Roster decisions loom after ugly loss drops Giants to 0-3 on homestand

Roster decisions loom after ugly loss drops Giants to 0-3 on homestand

SAN FRANCISCO — Sometimes it’s not about who you put through waivers, it’s when you do it. 

The Giants intended to be busy during the August waiver wire period, and while they haven’t outright said it, it’s clear that they will dump salary if they feel their hopes of contention are over. Players know as much, and have started to talk about the possibility in recent days.

When, though, do you wave that flag? Often times, teams will put a player through when they feel they can get him to a specific team. Sometimes they’ll do it in response to a specific stretch of baseball. 

If ever there was a loss calling for some changes, it was Thursday’s. The Giants fell 10-5 to the Pirates, trailing by eight runs late after an implosion by the bullpen and infield defense. To top it off, they once again made the opposing starter look like Cy Young, failing to get a hit until the fifth inning against Ivan Nova, who is hardly a Charlie Morton or Dallas Keuchel.

The Giants have played three games on this important homestand and lost them all. In two of the games, they have failed to get a hit through three innings, something they seemingly do every other night. Bruce Bochy has noticed. 

“We’ve talked about how important it is to try to get going early. That’s been an issue,” Bochy said. “The guys are aware of it but it’s not an easy solution. We have been shut down to often in the first four or five innings.”

To combat that, Bochy moved four veterans — Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford — to the top of the lineup. He hoped that would lead to an early spark. On Thursday, the four combined for one hit.

“When it’s early in the game and you don’t get anything going, it doesn’t look like you have any energy,” Bochy said. 

The back end of the lineup finally fired things up in the fifth, getting within one. But two innings later, Joe Panik and Evan Longoria made errors to kickstart a five-run inning for the Pirates. Ballgame. Longoria has 14 errors, his most since 2011. Panik has seemingly been a step late for much of the past few months, and his average dipped to .233 Thursday night. 

The Giants will have a decision to make this offseason with Panik, who is arbitration-eligible and now finds himself among a crowd at second base. They have a lot of decisions to make with this group, which could lose two or three veterans by the first of September. You can bet they were up late Thursday trying to figure out when to make those decisions.

Giants might have two best pieces available before trade deadline


Giants might have two best pieces available before trade deadline

SAN FRANCISCO -- We tend to look at everything from a local standpoint around here, which means this upcoming trade deadline is mostly about two Giants: Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith. Both have been asked about trade rumors in recent weeks, and every start Bumgarner makes comes with the tag "could be facing Team X for the final time as a Giant" or "might be pitching at Stadium X for the final time in orange and black."

MLB Trade Rumors is among the outlets that takes a national view, and on Monday they ranked the top 50 players available before the July 31 deadline. Their list, however, had a very, very local flavor. And it probably had Farhan Zaidi smiling. 

The website listed Smith as the No. 1 available piece before the deadline, with Bumgarner ranking right behind him. Left-hander Tony Watson (No. 6), right-hander Sam Dyson (No. 11) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (No. 15) also cracked the top 15. 

Now, this is just one list of potential options for buyers, and things change quickly this time of year. A team on the bubble -- the Padres or Diamondbacks, for instance -- could go on a losing streak and decide to clean house, adding players like Kirby Yates and Zack Greinke to the pitching market. But for now, the Giants -- who fully intend to kickstart a rebuild with a flurry of trades -- appear to be holding a lot of the best cards. 

While Bumgarner is the bigger name, Smith actually could bring back the better prospect before the deadline. As a cheap left-handed closer with a perfect 18-for-18 record in the ninth this year, he would fit in any contender's bullpen. Smith could close or slide into the seventh or eighth, depending on a buyer's needs. 

Bumgarner has been connected to the Yankees and Twins recently. He's throwing as well as he has in years, and will have another chance to show his stuff on Thursday against the NL-leading Dodgers. Watson and Dyson could bolster a contending team's bullpen, and Sandoval -- who is owed just the MLB minimum by the Giants -- would be a nice addition for a team needing power off the bench. He has been the league's most dangerous pinch-hitter this season. 

Smith, Bumgarner and Sandoval are trade chips in part because they are free agents at the end of the season, but if the Giants really want to get creative they could dig deeper. Reyes Moronta and Trevor Gott are cost-controlled right-handers with big arms and solid numbers this season, and both could be intriguing to winning teams looking for more than just an expensive rental.

MLB power rankings 2019: Twins challenge Dodgers, Astros in standings


MLB power rankings 2019: Twins challenge Dodgers, Astros in standings

Those Minnesota Twins just aren't going to slow down, are they? A sneaky contender early on, the Twins have spent the last month neck-and-neck with the Dodgers and Astros. It's too early to consider them quite as dominant as those other two, but they're going to run away with the AL Central and have plenty of time to make a move or two to bolster a playoff run. 

It's going to be tough regardless because the American League is LOADED. Four of the five best teams in the Majors by run differential are in the AL, and they show up in our top five, too. 

Here's the latest rundown of all 30 teams, with an emphasis on some familiar names ...