Bruce Bochy spent his All-Star break confronting an unfamiliar reality. For the first time since 2008 — his second season at AT&T Park — his San Francisco Giants were already cooked before the Midsummer Classic arrived.
Some three hours before the final game of the first half, the manager sat in the home dugout in China Basin, a crowd of reporters and TV cameras surrounding him, struggling to accept the plight of the orange and black.
“There’s a lot of pride involved,” the manager said, when asked what he most wants to see in the second half. “[We need to] play better ball, for our fans, for ownership. We’re used to winning, and this isn’t a lot of fun. I’m not going to lie.
“More than anything, play better ball and get some wins,” Bochy added, continuing to ignore the reality of what awaits. “This is all about winning ball games.”
Slowly, the three-time World Series winner began to relent.
“Sure, you may see some young guys,” Bochy said. “I can’t look in a crystal ball and tell you what’s going to happen, but right now, these are our guys, and we’ve got to figure [out] a way to get better and start putting some W’s on the board.”
Mired in last place in the National League West, Bochy and the Giants find themselves in a similar spot as the club across the Bay.
The difference is that while the Giants intended to battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers for divisional supremacy, not a single member of the baseball cognoscenti pegged the Oakland A’s as playoff contenders.
Now, two storylines remain in this lost summer for Bay Area baseball: figuring out which vets can be moved and which kids can play.
In Sonny Gray and Johnny Cueto, both the A’s and the Giants have a front-of-the-rotation arm who could be donning a new jersey before the end of the month.
Recent happenings — namely the Chicago Cubs’ capture of Jose Quintana — indicate that Gray could draw a kingly ransom.
In acquiring Quintana from the Chicago White Sox, the Cubs had to part with four prospects — including outfielder Eloy Jimenez, ranked the No. 8 prospect in baseball by
If the A’s can land a top 10 prospect for Gray, it’s difficult to imagine that the brass wouldn’t sell the right-hander, who allowed just four earned runs in his final three starts entering the break.
Moving Cueto won’t be such a simple task — mainly owing to the opt-out clause in his contract and the blisters that sent him to the disabled list on Saturday.
With the ability to become a free agent at season’s end, Cueto may or may not be a rental — one sporting a 4.51 ERA after surrendering 19 home runs in his first 18 starts.
Cueto landed on the 10-day DL following his first start of the second half after developing blisters on three of the fingers on his pitching hand.
More likely to be moved: Gray
The other chips
For both the A’s and Giants, the rest of the trade pieces are primarily concentrated on the infield.
Oakland’s entire right side could be headed for a change of the guard — which becomes especially apparent when you factor in the organizational depth chart.
Jed Lowrie (27 doubles, .805 OPS) is a switch-hitter playing his best baseball. All-Star Yonder Alonso appears to be a perfect fit in the Bronx, where the New York Yankees first baseman produced the second-worst OPS in the opening half.
Over at Third and King, there’s no reason not to deal Eduardo Núñez, who returned from the 10-day disabled list on the first day of the second half. The speedy veteran will be a free agent this offseason, and injured super prospect Christian Arroyo still figures to lock down third base for the long term — even if Jae-Gyun Hwang has been keeping the hot corner warm.
There’s also an assortment of local relievers who could hit the trade front — most notably Sean Doolittle.
Most likely to be moved: 1) Núñez 2) Lowrie 3) Alonso
kids to watch
Oakland’s three most intriguing farmhands have all made big-league cameos already. Franklin Barreto looks like a slam-dunk replacement for Lowrie at second, and Matt Olson (21 homers between Triple-A and the majors) could figure into the equation either at first or as part of the outfield alignment.
The third young Athletic to watch for is Renato Núñez, who appeared in nine games last September. The 23-year-old Venezuelan, a designated hitter, left fielder and corner infielder, would fit right in with the home-run happy A’s. In 84 games for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, Núñez has crushed 24 home runs — most in the Pacific Coast League.
The dark horse to watch for is Beau Taylor — a 27-year-old catcher who has an .877 OPS between Double and Triple-A.
For the Giants, the marquee prospect is Chris Shaw. With Austin Slater shelved for the foreseeable future, 23-year-old Shaw is hitting his way into the left-field vacuum. While splitting the season between the top two rungs of the minor league ladder, the first baseman turned outfielder has connected on 15 homer runs. All of his Triple-A appearances have come in left.
Tyler Beede, Shaw’s teammate with the Sacramento River Cats, has more pedigree, but he’s less likely to end up a Giant in the months to come. The right-handed starter ranks as the No. 1 minor leaguer in the Giants system, according to MLB.com.
Unfortunately for the former Vanderbilt star, Triple-A has not been kind to Beede, who’s lugging a 5.01 ERA in 17 starts.
The final Giant on this list — infielder Miguel Gomez — has already swung his way onto the major league roster. Bochy has lavished high praise on the 24-year-old, saying that the switch-hitting Gomez “reminds you a little of Pablo Sandoval.”
Most likely to stick: 1) Barreto, 2) Olson, 3) Gomez, 4) Núñez
Note: The original version of this story was updated on Saturday after the Giants placed Johnny Cueto (blisters) on the 10-day disabled list.