A funny thing happened as teams calculated service time and worried about future arbitration hearings. In a shortened season, it became clear that perhaps having your best player in the big leagues could help you reach the playoffs now, not in the future.
The Philadelphia Phillies called up Alec Bohm, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, to bolster a lineup that's trying to win the NL East. The Detroit Tigers found themselves under .500 but also just a couple games out of a spot in the expanded postseason, so Casey Mize started Wednesday night. The Chicago White Sox have been all-in since the offseason and called up Nick Madrigal, taken fourth overall in that draft, early in the year, only to watch him get hurt.
Mize was the No. 1 overall pick two years ago. That left just Joey Bart on the outside, but that's no longer the case.
The Giants on Thursday morning finally took the plunge. Their top prospect is here, and as fans watch him lead a staff and hopefully hit a few opposite-field blasts, they can start to dream of another dynasty forming in future years. But this move doesn't have to be about 2022. That's the luxury of this 60-game season.
The Giants are 10-16 and last in the NL West. But, they're also just four games out of second place, and with that spot comes an automatic berth in the postseason. Flip a couple of those late-inning losses and they'd be right there in the wild-card race.
This certainly is a move for the future, but Bart also makes the Giants better tonight, and tomorrow, and for the next five weeks. He also fills what has become a gaping hole with Buster Posey opting out of the season.
Tyler Heineman and Chadwick Tromp deserve a ton of credit for the job they've done. They generally have gotten good reviews for their game-calling, both rate well above average in pitch-framing, and have been good teammates.
But the two rookies simply don't bring the upside that Bart will have at the plate from the moment he first digs in. Heineman and Tromp have combined for a .502 OPS, which is 26th in the majors. They have two homers and a .229 on-base percentage.
The concern with Bart this summer has been that he has barely played above A-ball, but it shouldn't be hard for him to raise the bar offensively. Bart was 7-for-18 with two homers this spring, and at the very least he brings another power bat against left-handed pitchers, whom the Giants have crushed early on this year.
The lineup is deeper than we all thought, with sensible platoons leading to 4.7 runs per game, a massive increase from last year's 4.19. Bart should be able to help, and if he doesn't add much offensively, he still will be a plus defensively. That's perhaps where his game is most advanced right now.
There's a reason veterans were singing Bart's praises all summer camp after Posey opted out. They wanted him in the big leagues, and not because it better prepares the Giants for 2022. None of those players will still be here when the rest of the prospects join Bart, but they're here now, and in a 60-game season they're a hot week from joining the thick of the playoff race, and reinforcements just arrived.