The San Francisco Giants were abjectly awful in 2017, tied for the most losses in baseball and lucky not to earn sole possession of that dubious honor.
The good news is, in typical Giants fashion, they seem to be just a couple of moves away from building another sneaky competitor. The only caveat — there’s one move they absolutely cannot do without, one move that if they fail to complete will likely doom them to another sub-.500 season.
The Giants MUST trade for Giancarlo Stanton.
The appeal is obvious — Stanton is a perennial MVP candidate and arguably the best home-run hitter in the majors right now. He’s among the first group of hitters you would select to anchor any lineup, and he’s better-suited to defy AT&T Park’s long ball limitations than any hitter the Giants have added since the park opened.
If Michael Morse could occasionally threaten line-drive homers down the left field line, just imagine what Stanton could do. Moreover, imagine what a bat like that would do to the Giants lineup — Buster Posey would do well with an MVP protecting him; Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence would be hitting further down in the lineup with significantly less pressure; the Giants would have their first high-quality leadoff hitter since Angel Pagan, because steals leader Dee Gordon is part of the rumored deal as well.
Now, instead of a cold shower, imagine the alternatives. With the most glaring holes at third base and in the outfield, the group of available free agents looks something like: JD Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, Todd Frazier, Mike Moustakas and Jay Bruce. All of them are older than Stanton, none of them are as good, and most aren’t even close.
Moustakas and Bruce are lefties and career .250 hitters. Both have power and had good 2017s, but neither can touch Stanton’s productivity or would suit the ballpark nearly as well. Frazier’s power diminished considerably last season, and he hasn’t hit over .255 since 2014. Cain is a nice player — a career .290 hitter who plays good defense and runs the bases well — but wouldn’t do much to mitigate the Giants’ power deficit.
Martinez is the best of the bunch, an all-star right-handed power hitter coming off of a career year where he hit 45 homers, 26 doubles and drove in 104 runs. A great season to be sure, but Stanton’s 162-game average is 33 doubles, 44 homers and 110 RBIs. He’s also two years younger than Martinez, but has played and produced at a high level for longer.
If the Giants can turn a moribund lineup into a highly capable one with one big trade, there’s plenty to like about this team. One would expect bounce-back years from Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. And with Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Jeff Samardzija in the mix, there’s a quality rotation developing. The Giants still have top-flight defense around the infield and a young bullpen can be bolstered without too much trouble.
If they don’t land Stanton, the Giants will have to attempt to cobble together offensive production from a series of smaller additions, and even if one of those is Martinez, it’s hard to imagine the offense making a complete turnaround. Stanton is a one-man renovation project; anything else is more difficult and more complicated.
For the first time in his young career as GM, Bobby Evans is being given a true test of his ability to consummate an obvious, if not easy, major acquisition. If he wants to be a Giant for foreseeable future, he should make sure Stanton is, too.
Matt Kolsky is a sports media professional (or something like that) and lives with an aging Shih Tzu/Schnauser mix in Berkeley. You can hear his podcast, The Toy Department, on iTunes or wherever else fine podcasts are free. Find him on Twitter @thekolsky to share your personal feelings about this article or any other topic, he will respond to most tweets that do not contain racial slurs.