Giants

Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford turn back the clock in Giants' 6-3 win

Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford turn back the clock in Giants' 6-3 win

SAN FRANCISCO -- The offensive highlights of the first half have been surprises. Pablo Sandoval is hitting like an All-Star, Mike Yastrzemski and Tyler Austin look like potential future contributors, and Kevin Pillar has come over from Toronto and deposited a pair of scorching hot streaks. And, of course, the last week has belonged to Alex Dickerson and his nickname

The Giants have found some production from their bench and the fringes of their roster, but oh how much easier this all could have been if the stars hit like they did Friday. Buster Posey had his first three-hit game of the year and Brandon Crawford had three more while hitting a milestone and helping to lead the Giants to a 6-3 win over the Diamondbacks. 

Posey entered the night hitting .230 and said he hasn't felt great at the plate most of the year. Crawford has spent much of the first half just above .200, though a recent string of strong at-bats pushed him to .218 at the start of the night. They broke through together Friday, teaming with the newcomers for a win that showed what this season could have been. 

“These good hitters, they’ll find it, and if we do that they’re going to look really good in the second half,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “But we need these core guys to come through for us. You saw what happened tonight when they do.”

The Giants are 35-46 at the halfway point, on pace for 90-plus losses for the second time in three years. But Bochy remains hopeful. He said this lineup's best days are ahead, and that'll certainly be true if two franchise pillars keep swinging as they did Friday. 

Posey went the opposite way three times, including a double that kept spinning through the night air and landed on top of the Splash Hits sign, an inch from being ruled a home run. That blast snapped an 0-for-16 skid, and Posey later singled twice. 

"It wasn't necessarily a conscious effort to hit the ball the other way," Posey said. "I did some work with (assistant hitting coach) Rich Schu before the game in the cage and felt like I was getting my lower half in a better position."

Crawford had seven doubles over his previous 11 games and has consistently stung the ball on this homestand. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and doubled again in the sixth. The third hit gave Crawford, a homegrown Giant in every respect, 1,000 hits with the organization. He's tied with Tito Fuentes for 38th on the franchise's all-time hits list. Crawford needs 226 hits to reach Rich Aurilia, who has the most by a San Francisco Giants shortstop. 

As Matt Duffy is DFA'd, looking back at a shocking trade from Giants

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USATSI

As Matt Duffy is DFA'd, looking back at a shocking trade from Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the spring of 2017, a former Giants prospect sat in the visiting dugout at Scottsdale Stadium and marveled at how the big league team had fallen apart a year earlier.

"Everything changed when we traded Duffy," he said. 

Matt Duffy was just as popular in the clubhouse as he was with the fan base, and he was a bridge from the veterans who had won in 2014 to the newer Giants trying to repeat two years later. There's no doubt that trading Duffy to Tampa Bay at the deadline was a big blow for the clubhouse, but over time -- and three straight losing seasons -- it has became clear that the issues were much deeper. 

The Duffy trade, one of the most scrutinized in recent Giants history, came full circle Wednesday when the Rays DFA'd Duffy as part of an effort to clear 40-man roster spots for prospects. Like Matt Moore, Duffy is no longer with the team that dealt for him, although a good prospect the Giants included is still with the Rays. 

The deal was Moore, a talented left-handed starter, for Duffy, Lucius Fox and Michael Santos. Fox, a 22-year-old shortstop, was actually added to Tampa Bay's 40-man on Wednesday to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and perhaps that'll ultimately be the part of this deal that really burns the Giants. But while he ends up on prospect lists occasionally, Fox has yet to break out and he had a .657 OPS across Double-A and Triple-A last season. Santos is now with the Angels organization and has made just six appearances above A-ball. 

The principles were Duffy and Moore, with the Giants, the best team in the Majors throughout that first half of 2016, dealing from their infield depth to get a lefty they felt would put them over the top in the postseason. In retrospect, Moore's time with the Giants is absolutely fascinating. He had a 5.12 ERA in 44 appearances and was traded to the Rangers after his only full season in San Francisco. 

But ... Moore's stint in San Francisco was so close to being remembered as somewhat legendary. 

In his fifth start with the Giants, Moore came one out away from no-hitting the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, which would have given him #ForeverGiant status on the spot. His lone postseason start for the Giants was memorable, but not because he gave up two runs and struck out 10 Cubs over eight innings in Game 4 of the NLDS. Imagine how Moore would have been remembered had the bullpen held the three-run lead he handed over?

Moore was close to fulfilling all the dreams the Giants had for him when they swung the blockbuster. Across the country, Duffy never even got a chance. 

An Achilles injury limited Duffy to 21 games the rest of 2016 and kept him out all of 2017. Duffy looked more like his old self in 2018, posting a .361 OBP in 132 games, but this past season was again ruined by injuries. Duffy played just 46 games for a team that surprisingly reached the postseason. 

In three and a half years in Tampa, Duffy had just 726 at-bats, but he's still just 28. Perhaps getting back on natural grass full-time will help keep him healthy. Maybe there's a reunion in his future (Duffy isn't really a fit for the current Giants roster but bringing him back sure wouldn't hurt an organization facing a PR nightmare right now). 

Regardless of where he ends up, Duffy won't be in Tampa Bay four seasons after a trade that shook up his previous organization and didn't work out as either side had hoped. 

Giants weighing present vs. future with Kevin Pillar contract decision

Giants weighing present vs. future with Kevin Pillar contract decision

The Giants have a decision to make with Kevin Pillar. Will they bring back the popular center fielder who bashed 21 homers last season and earned a 10th place NL MVP vote? 

It's not that simple. 

Pillar is entering his third and final year of arbitration eligibility, and after one of the best seasons of his seven-year career, he will come with a hefty price tag. The veteran turns 31 years old in January and is projected to make nearly $10 million this offseason in arbitration. That is, if the Giants let him get there. 

San Francisco has until Dec. 2 to offer Pillar a contract or he will be non-tendered and become a free agent. While the exciting center fielder was perhaps the Giants' best player last season, he might not fit their timeline. 

"I think being in the transition phase that we're at, and having some younger outfielders we may look to create some playing time for -- that's a little bit of the dynamic," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said to The Athletic's Tim Kawakami when asked about Pillar on the "TK Show." 

The Giants once again are entering an offseason with question marks in their outfield. Mike Yastrzemski earned a spot for at least 2020 after batting .272 with 21 homers and an .852 OPS in 107 games last season as a 28-year-old rookie. But there are other intriguing options, too. 

Austin Slater, who turns 27 years old in December, can play multiple positions around the diamond and finally proved to have some power in his bat. Speaking of power, Alex Dickerson -- who also is arbitration eligible -- hit six homers and had an eye-opening .529 slugging percentage in just 56 games for the Giants, but injuries once again derailed his season. 

Other in-house outfield options for the Giants include younger players like Steven Duggar (26), Jaylin Davis (25) and Chris Shaw (26). There also is the chance top prospect Heliot Ramos (20) makes his MLB debut next season

This doesn't mean that Pillar's time in San Francisco is over, though. Along with his 21 homers, he hit .264 with 87 RBI and a .735 OPS in 156 games for the Giants. Zaidi knows letting him go would be a big loss. 

"Kevin Pillar was the Willie Mac winner, he had a terrific season for us," Zaidi said. "Obviously he was incredibly popular with the fans -- not just with his production but his durability and the fact that he was out there every day."

Still, it's clear Zaidi's plan goes well beyond the 2020 season. 

"And again, I think the juncture that we're in as an organization, we're gonna have to view every baseball decision we make as a little bit of a tradeoff between production and development, and the present and the future," he said.