Barring a miraculous hot streak these last six weeks, the San Francisco Giants will miss the postseason for the second straight year. They've lost four straight and 24 of their last 40 games to fall to 61-64. They are eight games back in the NL West and 7 1/2 games back of the second wild card spot with six teams ahead of them in the standings. SportsLine puts their postseason odds at less than one percent.
The Giants pushed most of their chips into the middle of the table last offseason, when they acquired Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, and signed Tony Watson. Longoria missed time with a broken hand earlier this year and has hit a weak .246/.283/.417 (88 OPS+) when healthy, but McCutchen and Watson have held up their end of the bargain, and minor-league signing Dereck Rodriguez .
More than anything, the Giants are out of the postseason picture because the incumbent players have either gotten hurt or underperformed. Buster Posey is slugging .390. A fluke hand injury has limited Madison Bumgarner to 14 starts. Johnny Cueto made nine starts before needing Tommy John surgery. Jeff Samardzija has made 10 terrible starts around injuries. Hunter Strickland punch a wall and broke his hand. On and on it goes.
Because of all that, San Francisco won't go to the postseason this year. Given their roster construction -- Bumgarner, Posey, Longoria, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt are all under contract beyond this season -- it seems unlikely the Giants would tear things down and rebuild. They strike me as more of a "take a slight step back and retool, then go for it next year" team, and hey, that's great. Too many teams are willing to throw in the towel and rebuild.
If the Giants decide to take that slight step back in hope of a better tomorrow, there is still enough time for them to cash in their trade chips. The non-waiver trade deadline passed weeks ago, but the true trade deadline is Aug. 31. For a player to be postseason eligible, he has to be in the organization at 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 31. No exceptions. That gives the Giants about 10 days to work their magic on.
So, with that in mind, here are the players the Giants could move before that Aug. 31 deadline. And no, they're not trading Bumgarner. Stop asking already.
Sinker specialist Sam Dyson has been a steady late-inning presence for manager Bruce Bochy, throwing 57 innings with a 2.84 ERA (143 ERA+) and a 58.2 percent ground ball rate. He is under team control through 2020, so there's no urgency to trade him, but Dyson has been a bit up and down in recent years, and he'll be due a raise from his $4.425 million salary next year. San Francisco might not want to commit $6 million or so to a guy who has been inconsistent over the years and might only be their fourth best reliever next season.
The Giants signed Derek Holland to a minor-league contract over the winter and Bumgarner's injury pushed him onto their Opening Day roster. He's thrown 129 1/3 innings with 132 strikeouts and a 3.83 ERA (106 ERA+) this year, making this his best season in several years. Holland is an impending free agent, so the Giants don't have much reason to keep him these last six weeks, and he's proven versatile enough to start or relieve. Turning a minor-league contract into 129 1/3 above-average innings and then a prospect would be a real nice coup for San Francisco.
Possible trade suitors: The Mariners immediately jump to mind with James Paxton out and Felix Hernandez continuing to struggle. Trevor Bauer's injury could push the Indians to get involved as well. Ditto the Yankees should CC Sabathia's knee issue continue to linger.
Quality catching is hard to find and Nick Hundley has turned in a solid season as Posey's backup, hitting .247/.296/.452 (100 OPS+) with nine home runs in 199 plate appearances. The defensive numbers are not great -- Baseball Prospectus puts Hundley at nine runs below-average defensively in only 400 1/3 innings -- but Hundley can still run into a fastball, and there's no such thing as too much catching depth.
Possible trade suitors: The Brewers and Yankees. Milwaukee has managed to get by with Manny Pina and Erik Kratz all season, so maybe they'll stick with them. The Yankees are without Gary Sanchez, who has been out most of the last two months with a groin injury. Sanchez has yet to start a minor-league rehab assignment and isn't yet ready to return. Austin Romine has been great, but the Yankees could look for an upgrade over current backup Kyle Higashioka.
The biggest trade chip of them all. McCutchen is an impending free agent, and while his days as an MVP caliber player are over, he is hitting .257/.347/.417 (109 OPS+) with 26 doubles and 14 home runs. A contending team could pick McCutchen up before the Aug. 31 deadline and feel pretty good about sticking him in their middle of the lineup down the stretch. He's not going to be scared by a postseason race and all the intangibles he brings in the clubhouse will help any team.
Possible trade suitors: The Yankees, clearly. Aaron Judge is still out with a broken wrist and there is no firm timetable for his return. Furthermore, hamstring tightness has limited Giancarlo Stanton to DH duty and Clint Frazier is out with post-concussion migraines, meaning career infielder Neil Walker has taken over as New York's everyday right fielder. Money is an issue here because the Yankees are trying to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, but, on the field, McCutchen fits perfectly. The Astros, Indians, Phillies, and Rockies could all be in the mix as well. Maybe even the Athletics?
Keep in mind the Giants are trying to stay under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, and, at the moment,. That is nothing. Not even enough for a regular-sized group of September call-ups. Moving McCutchen would be the easiest way to create luxury tax breathing room -- McCutchen counts $79,301.08 against the luxury tax every day he's on the roster, so the sooner they trade him, the more they save -- though moving Dyson, Holland, and Hundley would help too.
The goal is not just clearing money to get under the luxury tax threshold, however. Holland, Hundley, and McCutchen are all impending free agents who may not remain with the club long-term, so if the Giants can turn them into some prospects to add organizational depth, they'll be better for it in the long run. San Francisco is not blessed with a deep farm system. They're out of the postseason race, so if they can turn some impending free agents into warm bodies for the future, the Giants will be in better shape going forward. There's still enough time to get it done before Aug. 31.