The San Francisco Giants are in the midst of a horrible stretch in which they have lost seven consecutive games. With their playoff hopes virtually non-existent, even at this relatively early stage in the season, how should the team's front office handle the remainder of the 2019 season?
Building for the future is clearly the agenda of the present. With an aging and regressing veteran core – C Buster Posey, SP Madison Bumgarner, 1B Brandon Belt, SS Brandon Crawford, and 3B Evan Longoria – GM Farhan Zaidi has a plate full of overvalued players performing at well below their expectations. Those two facts together do not bode well for the prospect of moving any of those guys.
Down on the "farm," San Francisco is still considered to have one of the weakest minor league talent pools, having traded away several of their better young prospects during their 2010-2014 championship run and continuing that trend in hopes of remaining in contention in recent years.
Former first-round pick (2009), starting pitcher Zack Wheeler was dealt by the Giants to the New York Mets, back in July of 2011, for slugging outfielder Carlos Beltran. San Francisco missed the playoffs that year, Beltran moved on in free agency, and Wheeler has since become a relatively reliable starter for the Mets over his five-year career: 37-33 record, 3.81 ERA, 609 K, 1.31 WHIP, 624 IP.
In 2015, the Giants went after added starting pitching depth, trading OF Adam Duvall to the Reds in exchange for right-handed pitcher Mike Leake. Again, San Francisco missed the postseason, Leake walked in free agency, and Duvall ended up paying off for a short time in Cincinnati: (2016) 33 HR, 103 RBI, .795 OPS; (2017) 31 HR, 99 RBI, .782 OPS.
Just recently, in January of 2018, the Giants dealt-away one of their most promising young prospects in outfielder Bryan Reynolds. The deal sent Reynolds (2016 2nd-round pick) and reliever Kyle Crick (2011 1st-round pick) to the Pirates for over-the-hill outfielder Andrew McCutchen. This was done in an attempt to shore-up the Giants' woefully underperforming outfield. Cutch was traded before season's end, the Giants had their end-of-season meltdown in '18, and Reynolds already looks like a potential All-Star in Pittsburgh: .333 AVG, .964 OPS, 5 HR, 17 RBI through 34 games.
The top-two prospects the Giants currently have down in the minors are catcher Joey Bart (currently on the injured list) and Heliot Ramos (just returned from a stint on the injured list). Both of whom play for Class-A Advanced San Jose Giants. This likely means both youngsters are at least a season and a half away from appearing in San Francisco. For the big league club, this means they have a couple of years to make shrewd decisions and build a winning environment. That starts with getting rid of some of the beloved championship holdovers (Belt, Crawford, Bumgarner, etc.) and maximizing returns, through leveraging other teams' needs, in the trade market.
There are some valuable commodities that will be easy to "flip" for solid returns. Bumgarner appears to be in-line to be the most sought-after starting pitcher the market will have to offer. He'll fetch a couple of prospects. Closer Will Smith and relievers Sam Dyson and Tony Watson will be targets for teams looking for high-leverage situational pitchers, capable of late-inning work and even assuming the closer role. Beyond that, Crawford and Belt will be somewhat difficult to move and/or retain much meaningful value from. Each player is experiencing steep decline in play, while raking-in salaries that outweigh their on-field contributions.
Whatever is decided, the name of the game, now, is to exchange as many vets as possible to rebuild the farm system, while clearing roster space for the next generation of Giants to come through and cut their teeth at the big league level. It's just too bad it has come to this in manager Bruce Bochy's final season.