It’s reasonable to ponder whether the Giants would be going all-in with Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, a team full of veterans and a virtual maxed out payroll if Bruce Bochy – and perhaps Brian Sabean as well – weren’t nearing the end of their active runs with the club.
Since it’s unlikely they’d ever tell us, we can only make an educated guess. The guess here, whether you believe it to be educated or not, is no. The Giants would be re-tooling more modestly, gearing more long-range than short. They wouldn’t have pursued Longoria or McCutchen, and we’d be looking at Christian Arroyo at third base in 2018 and cheaper, younger options in the outfield alongside Hunter Pence during his final year in San Francisco.
But Longoria and McCutchen cast the immediate future in stone. They represent the last full-throttle competitive push for Bochy, at the very least. He’ll turn 63 in April and has two years remaining on his contract. Considering the health issues he’s incurred the last few seasons, it seems unlikely that he or the Giants would want to go beyond that. Maybe, but doubtful.
Bochy is a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame, even though his career record fell below .500 as a result of the bottom falling out of his club in 2017. He has those three titles, though. And if he finishes out the two years on his contract, the likelihood of him getting to 2,000 career wins is very good. All 11 managers with at least 1,905 victories are in Cooperstown, and Bochy is just 52 wins shy of that total.
As for Sabean, he also has two years left on his current deal. He’ll be 62 in July. He’s also received some Hall of Fame mentions during this off-season, but like Bochy, he has kept his long-range future close to the vest. But what if Sabean doesn’t want to push on without Bruce, not to mention some of his closest organizational confidants like Dick Tidrow, who is 70, and several other 60-somethings in the Giants’ front office?
Without question, none of them want to go out on last year’s 98-loss nightmare. You can’t blame them. So while a longer-term rebuilding effort might be in the best interests of the club and general manager Bobby Evans, who is younger (48) than most of the key men in the Giants’ front office, 2018 is very much looking like a last hurrah for this Bochy-Sabean era. Hey, they deserve that.
As for 2019, well, a lot is going to depend on how 2018 goes. But with what Bochy and Sabean have done for the organization in the form of the three World Series crowns, plus many other very competitive and entertaining years, ownership owes them this one last chase for championship glory, and whether we like it or not, we’re just going to have to follow along.
Even at their great payroll expense and the additions of Longoria and McCutchen, it’s a mighty risk. It might not go well, because the National League West right now is an absolute killer. The Dodgers are obscenely loaded with young talent, coming off a 104-win season in which they didn’t even have their top pitching prospect, Julio Urias. Colorado and Arizona are both playoff-caliber clubs the Giants went a combined 14-24 against last year. They went 7-12 against San Diego, for crying out loud. In fact, the Giants 29-47 division record was actually worse percentage-wise (.381) than their overall 64-98 mark (.395).
Itís questionable whether they can take a quantum leap into contention against such stiff competition. Longoria and McCutchen will help the beleaguered offense and they should do wonders for competitive morale as well. But there are still major questions about the rotation and the bullpen, and when last we checked, there still wasn’t a center fielder other than Gorkys Hernandez. Will the guys at the back end of the bullpen, Mark Melancon and Will Smith, not only be healthy but ready to win? Nobody knows as of yet.
It’s hard to see the Giants adding another big name to the roster considering how close they are to exceeding the competitive balance tax threshold. They certainly could use a player like Lorenzo Cain, but his contract expense and his age (32), plus what he would cost in terms of lost draft picks (second and fifth) probably rules him out. At least it should, if the Giants have any foresight beyond 2018-19.
The Billy Hamilton talk has cooled and he recently settled his arbitration situation for 2018 at $4.6 million. Could the Giants take that amount on? With some juggling, probably. But they also may not be willing to part with any more young players/prospects at this point, having already surrendered Arroyo, Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. Particularly with Arroyo and Reynolds, they could wind up getting second-guessed for the next decade, and Crick was one of their most effective (and hardest-throwing) relievers last year.
If the Longoria deal didn’t already signal the going-for-it intent of the Giants, the McCutchen trade certainly did. They’re throwing the kitchen sink at 2018, if only for Bochy’s sake and maybe Sabes.But beyond next season, it’s impossible to predict. McCutchen and Pence become free agents after ’18. Madison Bumgarner will enter the final year of his current contract in 2019.
It makes it all pretty clear: The Giants not only better win and compete for the postseason in 2018. They have to, or this mostly glorious era will be over sooner than later.