Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Giants 63-62   Cubs 66-58

GAMETIMES: Tuesday/Wednesday 7:05, Thursday 1:20

TV: NBCSN Tuesday/Wednesday, WGN Thursday

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Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Giants Spotlight

Now that yet another nightmare road trip is over, the Cubs return to The Confines, where they’ll probably tease us by looking like an actual team worth giving a shit about fo six games. They’ll kick it off with three games against the walking anomaly that is the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants have convinced themselves, or maybe they have to convince themselves because there’s nothing else, that they’re still in this wildcard race. And technically they are, thanks to the grade-school basketball nature of the National League. They sit 3.5 games out of the second spot (the right to get domed by Strasburg or Scherzer on an October night), but have the Brewers, Mets, and Phillies to leap to get there.

And they’re there even though this team doesn’t do anything particularly well. The offense is second-worst in the NL, the rotation has to cling by its nails to maintain a middling status, and the bullpen has to save everything (which it can’t do as well at the moment after shedding some pieces at the deadline). They got here thanks to a ridiculous month of July where just about everything went right that could, except for that part where it carried delusion with it and may have stunted the whole thing for the next couple seasons.

The Giants are 8-9 in August, which is what they are. This is still the same team that stood 22-34 on June 1st, which is probably closer to the truth of what they are than a 19-6 July. It got a few spasms of usefulness out of some true nobodies like Yaz’s descendant, or Stephen Vogt, or now Alex Dickerson, Donovan Solano, or Austin Slater. None of these guys or the regulars are under 26 and none suggest this is something they can carry out for longer than a sneeze on the great timeline. But it was enough for Fairhad Zaidi to pass on the deadline for the most part, or fall asleep during it, or something.

Perhaps it being Bruce Bochy‘s last season Jewish mother-guilted Zaidi into at least making a half-ass attempt to get to a playoff spot, instead of Bochy having to serve out his last two months in the dugout watching an old, stripped, directionless club have its organs harvested. Or maybe that in combination with the weekend-detention nature of the National League led the Giants to believe something truly strange could really happen.

Either way, for this weekend, this is a lineup the Cubs staff should really buzz through, especially at home. There’s literally no pop here, as no one on the Giants have over 20 homers in a year where your neighbor who never wears sleeves and is always testing his boat engine has 25. And the Cubs will catch a break in that Madison Bumgarner will not pitch in the series, so the Cubs get looks at Tyler Beede and Dereck Rodriguez and his misspelled first name. Of course, they didn’t really do much with Beede back in San Francisco last month, though that was when the Giants swallowed a box of horseshoes and were still passing them. Shark will clean this up on Thursday afternoon, and generally the Cubs have had their way with him since he skipped town.

For the Cubs, it’s been something of a roster-palooza. The cadre of returning relievers from the IL has seen now both Albert Almora Jr. and David Bote punted back to Iowa to search for hard contact. It probably means more Tony Kemp than anyone should ever be comfortable with. Also Addison Russell to make everyone uneasy, but at least he can catch the ball on occasion. Cole Hamels will attempt to find the mechanics he left on the IL with his oblique, and there really aren’t too many lineups you’d choose over this Giants one to try and figure shit out against. Darvish and Hendricks just need to keep their recent form rolling.

Again, with the Cardinals and Brewers playing each other, the Cubs can make up ground on someone by treating this Giants team like the floating garbage ship that it really is. They’ll also, at least looking like, dodge Scherzer and Corbin on the weekend, so let’s do some things here.

Baseball

The Giants held all the keys, or marbles, or cards, whatever game we were playing, at the trade deadline. They had the most sought-after reliever in Will Smith. They had perhaps the most coveted starter in Madison Bumgarner. The Giants could have started planning for a future they’ve put off for years now, as the glow from #EvenYear has finally faded.

And they chose to do nothing.

Oh sure, there was some tinkering. Out went Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon, the latter another panic signing in an attempt to plug holes on the good ship Giant a couple years ago. In came Scooter Gennett to try and fill what had become a black hole at second base, though he seems to have been swallowed up by it as well. Still, no major shift. No groundbreaking on a new era for the orange and black. No shift whatsoever.

Which makes one wonder what the plan here is for GM Farhan Zaidi. These current Giants clearly have an end date, and that’s after the 2021 season. Both Brandon Crawford‘s and Brandon Belt‘s contracts are up then, and Buster Posey will only have one more year that can be bought out for just $3M. Right now the three combined for some $55 million on the payroll, which has been something of an obstacle as together they’ve been worth exactly replacement level this season. They’re not going to be linchpins of this team in their mid-30s in two seasons, that much is clear.

And perhaps the Giants didn’t feel they were going to get those pieces in return for Smith or Bumgarner. Smith is a free agent after the year, and as good as he’s been, two months of a closer plus whatever playoff games you only might get him into just isn’t worth all that much. Bumgarner is having a bounce-back season as he’s hardly walking anyone, but he’s a free agent-to-be with a ton of miles. And only a couple of contenders would have felt they needed another starter. The Phillies? The Braves definitely could but believe in their young rotation as well as being overly miserly, and made their move with Dallas Keuchel. Where the Brewers or Yankees were on this is anyone’s guess, but the Yankees probably figure they’ll be throwing their bullpen for five or six innings in every playoff game anyway. Houston opted for Zack Greinke, objectively the better pitcher.

Still, what are the next two years, then? The Giants prospect pool is filled with kids who are at least two or three seasons away from being anything on The Cove. Perhaps Bumgarner or Smith don’t get you the players to come up and fill in that gap, but they might get you closer. Or maybe the offers were just that bad and Zaidi figured it was better to try and miracle half of a playoff spot (the Giants are only 3.5 games out of the second spot but have three teams to leap).

The Giants aren’t totally out over their skis financially for next year. Yes, the core of those three parades are taking down the aforementioned $55 million or so, and throw Johnny Cueto‘s and Evan Longoria‘s paper on top of that and that’s $91 million for four players who are on the back nine of their careers and one pitcher coming off Tommy John. Not ideal.

Still, the Giants aren’t paying anyone else after that, aside from Jeff Samardzija. And they might be able to move him along, as he’ll only have 2020 left on his deal. None of their arbitration players are due for huge raises. And the Giants weren’t afraid to at least look like they wanted to throw money around last winter, making some kind of attempt at Bryce Harper to finally give them ANYTHING in the outfield, which they haven’t had since Hunter Pence died.

That didn’t work, and this free agent class isn’t worth putting too many eggs in. Gerrit Cole would help things, whether in combination with a returning Bumgarner or as a replacement. But there isn’t much to help the lineup. Anthony Rendon can’t be crowbarred in with Longoria at third, unless they move the latter to left field? And Longoria is still good with the glove. J.D. Martinez can’t play in the NL without being a danger to himself and society as a whole, though you’d be tempted to see if everyone can survive with him in left. Nick Castellanos isn’t a team-turner.

And should the Giants just lose Smith and Bumgarner in free agency, they aren’t going to have anything to peddle next year to try and fill the gap in their old era and new. Samardzija isn’t landing you much other than space on the payroll. Maybe if Cueto proves to be healthy, as he’ll have another year and an option year left on his contract. Perhaps that’s what the Giants are banking on.

But without a splurge, or something really creative, this team is kind of just floating there for the next two, three, or four seasons. Good thing the ballpark is nice.