San Francisco Giants – Buy or Sell At The Trade Deadline?

San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants are currently 15-16 and if the season ended today, would make the playoffs as the eighth seed.  This complicates matters for team president Farhan Zaidi, as the trade deadline is August 31. Should the Giants buy or sell at the deadline?

The answer is both. Depending on the circumstances and what’s available, the Giants can trade players that are not part of the future and add some players who could possibly help now and in the coming years.

Kevin Gausman and Tony Watson

In determining who should stay and who should go, it’s important to look at the contractual status of each player.  Players who have contracts expiring this year and who will be free agents in 2021 are much more apt to be traded. These players include Kevin Gausman, Tony Watson, Pablo Sandoval, Drew Smyly, Jeff Samardzija and Darin Ruf.

Looking at this list, Gausman and Watson are the two with the most trade value. Both are having good seasons and would be very attractive to teams looking to bolster their pitching staff and make a run at a championship. If Zaidi can get good value in return, Gausman and Watson should be moved.

Sandoval and Ruf have minimal trade value and it’s very unlikely the San Francisco Giants would get a decent return for either of them.  Smyly and Samardzija are both on the IL and their market value is extremely low.

Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford

Players who have contracts expiring after the 2021 season and will become free agents include Johnny Cueto, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Wilmer Flores and Buster Posey. The decision on these players is much more complex.

Posey will not be moved since he is not playing and Flores is a bargain at only $3 million for 2021. The real question is what to do with Cueto, Belt and Crawford. In 2021, Cueto is set to make $21 million, Belt $17.2 million and Crawford $15.2 million. These contracts, given out by former GM Bobby Evans, have handcuffed the Giants and limited their flexibility.

In order for the Giants to trade any of these players this year and receive a decent return, it would likely require them to eat a large portion of the 2021 salary. In the past, for the right prospect, Zaidi has shown a willingness to eat a substantial amount of cash.

A prime example of this strategy is when the Giants acquired Zack Cozart and shortstop Will Wilson from the Los Angeles Angels for minor league pitcher Garrett Williams and cash considerations. Cozart was owed over $12 million for 2020 and 2021 but Zaidi pulled the trigger because he wanted Wilson, who was a first-round pick by the Angels in 2019. The Giants subsequently DFA’d Cozart in January.

If Zaidi can get a coveted player or two, and it will only cost them some money, look for the Giants to move Cueto, Belt or Crawford. Realistically however, unless the Giants receive an offer that knocks their socks off, it may make more sense for Zaidi to move these three players in the off season or prior to the 2021 trade deadline.

The Giants 2020 Outlook

Shifting gears for a moment, it is also possible for the San Francisco Giants to potentially add some pieces to help this year.  Don’t look for a major addition, however.  Due to the pandemic and with no fans attending games, there are many teams that are looking at their bottom line. If Zaidi can deal a lower level prospect, coupled with cash, look for the Giants to add some relief pitching or an extra outfielder.

Any player the Giants add will not be a short-term rental. Any addition must be a player under the Giants’ control beyond the 2020 season.

Farhan Zaidi has proven to be very creative when making deals and has added some valuable talent to the organization. These next few days will be a balancing act, focusing on the future, while not gutting the present. The current team has exceeded expectations and deserves a shot to make the playoffs.  However, the Giants cannot take their eyes off the longer term strategy of building for the future.

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