The San Francisco Giants looked all but finished, just over a month ago, dwelling in the MLB's cellar with a record of 35-47. However, since June 29th, San Francisco owns a league-best 17-4 record, catapulting the once-middling G-Men from last in the NL West to second place, sitting just 3.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot.
Heading into the waning days of the month of June, pre-All-Star break, San Francisco's President of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi, appeared to be all set to begin selling the team's current big league assets in hopes of accumulating a rich return of young, high-ceiling prospects. The term "rebuilding" was very much in play. However, the Giants may have played their way into a conundrum of sorts, as the front office is now in a position to potentially add talent ahead of the July 31st trade deadline, if the plan is to pursue a playoff berth.
According to The Mercury News, the Giants' recent success has made quite the positive impact on the front office and their impending trade deadline decision-making process:
Since June 1, the Giants are 28-16 and have posted a plus-47 run differential during that span. The Dodgers might be running away with their seventh straight division crown, but over the last seven weeks, the Giants have inspired confidence in their front office.
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“I’m excited we’re playing well because it gives us options,” [Farhan] Zaidi said. “It doesn’t paint us into a corner where maybe we feel that pressure of, ‘Hey, we really have to reload for the next five years because we have a real investment of what’s going on here right now.”
At this point, it sounds like Zaidi and the organization are keeping every possible option open. If the right deal is proposed, players like Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, and any of the solid veteran relievers may be hastily on the move. However, if the right propositions aren't rolling in, the G-Men can stand pat and attempt to contend with what they've got, or they can look to the trade block for potential reinforcements of their own.
The fact of the matter is, the Giants have played exceptionally well over the past few weeks, and that is admirable. Yet, they still remain 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot, which is being hotly contested by a number of teams that possess man-for-man talent that surpasses that which San Francisco currently boasts. There is virtually zero chance the Dodgers fall apart in such dramatic fashion as to open the door for any team in the NL West to overtake their commanding 14.5-game division lead.
If Zaidi, manager Bruce Bochy, and the rest of the Giants organization hope to contend down the stretch, this latest version of the team needs to continue to produce at their current level. Relying on young, unproven players like SP Tyler Beede, SP Shaun Anderson, OF Mike Yaztsremski, OF Alex Dickerson, as well as contributions from veteran subs, IF Donovan Solano and C Stephen Vogt is not the mix of talent one would like to hang one's hat on in a playoff hunt.
The newer additions have "jumpstarted" what had been a less-than-stagnant Giant offense, which saw its core of C Buster Posey, 1B Brandon Belt, SS Brandon Crawford, and 2B Joe Panik – all of whom previously had a huge part in carrying the offensive load throughout the World Series years – struggle mightily to even approach their career averages at the plate. The starting pitching was equally disastrous, failing to produce quality starts (min. 6 IP, max. 3 ER) on a regular basis, digging early holes for a historically-weak offense to try to climb out of, and taxing the Giants' supremely talented and overworked bullpen into exhaustion.
The bottom line is, if the Giants are to embark on the difficult path of competing for a playoff spot, they will need to do so on the backs of their veterans; this includes the veteran starting and relief pitchers, as well as the position players. Also, Farhan Zaidi will have to at least hold off on unloading highly-sought after commodities like Mad Bum and closer Will Smith. Of course, as previously stated, serious consideration will need to be given to acquiring an extra bat, starter, or bullpen arm, so that the squad is shored-up against potential injuries or lackluster performing players.
On a more positive note, let's take a look at what factors are responsible for the turnaround of late. Most notably, the offense has experienced newfound power and overall production. Here are the numbers and league ranks for the month of July:
Runs Scored: 127 (1st)
Home Runs: 32 (t-6th)
Batting Average: .275 (t-8th)
On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS): .814 (8th)
How impressive are those numbers? Here is where the Giants rank across the entire season, even after having recently posted such glowing statistics: runs scored (22nd), home runs (26th), batting average (28th), and OPS (28th). A truly miraculous turn of events.
Similarly, the pitching has been consistently great, posting top-10 numbers throughout the month of July, as well:
Wins: 16 (1st)
ERA: 3.62 (4th)
Strikeouts: 200 (3rd)
Batting Avg. Against: .244 (7th)
With the offense, defense, and pitching firing on all-cylinders at the same time, this team can compete with anyone in the league. How long will it last? We will have to stay tuned and see. Perhaps the Giants have another magical October run left in the tank for their old manager in his final season.