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What should red-hot Giants address before trade deadline?

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Darin Ruf, Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater

If you're trying to figure out what the Giants might do before next Friday's MLB trade deadline, it's important to first take a moment and remember who they are. You can do that by simply looking at the end of Thursday night's thriller at Dodger Stadium.

The tying run scored on a walk by Darin Ruf, who was slugging overseas before Farhan Zaidi and Co. brought him back to the National League and let him feast on left-handers. The winning runs came off the bat of LaMonte Wade Jr., acquired this spring in exchange for Shaun Anderson in a deal that didn't make any headlines.

Thairo Estrada, acquired for cash considerations, was involved, and he was in the middle of a lot of good during the four-game series. Jason Vosler, quietly picked up early in the offseason, played a huge part in the win. The winning pitcher was Jose Alvarez and the save went to Jake McGee. Both veteran lefties were there for the taking for 29 other teams late in the offseason, and both ended up in San Francisco on cheap deals. 

The point of all this is that, if you're saying the Giants need to trade for a star over the next week you're kinda missing the point. They don't need to be in on anybody. Zaidi, Scott Harris and the rest have proven remarkably good at filling out a roster, and they already have a very good one, one that has led MLB in winning percentage all summer and is inching toward what would be a shocking NL West title. 

 

But there's another huge part of Zaidi and Harris' identity that will come into play here. They make every call, send every text, check on every player -- because you never know when the price might be right and you can strike. You will hear the Giants connected to a lot of big names over the next seven days, but which ones do they actually need? Let's take a look at three areas where they could look for an upgrade:

Starting Pitching

Here's what Zaidi said in March when asked what concerned him most about the roster:

"It's the math that I think is on every team's mind right now, which is 162 times nine. Getting through 162 games of nine innings, pitching-wise. Maybe those seven-inning doubleheaders will help a bit. That's really going to be a marathon given the innings base that a lot of guys got in 2020 is pretty short given the 60-game season. That's what's keeping me up at night, and I'm sure front office people around baseball, just making sure you have enough pitching depth to get through the season."

Here's what Zaidi said during a session with beat reporters two weeks ago:

"Projecting out, what I'm most worried about is just the starting pitching. That's the toughest area to cover if you wind up having injuries. It's just the most important thing to maintain continuity when you're having a good season."

There's certainly a theme, although not one you might expect if you just look at the stats. The rotation has the fourth-best ERA (3.23) in baseball, and with Sammy Long and Aaron Sanchez rehabbing, there's some depth behind the current five. But Zaidi knows that an injury or two would have this team scrambling quickly, and Triple-A Sacramento doesn't even really have a rotation.

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Expect the Giants to try to add another starter in the next week, and in a perfect world, they could also find a depth option to stash in Triple-A -- someone like Anthony Banda, but not the actual Anthony Banda. As the innings pile up for the current five, the Giants need some coverage.

A Closer?

Look, this isn't actually a need. McGee and Tyler Rogers have combined for 31 saves, and even though Rogers had a stumble on Tuesday, he bounced back 24 hours later. The Giants could definitely win a division and head into October with those two at the back end. They certainly feel better about the ninth inning right now than the Dodgers do. 

But ... what if McGee/Rogers was the bridge?

Adding a lockdown closer would allow Kapler to play matchups in the seventh and eighth with those two, and perhaps even extend that into the sixth given how durable Rogers is. That's a tantalizing possibility. This coaching staff finds the right matchup more often than not. 

 

Craig Kimbrel and Taylor Rogers stand out as obvious candidates, but both would be costly, particularly Kimbrel, who could pitch the ninth for just about every contender. The bullpen has a 2.52 ERA since June 1, so again, this isn't a must-have. It sure would make the Giants a lot more dangerous in October, though, particularly if they run up against the Dodgers. This last series was a reminder of how close those games will be. 

An Impact Outfielder

This is a tough one, because it's another area where the Giants could be just fine by sticking with their internal options. If Brandon Belt returns in a couple of weeks and stays healthy, Wade Jr. and Ruf shift back to the left-field conversation. The Giants already have Mike Yastrzemski playing every day in the outfield, with Alex Dickerson, Steven Duggar, Austin Slater and Mike Tauchman on the roster.

There has been a lot of inconsistency with that group, though, and the lineup would be a lot more dangerous in October with another impact bat in the outfield. Starling Marte is popping up in rumors and guys like Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo and Mitch Haniger are out there, albeit at high prices. Putting one of them in the lineup could allow Kapler to form a very strong platoon in the third outfield spot and have an even more dangerous bench. 

This one kind of comes down to how the staff evaluates the current group. Do the Giants believe Dickerson will go on one of his patented hot streaks? Do they believe the Duggar from the first half will return? Will Slater avoid another hellacious slump? Will Belt stay healthy enough to allow Wade and Ruf to be options in left? 

If there are concerns, the Giants should try and get another outfield bat.

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