PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

The San Francisco Giants pushed all of their proverbial chips to the middle of the table at the start of this offseason.

The competitive balance tax? Who cares?

A weak farm system that could bottom out if even a few solid prospects were moved? Didn’t matter.

The Giants were all-in when it came to acquiring the reigning National League MVP, Giancarlo Stanton, because this team lost 98 games last season, starting a rebuild with so many large contracts currently on the books wasn’t feasible, and the franchise is swimming in cash as a byproduct of its three recent (though that status fades by the day) World Series titles.

They were all-in because adding Stanton, no matter the cost, would have made this Giants team, which finished in last place in the National League West last year, significantly better.

But Stanton, who held full no-trade clause rights, wasn’t interested in coming to San Francisco, so the spurned Giants’ front office brass was forced to look to other routes to improve the team’s roster.

Only the Giants don’t seem too interested in many of the backup plans.

Or, to be more specific, the Giants appear to be scared away by the costs of those backup plans.

This front office is aware that the Giants lost 98 games last season, right?

Because right now, it looks like the Giants’ roster that lost those 98 games is going to return in 2018 without much — if any — bolstering.

The Giants missed out on Stanton — ok, that happens. But the team made a logical and valiant effort to land baseball’s preeminent power hitter. They went big and they acted boldly, and while they lost out, they deserve credit for that pursuit.

But the Giants have acted cowardly in the aftermath of that failure.

Where’s the creative thinking? Where are the bold plays to improve this roster? Where’s all that aggression and conviction the Giants showed in the Stanton pursuit?

Why was it ok to not worry about the competitive balance tax or fully raid their bottom-of-the-barrel farm system when Stanton was the target, but when Marcell Ozuna or Andrew McCutchen are the targets, both the tax and the farm are held sacrosanct?

How can you be so determined — so steadfast — one minute and look so ambivalent the next?

Is this team’s goal to be an uncompetitive team in 2018 and beyond?

Are they trying to tank?

Either of those scenarios makes more sense than what’s happened in the Stanton aftermath.

(And if they are trying to tank, they’re doing a terrible job…)

The Giants didn’t suck last year because they were wholly unlucky — their record was well deserved: a byproduct of the worst slugging lineup in baseball (in an era where the fly ball is everything), a defense (particularly in the outfield) that was sub-par, a pitching staff that was overhyped, and a bullpen that wasn’t talented enough to be that taxed.

Yes, this team can play better in 2018 — there was some bad luck involved in last year’s debacle, to be sure — but what’s the ceiling for this team? 75 wins? Third place? Maybe if they overachieve they can finish at .500.

No, the Giants need to add this offseason. They need power bats. They need a new centerfielder. They need a third baseman to fill a Panda-sized hole. They need more than one new reliever.

They need to bring in talent from the outside. What they have now isn’t going to work.

Now, if the Giants land some of those necessary pieces, we can start talking about 85 wins, or even 90 — win totals that put the Giants in playoff contention. Win totals this Giants roster, as currently constructed, would need incredible luck to reach.

Yes, the Giants are throwing their name in the ring for other players on the market, but the story of San Francisco’s offseason looks as if it’s going to be two big denials and plenty of weak efforts.

It’s been a week since Stanton turned down San Francisco, but the Giants have already amassed a year’s worth of “the two teams have talked, but nothing is close” scoops since then.

The Giants now seem hellbent on resetting their competitive balance tax clock — meaning they can’t go over $197 million in salary for this season — and are going to sell it as part of the team’s effort to sign big-time free agents (see: Machado, Manny; Harper, Bryce) next offseason.

But if this team isn’t going to add any players this winter, how does it expect to improve in 2018?

And if this team doesn’t improve next season, why on earth would Machado or Harper want to sign with the Giants?

There’s still a chance for the Giants to avoid this offseason from being defined by empty half-measures. (Remember when the Giants shook up the coaching staff as an effort to say “hey, we did something”? That’s starting to look like a precedent.)

There are dozens of excellent players on the trade and free agent markets who can make the Giants a better team in 2018 and beyond. Players that can drastically improve the team’s defense in the outfield. Players that can turn the bullpen into a strength. Players that can hit a home run — even at AT&T Park.

These players are going to cost serious money, or prospects, or both. There’s no way around that.

This isn’t to say that the Giants should aim to be fleeced in any deals, but the team’s reluctance to take on salary and their untouchable list of prospects (which has 2017 first round pick Heliot Ramos at the top) is a significant impediment that frankly doesn’t make much sense.

J.D. Martinez is still a free agent. Josh Donaldson is being dangled by the Blue Jays. Evan Longoria is on the market. McCutchen is still available. There are plenty of good power hitters (who aren’t lefties) and strong defenders in the outfield or at third base on the market. There are plenty of opportunities for the Giants to improve this offseason.

The Giants understood the price of acquiring a valuable player when it came to Stanton — they understood the risks and downsides and forged ahead anyway. How did the Giants go from being willing to take on nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in salary and moving prospects to now only wanting to make deals for cheap players that don’t require serious prospects to acquire? (These are also known as bad players.)

Can the Giants rid themselves of that cognitive dissonance?

They better, because the path the team appears to be on isn’t going to lead it anywhere worthwhile.

blog comments powered by Disqus