Rhys Hoskins, left, and Bryce Harper are both represented by agent Scott Boras. Will Harper be persuaded to join Hoskins with the Phillies, or will he pick the San Francisco Giants? (Tribune News Service)

San Francisco Giants: Bernstein predicts the 2019 season

The San Francisco Giants could go from being a baseball wasteland to one of the most exciting teams in the league by signing superstar free agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

Not considered serious suitors for Harper for much of the offseason following back-to-back losing seasons, the Giants have reportedly shown intense interest in the unsigned slugger over the past few weeks. His signing would catapult San Francisco into contention and make the latter half of the year far more interesting than anticipated.

Staying the course and opting not to make a major addition, meanwhile, might prompt very difficult decisions at the trade deadline. If the team falls out of contention, it’ll need to weigh whether or not to jumpstart a rebuild by trading starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner’s contract expires after the season, and the Giants could deem it better to get prospects in return rather than potentially lose him for nothing in the offseason.

Best-case scenario: Jolted by signing Bryce Harper, the best left-handed bat in San Francisco since Barry Bonds, the Giants surge into the playoffs after a two-year slumber. Buster Posey and Brandon Belt have their healthiest seasons in recent memory to complement Harper, while Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija combine to form the 1-2 rotation punch they’re capable of becoming. Young starters Derek Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez continue to grow, offseason signings Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz add stability and pitching prospect Tyler Beede gives San Francisco a late-season boost to help the team into October.

Worst-case scenario: After deciding Harper is not worth a mega-contract, the Giants finish near the bottom of the division and offer little hope a turnaround will come soon. San Francisco holds onto Bumgarner through the trade deadline but fails to sign the distinguished pitcher in the offseason, watching him instead ink a long-term deal with the Dodgers. Adding to the rough year, the Raiders play their games at Oracle Park, which shreds the Giants’ outfield in September.

X-factor: Jeff Samardzija. When healthy, the tall right-hander can be dominant. But since he joined the Giants in 2016, he’s never seemed right, alternating between frustrating injuries and frustrating on-field performance. At 34 years old, Shark is running out of time to turn things around. If he can regain his stuff in 2019, it would go a long way in helping the Giants into the playoff race, with or without Harper.

Offseason additions: Drew Pomeranz

Offseason losses: Kelby Tomlinson, Chase d’Arnaud, Gorkys Hernandez, Hunter Pence, Hunter Strickland

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