This Week Could Change The Giants’ Fortune

Over the last decade, the Giants have been one of the most successful franchises in the game, winning 831 regular season games and, of course, three World Series titles. Along the way, there have been plenty of important weeks, most notably in October, when Madison Bumgarner and friends stepped up and played their best baseball at the most important time of the year. But while the Giants’ recent past has been full of big moments, this week might be the one that determines the Giants future for the next decade.

Obviously, the team’s pursuit of Giancarlo Stanton has dominated news about the team so far this off-season, and Stanton would certainly make the team significantly better. But as Jeff Sullivan noted recently, the Giants aren’t really in a position to just trade for Stanton and think that solves their problems. I’m going to steal a graph from his post, showing the current projected standings in the NL based on the Steamer projections.

The Giants currently project for fewer wins than the Marlins, who are intentionally trying to get worse. They are just a tick ahead of the Phillies and Reds, neither of whom are thinking about taking on $300 million in future contract commitments right now. And while Stanton is a great player, no single player in baseball moves the needle on his own. Here’s Jeff’s second chart, where he assumes the Giants get Stanton.

As he notes, acquiring Stanton would move the team from the 10th-best projected NL team to the 8th-best, which is something, but 8th-best in a league where only five teams make the postseason, and one of them goes home after a single play-in game, isn’t the most enviable spot to be in. The primary point of Jeff’s post is that the Giants can’t just acquire Stanton and call it a day. If they’re going to take most of that contract, they would need to also invest in other upgrades in order to give the team a better chance of getting a return on that significant investment.

The problem is that taking on Stanton’s contract pushes the team well over the CBT threshold, and as a third-time payor, the Giants will pay a 50% tax on every dollar they spent over $197 million. Adding most of Stanton’s deal would put them at around $215 million, so they’d already be pushing up against the first surtax threshold — $20 million more than the CBT threshold — where they’d have to pay an additional 12% on the overage, and put them within striking distance of the second surtax threshold, where another 45% tax would kick in.

So they can’t really just keep spending their way out of their current problems. If they take Stanton’s contract, the rest of their upgrades would likely have to come from low-salary players, which are usually guys you develop internally or trade for. But the Giants’ farm system isn’t very good, so expecting it to produce some cheap big league contributors in 2018 isn’t realistic, and they don’t have the kinds of trade chips that could fetch them a low-cost impact player from another franchise.

And they aren’t really in a position to just wait for some of their low-level guys to make it to the show. While the Giants might not feel old, the reality is that they probably have two more years to try and win before running into a forced rebuild.

Buster Posey is 31, and has logged nearly 7,000 innings behind the plate. He won’t be able to catch forever, and when he has to change positions, he’s going to lose a lot of value. Madison Bumgarner is only 28, but he’s also only under contract for two more years, and he’ll command a huge raise after the 2019 season. And with roughly $100 million in commitments to six players in 2020 — which would be $125 to $130 million for seven guys if they acquire Stanton — there’s a realistic chance that that the team wouldn’t be able to afford Bumgarner, especially if the new salary for high-end players pushes goes over $40 million in next winter’s free agent bonanza.

And the Giants couldn’t really sustain a loss of Bumgarner, because the other guys making money in 2020 are also going to be in their mid-30s, and likely not going to be all that productive. That 2020 cliff looks precipitous, and the Giants essentially have two more years to try and win before they go flying over it.

And thus, one could reasonably argue that they need Shohei Ohtani more than any of the other finalists. Because if they landed both Stanton and Ohtani, all of the sudden they’d be something like an 87-win team, and project as the 4th-best team in the NL heading into the 2017 season. And because of Ohtani’s inability to be financially compensated for his talent, Ohtani would give the Giants a potential impact player without moving the CBT needle at all. All of the sudden, the Giants would be legitimate contenders, and the window could theoretically stay open for an extra year, as Ohtani still won’t be arbitration eligible by 2020.

We don’t know Ohtani’s timeline for choosing a team, but he’s zipping through the in-person meetings right now, and it wouldn’t be entirely shocking if Ohtani’s representatives brought him to the winter meetings for a pomp-and-circumstance press conference next week. And if Stanton was on the fence about joining the Giants because he was unsure of their ability to contend for the duration of his contract, adding Ohtani might just change that calculation.

Or it could go the other way. Perhaps one reason the Giants have tried so hard to acquire Stanton before the Ohtani sweepstakes got underway is that they wanted to have Stanton as part of their pitch, and if they could get him to agree to a trade to San Francisco, perhaps Ohtani would be more interested in going to the bay area. It’s possible that either one of them choosing SF would also make the other one more likely to come too.

Getting both players would dramatically change the Giants’ roster, and probably change their current trajectory, which isn’t great. But if they don’t land Ohtani, one could argue that they’d be better off getting neither, as acquiring Stanton by himself might not get them back to the postseason, but could make the coming collapse even more extreme, especially if Stanton regresses ands up not exercising his opt-out.

Getting both would be great. Getting neither would be okay, as the Giants do have other options to upgrade this winter, and missing out on Stanton might end up leading to a better allocation of resources. The worst outcome might be getting Stanton but losing out on Ohtani, as that may leave the Giants just good enough to hang around the periphery of contention without being quite good enough to overcome any of the three behemoths in the NL.

At the end of this next week, the Giants could be legitimate contenders again. Or they could be spurned by two players they highly covet. Or they could get one and not the other, and the impact on the franchise would be wildly different depending on which of the two it ended up being.

Because Ohtani and Stanton hold all the power, there’s nothing the Giants can do to ensure the outcome they want, but despite that lack of control, this remains a vitally important week for the franchise. The direction of their organization may very well be decided in the next seven days.

We hoped you liked reading This Week Could Change The Giants’ Fortune by Dave Cameron!

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Buhners Rocket Arm
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Buhners Rocket Arm

The moral of the story is don’t spent $15M/year FA closers or $10M/year on 4th outfielders. I can’t believe how high their payroll is.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

Well, he wasn’t exactly a fourth outfielder when they signed him…I’m pretty sure if they knew he was going to decline so fast they would have backed away.

chazzycat
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chazzycat

there was actually an article on this very website suggesting the Giants signing Denard Span would be a wise move.

https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/about-that-giants-outfield/

JimmieFoXX
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JimmieFoXX

There were several from the author above endorsing Jason Heyward being signed for even more than Epstein gave him.

Dave T
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Member
Dave T

Well, before the fact that was plenty of reason to think that signing Heyward to a large contract was a good idea. He’d accumulated 27.7 WAR over 6 years prior to his free agent deal, and a total of 11.2 WAR over the prior two seasons, and he was only 26.

I also recall someone in the comments looking at position player comps for the degree to which Heyward’s value cratered in his late 20’s after so many years of great production.

The conclusion I recall is that there were no more than a handful of similar precedents, and that these precedents were almost all players who were derailed by very serious injuries (e.g., Grady Sizemore).

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

The whole thing about his defense and how valuable it is…that was not what killed him last year. What really derailed him was that he stopped hitting (last year).

Denard Span, IIRC, had an injury problem that people thought would resolve and it didn’t.

Very different situations.

Johnston
Member
Johnston

As if the time he was signed, there were no indicators present at all that Heyward was about to collapse offensively. You can’t blame anyone, including Epstein and almost every baseball website, for not seeing something that simply was not there.