Before and after Sunday's start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnny Cueto seemed to have a different energy. He shadow boxed as he warmed up before the game, and after the Giants' 4-1 win he sat down in the Zoom room and energetically greeted reporters, a wide smile on his face.
If Cueto was feeling the pressure of the trade deadline it didn't show off the field, and it certainly didn't show when he was on the mound. Cueto gave up just one run over 6 2/3 innings, striking out six and dominating before giving up a solo homer in his final frame.
It was the kind of outing that might have caught a few eyes in opposing front offices, but Cueto said he didn't spend any time Sunday wondering if his 78th start for the Giants would be his last.
"I wasn't even thinking about it," Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. "I love being here, but if they want to trade me, that's their decision."
They -- president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris -- have a tough decision to make, but possibly not with Cueto. He is owed $26 million after this season, which is a massive contract for another team to swallow at a time when every MLB team is pinching pennies with no fans in the stands.
But the Giants do have some pieces that could intrigue teams that are more locked into the postseason. They also happen to be right in the race for an NL Wild Card spot, at 17-19, and could decide to hold altogether or even add before 1 p.m. PT Monday.
Manager Gabe Kapler said he had not had a lot of conversations with Zaidi and Harris over the past 48 hours regarding the deadline, but that could change Sunday night.
"Everybody understands that this is a business, but as of right now we're going into the off day feeling good and playing good baseball," Kapler said.
The win Sunday clinched a series on the road and came because of a three-run rally in the eighth, with Alex Dickerson and Evan Longoria getting the big hits. Cueto led the way early and the bullpen continued to pitch well, with Sam Coonrod pitching a perfect ninth for his first career save.
It was the kind of win that makes it easy to picture this Giants team having a good September and sneaking into the seventh or eighth NL postseason spot. That's the vibe in the clubhouse, too, where players say they aren't thinking much about how they've put Zaidi in a tough spot for a second straight deadline.
"I don't think anybody has talked about (the deadline) at all, to be honest," Dickerson said. "It snuck up on us so fast."
The deadline comes after just 36 games this year, which isn't at all enough time to figure out who you are as a team. Is the bullpen the one we saw early on, or the one that dominated the Diamondbacks over the weekend? Will the better swings from Dickerson in recent days solve the problems in the outfield? Can this rotation be trusted to hold up through September 27?
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Zaidi and Harris have been asking themselves those questions for a month, and they have a few more hours to figure out which direction to go.
"I don't envy what they have to do as far as deciding," Dickerson said. "I know that we're confident with the group that we have now and that's all we can really focus on. If we add somebody new, if we lose somebody, you still try to go out and get to the playoffs. We're in a position where we can make that happen."