Seven ways Giants can evaluate roster over final 37 games of season
What now for the Giants?
NEW YORK — This was the trip that was supposed to keep the Giants in the race. Instead, they just scored six runs in a hitter’s park while getting swept by the Reds.
After weeks of hanging on by a thread, it’s time for the Giants to be realistic. With 37 games to play, they’re eight back of the NL West lead and trail seven teams in the Wild Card standings. They are closer to the Reds in the standings than they are to third place in their own division. It's been two years of this — the Giants are 155-194 since the 2016 All-Star break — and it's time to get serious about altering this roster, but that’s not something you can do in August. That’s a conversation for the offseason.
For now, here are some ways the Giants can move forward over their final 37 games…
Trade Some Veterans
The waiver process is extremely secretive, and it’s possible the Giants already put several players through without reaching deals. But if they haven’t, this is the time to pass Andrew McCutchen, Nick Hundley, Derek Holland and others through and see what’s offered. The Giants won’t get huge returns, but a year ago they got Shaun Anderson for a couple months of Eduardo Nuñez, and Anderson may now be their top pitching prospect. With a shallow farm system, they should take anything they can get for pending free agents, a couple of whom may return in the offseason even if they are traded. Perhaps the Giants will be surprised by a contender with a need. Is there a team that would want to add Hunter Strickland or Sam Dyson or Tony Watson to a late-season bullpen? Could an outfield-needy club ask for Gorkys Hernandez? The Giants need to find out.
Play Austin Slater
The Giants still do not have a solution in left field. Austin Slater has received three pinch-hit at-bats since Brandon Belt returned. That’s it. That’s baffling. The 25-year-old has his flaws — he has hit for virtually no power this season — but he also has shown an ability to reach base. Oh, and did we mention he’s just 25? Slater might be just a future fourth outfielder/backup infielder, but there’s a chance that he’s more. He’s a smart guy who has figured it out at every previous stop. The Giants need to play him every day and let him take his lumps while also figuring out if he’s part of their future outfield mix.
Get Ready for September Call-ups
The Triple-A roster is all of a sudden short on healthy options. Tyler Beede has a groin strain and is rehabbing in Arizona; Chris Shaw has a lower back issue; Mac Williamson is dealing with more concussion symptoms. It seems likely Williamson’s season is over, but if Shaw and Beede can return, they should do so in the big leagues. The Giants need to figure out what they have in Shaw, in particular, before diving into the outfield market this winter. Aramis Garcia should get a tryout to see how close he is to being a backup option in the big leagues. And Tyler Rogers, a funky right-hander, should certainly get a look. For whatever reason, the Giants have never really put him in consideration, but he has a 1.92 ERA in a hitter’s league, so why not see what he has? The Giants similarly held Adam Duvall down, and ultimately they learned they misevaluated him.
Turn Back to Panik
The staff has put Joe Panik in a platoon, but he should get a raise to the $5 million range in arbitration this offseason, and that’s a lot to pay for someone you’re not playing every day. They need to let him face lefties and try to get back to the player he was in previous seasons, because if that skill is gone for whatever reason, he may be a non-tender candidate. Panik still could be a trade chip in the offseason, and getting him back to a bigger role would help increase his value.
Jeff Samardzija is set for two rehab starts before returning to the rotation. No matter how far out the Giants are when he returns, Samardzija needs to be run out there in September to prove that the latest round of rehab worked. He says he feels great, but he said that the previous time, too, and that ended up being false. The Giants claim Samardzija doesn’t need surgery, but they need to see him out there sitting 94-95 again, just to be sure.
Take Care of the Rookies
Dereck Rodriguez was supposed to make two starts on this trip and help lead the charge. Instead, he’s on the DL with a hamstring strain, and given the sweep, the Giants should wait until he’s 100 percent healthy before he returns. He’s too important to mess with. Andrew Suarez looks like he’s hitting a rookie wall, and the Giants should be careful with his innings down the stretch. Reyes Moronta is on pace for 76 appearances and also should be given extra rest in September. And don’t forget that Ray Black has always had trouble staying healthy; he probably should save as many bullets as he can for 2019.
Find New Challenges
What does Steven Duggar look like as a leadoff hitter? The Giants should find out in September, because that’s potentially his future spot. Can Moronta handle the ninth inning? He should certainly get a few opportunities to show if he can close. Can Slater play center field in a pinch, or second base? He has played both in the minors, and he could get a couple innings here and there in September to prepare for a potential super-utility role next year. Ditto for Alen Hanson. The point is, the final 37 games can provide an opportunity to experiment.