.

      Here’s my take:
      1. A complete rebuild doesn’t guarantee anything, nor was it necessary with core players still playing at a peak level. Pittsburgh went 20 years without a .500 team. San Diego has been in a practical rebuild for a decade. The Reds, Royals, and Rays are constantly doing this.

      2. What’s wrong with trying to stay competitive and rebuild the farm at the same time? In my opinion the prospects they traded weren’t the cream of the crop – even Arroyo is borderline at this point – and they didn’t have to get rid of a lot to get two very solid bats which they sorely needed. This writer mentions a narrow, short term focus… well, they have overhauled their scouting, their player development and their overall minor league management in the last few months in a way to focus on youth. They also are not signing free agents to stay under the cap and keep those precious high draft picks, which will undoubtedly strengthen their farm system. Doesn’t seem that narrow to me.

      3. Pretty much 3/5 of the team underperformed last season or were injured for a lot of it. Think of a full, healthy season with Bum and Cueto, Crawford and Panik, Belt batting fifth or sixth with less pressure, and two strong bats added to the mix. The Giants are ranked as the fifth best baseball team in the NL right now.

      4. Heck, If it fails they can still blow it up. Some of these once-injured players might have good years regardless, and if so can be traded at the deadline for prospects. The Yankees would love to have Cueto or Shark, Melancon could go to Washington, Belt to Boston, and Cutch to any team that needs a veteran right fielder to get them over the hump.

      So what’s the harm in trying for one last hurrah?

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  3. Go Giants makes some interesting points. The problem and answer lie elsewhere. In order to stay competitive each MLB franchise has to have a plan in place to stay young. That means signing and drafting players that have potential and are up and coming. The Giants have violated that rule by doing neither. The turnstiles keep turning, the money kept flowing and, they tried to rest on their laurels with 3 titles and the last 2 by catching lightning in a bottle. And remember the first title took over 50 YEARS for that to happen.
    One thing you can count on: When Giants finally have to take their lumps and are FORCED to rebuild they will probably coin a slogan like the one they used all the way back in 1986 ” You Gotta like these Kids ! “. Humm Baby !!! ( Another great one ).

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  4. one of the reasons that the giants are trying to put a team together now in 2018 is because they still have Posey and Bumgarner and do not want to waste the possibility of success when they have these two talents.

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    1. it is easy to criticize here the recent roster moves. but neither are anywhere close to the Aaron Rowand acquisition. my criticism is the farm system. they do not seem to be able to evaluate talent or bring out talent, and I am tired of reading about other teams prospects. I have been an ardent fan since 1964, and will stay a fan through some losing. I hope the reshuffle and hiring of a new director for farm system helps. it was disappointing to not get stanton or Ohtani, the latter one mystifies me a bit. hopefully we get a future star with our pick this year.

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      1. Henry–
        I completely agree.
        When the Giants released both Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada in August of 2011, they ate a whopping $15.3 million in the players’ remaining salary. So, yes, that was a bad moment.

        The McCutchen deal is a one year rental, and I think he’ll bring good value to the club in 2018. The Longoria deal is somewhat more troubling– the Giants will have Longoria from his age 33 year through his age 38 year for $81 million (minus the $14.5m that Tampa Bay kicked in).

        Despite Longoria showing signs of regression, there’s a good chance his next several years can be productive; and third base is finally in good hands.

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  5. A few thoughts. JekPorkins made the comments the Giants have overhauled their scouting, player development and minor league management. Back east we may not be getting all the information folks get in SF. The only ” big news ” we saw back here is the Giants hired David Bell in Minor League Player Development. Hopefully, we missed much more.
    Also on Rich’s ” negative posts “. For those with a rearview mirror it is obvious why the Giants pulled of 3 WS wins but more specifically the first in 2010.
    If you look at the 2010 WS roster the main linchpin of the team were pitchers. Young pitchers.
    Bum 21, Cain 26, Tim 26, Romo 27, Wilson 29 and on the other side of the plate Buster was all of 23.
    Rich’s comments pinpoint the Giants managements lack of focus to springboard off that success and build from within. Building from within meaning rather than plow $’s into FA’s and such it should have been spent on R&D and hiring top notch baseball talent evaluators in an attempt to replicate the few years before and leading up to 2010.
    If someone wonders where the teams ownership and management hearts and minds have been the past few years look no further than the Mission Rock project next to the Ballpark.
    Its been estimated once completed Mission Rock could generate over $1B in revenue a year.
    Where would your focus be ?

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    1. Enjoyed your reply. Very valid points! I mean, would everyone rather they be young and have tons of fresh arms? Of course. They simply found their core and rode it out as long as they could. Now they have to circle back. This happens to so many teams I can’t keep up.

      Regarding the minors overhaul, here’s an article that sums it up pretty well:
      https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/12/13/why-the-giants-are-launching-significant-rebuild-of-minor-league-system/

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  6. Jekporkins thanks for article and believe I had seen this. In true Sabean/Evans style it contains wordy generalities and suggestions the Giants are in midst of ” retooling ” their coaching staffs. More hand signals and head fakes. A team can hire all the coaches in the world and without quality prospects it will not matter. It’s all about power sharing at the top of the organization. The Giants need to bring in fresh, young talent evaluators, analysts and scouts that can compete with the Yankees and Dodgers of the world. New coaches prove nothing. Sabean, Evans, Tidrow, Barr, Baer and the like are ensconced in ” control ” employment positions with no intentions of getting out of the way. They provide old approaches and insights into the growth of talent rather than new.
    It all starts and ends at the top. Ask the Dodgers, Astros, Cubs and Red Sox just to name a few if they believe that’s true.

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