This off-season has been a relatively slow one on the whole. Many big name free agents are still unsigned. Players like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, the trio of Royals free agents and JD Martinez, among others, are still without a team with only 3 weeks until pitchers and catchers report. However, one team in particular has made some of the more splashy moves this off-season. That team would be the rival San Francisco Giants. The short answer to, are the Giants a threat to the Dodgers in the NL West, is simply no. But let’s dive more into the details of why, even after the moves they’ve made, they won’t be a threat.
The Giants are coming off a season which saw them play to a tie for the Major League worst 64-98 record. Scoring only 639 runs while giving up 776 runs, their -137 run differential was 2nd worst only to the Detroit Tigers. Overall, their season was gloriously terrible. And Dodger fans relished in it.
Despite all this, the Giants still have 3 World Series Titles since 2010 and appear to be gearing up for another even year. They have been busy all off-season acquiring talent to vault them back into contention for 2018.
Any good batters notify the San Francisco Giants–who were last in runs scored in 2017
— Art Spander (@artspander) January 4, 2018
The Giants have made multiple trades, and a few free agent signings to boost themselves this off-season. Their first trade was sending Matt Moore to the Texas Rangers for a couple prospects. Initially this seemed to indicate that San Francisco wasn’t planning on contending in 2018. Instead being more focused on building their farm system, and relying on bounce-back seasons from injured players and under-performance.
However, 5 days later the Giants unexpectedly traded for the Tampa Bay Rays Evan Longoria. In the deal the Giants sent top prospect Christian Arroyo, along with Denard Span and two other pitching prospects back to the Rays. Money was also exchanged in the deal. It was now apparent the the Giants were not counting themselves out.
A couple weeks after trading for Longoria, the Giants made another major trade. This time they brought in Andrew McCutchen to bolster their outfield. In return the Pirates got another top Giants prospect in Kyle Crick, another prospect Bryan Reynolds and $500k in international bonus pool money.
— The Athletic (@TheAthleticSF) January 16, 2018
After making these two trades, the Giants have also inked Austin Jackson to a 2-year deal worth $6.0 million. With all these moves complete, the Giants now stand about $2 million below the luxury tax threshold. So unless they magically clear payroll, their off-season is done. So what were the Giants able to accomplish with their moves? And are they enough to allow them to challenge the Dodgers in the NL West?
First and foremost, the Giants have made significant improvements to their offense, with the most significant in their outfield. Their outfield of Denard Span, Hunter Pence, and Gorkys Hernandez put up a meager 2.3 fWAR. By comparison Yasiel Puig, by himself, had a 2.9 fWAR.
Replacing Span with Jackson gives the Giants about a half a win improvement. Most importantly, bringing in McCutchen means Hernandez no longer sees playing time. This alone would give them 3 more net wins.
Secondly, acquiring Evan Longoria gives them stability at the hot corner. Though Longo is no longer in his prime, his presence will give them about an additional 2 wins. Combining all these factors together, the addition of these 3 position players should at the least get the Giants an additional 5 to 6 wins by WAR. You could also safely assume that adding their bats to their lineup will help improve others in the lineup by default. So let’s throw the Giants a bone and say they get another 2 to 3 wins on top of that by the mere presence of Longoria, McCutchen, and Jackson in the lineup. Now we are up to 7-10 additional wins. But guess what, they are still a sub .500 ballclub even with 10 additional wins.
The last factor in this picture is that they did suffer from injuries to their roster, including Madison Bumgarner. With their rotation relatively unchanged, they are relying on veterans to bounce-back and youngsters to perform and the same goes for their bullpen. Even if some of them bounce-back, their starting 5 for 2018 is only projected to to improve by 2.6 wins per FanGraphs.
Giants refuse to concede, plan to contend again with Andrew McCutchen: The San Francisco Giants are shouting to the world that they have no stomach for a rebuild or even youth movement. https://t.co/WHXdTRyAfc
— Sun City/SCW News (@SC_SCWNews) January 16, 2018
In the end, San Francisco seems to be set to improve by a maximum of of 13-15 wins. In that scenario they are still barely a .500 team. With the Rockies and D-Backs still returning much of their rosters and the Padres getting more help from their great farm system, the Giants have an uphill battle ahead of them. Lucky for the Dodgers, the Giants don’t appear to be a major threat at all for the 2018 season. And with the Giants depleting their system further in the 2 trades this off-season, they may struggle to compete going forward.
Obviously we should never underestimate them. But 2018 will once again be a season where the Giants will be fighting to not place last in the NL West. And that should make every Dodger fan very happy.