Giants

Giants clubhouse is having fun, but knows trades could still come

Giants clubhouse is having fun, but knows trades could still come

SAN FRANCISCO -- How do you turn a $170 million team full of guys with multiple rings into an underdog? Turns out it's pretty easy. You just have to fall really, really far behind in the standings. 

Nobody saw this coming from the Giants, who have won 12 of 14 to sneak back into the thick of the Wild Card race just a few weeks after it was reasonable to start scouting the top of the 2020 draft. The turn was sudden, and the clubhouse is certainly enjoying it. 

"It's a lot of fun when everybody is writing you off," catcher Stephen Vogt said after Wednesday's sweep-clinching win. "It's a lot of fun when you're the underdog. I think we have a really good team here and we're showing it."

There remain some questions about how sustainable this is but that's not the biggest issue facing the Giants right now. Farhan Zaidi has been waiting for this trade deadline sale since he got the job, and he all of a sudden finds himself faced with difficult questions. Can he really break up the bullpen and trade Madison Bumgarner when the team has a shot to make the postseason?

Only Zaidi knows the true answer. As fans wait, players do, too. They're well aware of the possibilities and players have quietly been discussing Zaidi's choice for a couple of weeks. They're trying to prove that they're worth a real shot in August and September. 

"With the value that's been put on prospects and young guys these days, a lot of times these front offices aren't looking to sell, you know, but they're definitely leaning towards that side of things, is what it seems like," starter Jeff Samardzija said. "When you go out, the coaches, the front office, they're all watching the games. Win or lose they're paying attention to how it's going and how you're playing. When you go out and play like the way we have -- even in our losses we've been right there and been close -- I think that says a lot. 

"They definitely see that. They're smart. They understand how (the team is playing) right now. I don't know what (the front office's) plan is, but if we keep going and doing what we're supposed to as a team, I think it'll be pretty interesting come a month or two."

The expectation throughout much of the organization is that this will still be a sale of some sort, with a balancing act after the July 31 deadline. The Giants may trade from their bullpen to bolster a needy farm system, then add reinforcements from a surprisingly strong Triple-A roster. They could deal Bumgarner and turn that spot over to Dereck Rodriguez, or try to find a cheap alternative from a team that's selling everything that's not nailed down.

The odds are low, even with this winning streak, that the Giants will be intact on August 1, and players know it. But maybe that doesn't really matter. It's a confident group, one that won't throw in the towel if the deadline goes as we all expected all along.

"I don't think we ever had a doubt about the talent we had in the clubhouse," shortstop Brandon Crawford said, "And that we could win some games and surprise people and get to the postseason."

Giants manager Gabe Kapler hasn't spoken with free agent Madison Bumgarner

Giants manager Gabe Kapler hasn't spoken with free agent Madison Bumgarner

Giants manager Gabe Kapler has dealt with a lot during his first few weeks in office, from constantly addressing and explaining a controversy stemming from his time with the Dodgers to navigating being the replacement for a three-time World Series champion in Bruce Bochy.

But as the MLB offseason and free agency have opened up, Kapler and Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi have a lot of choices to make on which players to re-sign and which new players to bring in.

One player that Kapler hasn’t spoken to is former All-Star pitcher and current free agent Madison Bumgarner.

“I have not talked to MadBum yet,” Kapler said Thursday on 95.7 The Game. “And I’m very interested to see how that all plays out.” 

“I know that he’s out there exploring and I completely understand his perspective on that.”

Bumgarner reportedly has drawn interest from numerous teams in free agency, and for good reason.

After back-to-back seasons marred by injury and inconsistency, Bumgarner improved in 2019, leading the NL in games started with 34, and struck out over 200 batters.

When asked if he expects to have MadBum as his opening day starter, Kapler deflected and explained that there are a lot more decisions to be made before that day rolls around.

[RELATED: Zaidi hints at how Giants will handle Pillar contract decision]

“I’m pretty, I’m pretty focused — before we get to the roster, I know that Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris, our president of baseball ops and GM, are both making very difficult decisions right now.

“They’re deciding what our roster is going to look like. Obviously, that’s a very collaborative process. We’re having conversations every day, but right now we’re focused on building a really good coaching staff. And, I believe, I trust that our roster will be strong at the end of the day.”

MLB free agency: Should Giants explore Anthony Rendon this offseason?

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USATSI

MLB free agency: Should Giants explore Anthony Rendon this offseason?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals are World Series champions, but for the second straight offseason, they face a hell of a dilemma. Like Bryce Harper before him, Anthony Rendon is the top hitter on the free-agent market, and the Nationals could find that they're outbid and lose a second superstar. 

Rendon has quietly been one of the most valuable players in baseball over the past four years, and he finally got the attention he deserves as the Nationals stunned the NL field and then the Astros. Rendon repeatedly swung games in the late innings, further bolstering what was already going to be a very, very strong case to suitors:

Depending on your preferences, he is either the top player on the market or 1A to Gerrit Cole. We looked at Cole and the Giants yesterday. Today, we look at the case for chasing Rendon. It might seem farfetched, but the Giants went after Harper a year ago, and Rendon is actually the better player. 

Pros

No, seriously, Harper got all the attention but Rendon was the best Nationals hitter in recent years. He batted .319 last season with a .412 on-base percentage, .598 slugging percentage and a WRC+ of 154 that trailed just Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger in the National League. 

Rendon finished behind only those two in the MVP race and ranked seventh in the Majors with a 7.0 fWAR. Over the last four seasons, Rendon trails just Mike Trout, Yelich and Mookie Betts in FanGraphs' version of WAR. 

There's absolutely no doubt about his talent, but what about the fit? The Giants have Evan Longoria locked in at third but could move pieces around for the right hitter. They tried to swap Longoria's salary for similarly-paid outfielders last offseason and could go down that path again. Or they could move him to first and trade Brandon Belt. 

Rendon might not be as famous as a Harper or Manny Machado but he's absolutely the type of player you get creative for, and he's exactly the type of hitter the Giants need. This is still a lineup that has too many wasted at-bats, and Rendon's patience and simple approach would fit well as the Giants work in their next generation of potential cornerstones. 

Cons

This is where we usually go, "Well, the money is going to be insane." But the Giants went down this same path with Scott Boras last year, so the real question is, "Why would a Rendon chase be different than the Harper one?"

First, there's the age. Rendon turns 30 next summer and his defense already is starting to slip a bit. The Giants were ready to pay for Harper's late 20s with the knowledge that they could always slide him over to left field as he slowed down. It's a bit trickier when you're talking about a 29-year-old infielder. 

Second, as mentioned yesterday with Cole, there was a business side to the Harper conversations that wouldn't be there with Rendon. He is not one who seeks the spotlight and the word around the game is that he's not the face-of-the-franchise type. That matters when you're talking about $300 million deals. 

While the Giants could clear a spot for Rendon, it's not the cleanest fit because Longoria was one of their better hitters last year and the holes elsewhere are much larger. That's a lot of shuffling for a roster that's at least a year away from contention. 

[RELATED: Would Gerrit Cole be right for Giants?]

The Giants went after Harper nine months ago thinking that he could be their cornerstone moving forward but also help an aging core in 2019. It turns out there was nothing that could have made that group competitive, so they'll be better off taking a step back this offseason when it comes to the market's top hitter. This upcoming season will again be about building and transitioning. 

They should probably still make the phone call, though. While most around the game think Rendon will end up back in Washington D.C., the Dodgers are looming and could easily move Justin Turner across the diamond. At the very least, getting involved with Rendon would raise the price for rivals.