BY MASON BISSADA
At the risk of pointing out the painfully obvious, the San Francisco Giants’ even year magic has officially warn off. The 2016 season was not simply an glitch in the system, as last season proved a much more realistic trend: the Giants are mediocre. A 73-89 season placed them firmly out of the postseason as they finished fourth in the National League West.
As early as midway through the season, Giants fans began to root for their team not as a contender, but rather a spoiler for their California rival Los Angeles Dodgers whenever one of the two teams would make the hour-long flight to face each other (and even those aspirations turned out to be in vain, as the Dodgers would go on to make their second straight World Series).
One thing that the Giants did succeed in taking from the Dodgers is General Manager Farhan Zaidi, who is now serving as San Francisco’s new head of baseball operations after spending five years in Los Angeles. The implementation of this new regime, along with the announcement from manager Bruce Bochy that he will retire at the end of this season, indicates that 2019 might be yet another transition year for the Giants.
To make matters even more bleak, the San Diego Padres, the only team to finish behind the Giants in the NL West standings, just signed superstar Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract. That being said, there are some reasons for Giants fans to be rationally optimistic. In situations such as these, it’s best to divide the narrative of a season into a clear-cut binary: the good and the bad. So without further ado, here is your 2019 San Francisco Giants preview, presented in two acts.
Let’s get the painful stuff out of the way first:
Offseason moves (or lack thereof)
After losing the Yusei Kikuchi sweepstakes to the Seattle Mariners, Zaidi seemed to go with the “well, I tried” approach in terms of offseason moves. Other than the signings of ambidextrous relief pitcher Pat Venditte and 31 year old outfielder Gerardo Parra, Zaidi and the Giants front office didn’t really make any major moves to improve their roster, particularly their lowly offense. Giants fans will hope that just following this article’s publication, a certain right fielder from the great city of Las Vegas (just an hour-and-a-half flight from SFO !) will shock the baseball world and sign the largest contract in MLB history with San Francisco, effectively making this paragraph and probably this entire article completely irrelevant. Until that happens, fans should expect to see a lot of familiar, if not slightly aged, faces donning the black and orange.
Lack of outfield depth
LF: Chris Shaw
CF: Steven Duggar
RF: Austin Slater
The aforementioned Bryce Harper illusion would effectively solve this issue to some degree, but as of right now, the Giants don’t seem to have any above average outfielders in their lineup. Giants fans’ should will hope that Mac Williamson can recreate his brief magic of last April, though that is seeming less and less likely. The signing of Gerardo Parra should bring some excitement, as he can play all three positions and has a career batting average of .310 in Oracle Park. Cameron Maybin and Minor League free agent pickup Anthony Garcia could make some noise as well if given playing time. Austin Slater, Drew Ferguson, Steven Duggar, and Chris Shaw will fill out the depth chart, and though there is room for optimism amongst these young players, none of them project to be true difference makers this early in their careers.
The Starting Rotation
- Madison Bumgarner
- Dereck Rodriguez
- Derek Holland
- Chris Stratton
- Jeff Samardzija
The good/bad binary format doesn’t do this particular category justice; the Giants’ starting pitching is extremely average. Madison Bumgarner, barring another anomalous injury, should still be his usual, near All-Star self and will likely be the Giants’ starter on opening night. Bumgarner, just shy of age 30, still posted a 3.26 ERA in 21 starts last season, not too far from his career average of 3.03. At the very least, he’ll make 1 out of every 5 games entertaining.
After Bumgarner, Dereck Rodriguez could show signs of excellence, given his age (26) and 2.81 ERA in his rookie season. Beyond him, Derek Holland, Chris Stratton and Jeff Samardzija are textbook definitions of innings eaters. Not great, but not disastrous. However, if the offense turns out to be as bad as it looks, average pitching isn’t going to cut it.
1B: Brandon Belt
2B: Joe Panik
SS: Brandon Crawford
3B: Evan Longoria
Not bad ! Belt, Panik and Crawford all put up averages of .253 or better last season and bring a ton of experience with them. Longoria, though now 33, still notched 54 RBIs last year to go along with 16 home runs. Similar to the Giants’ pitching, it’s not ideal, but it’s definitely passable.
Posey gets a category all to himself, and deservedly so, as he projects to once again be the Giants’ best player. Though 31, he still put up a .284 average last year while adding 41 RBIs and an OPS of .741. It is still to be determined whether he can stay healthy long enough to make an impact (he appeared in 105 games last season) and whether he can continue to start at catcher or be moved to first base. But until we start to see otherwise, Posey will continue to be a light on an otherwise dim roster.
The Giants will once again have their work cut out for them. Though the Arizona Diamondbacks traded away All-Star Paul Goldschmidt and lost starter Patrick Corbin to free agency during the offseason and will likely take a step back because of it, the Padres’ addition of Manny Machado likely puts them in third place behind the Dodgers and Rockies in the NL West, with the Giants on the outside looking in. Barring an injury to an All-Star or two on one of the teams above them, the Giants postseason hopes aren’t too realistic. But that’s what’s great about the beginning of a new season. Everyone’s got a shot.