PHILADELPHIA — As the Giants and Phillies opened a three-game series that promises to have significant implications in the National League Wild Card race, San Francisco’s highest-ranking front office executives watched from nearly 3,000 miles away.
President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and many other club officials remained at home on this trip, electing to run the franchise’s trade deadline operations from the Bay Area.
One game against the Phillies will not significantly alter the Giants’ deadline strategy, but no one would have blamed Zaidi and his colleagues for grimacing as they pondered the future throughout Tuesday’s 4-2 defeat.
“I don’t think anybody here looks at one game that’s going to be a difference-maker right now,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “But hey, at four o’clock tomorrow we’ll know exactly what’s going on.”
The Giants (54-53) have been baseball’s best team throughout July, but toward the end of the month, their invincibility has begun to fade and their weaknesses have come into sharper focus.
After winning 16 of their first 19 games this month, the Giants have now dropped three of five as an inconsistent offense and struggling rookie starters have begun to pose problems for a team with visions of contending. It’s easy for minds to wander and attention to shift as the deadline approaches, but Bochy insists that isn’t causing any issues.
“They’ve done a nice job, I’ve talked about that,” Bochy said. “There’s nothing you can tell them. What can you tell them? (The trade deadline) is part of baseball and here it is again and next year they’ll be talking about it again.”
Zaidi said last week that he would continue to listen to offers on all of his players in the hours leading up to the trade deadline and on Tuesday, conversations regarding ace Madison Bumgarner reportedly began to intensify.
It should come as no surprise that Bumgarner is attracting serious late interest from the game’s leading contenders, especially after the left-hander posted a 2.51 ERA in his final seven starts leading up to Wednesday’s 4 p.m. EST trade deadline.
Whether the Giants will deal Bumgarner or not remains one of the baseball industry’s biggest questions, but a second consecutive rough outing from rookie Tyler Beede on Tuesday highlighted how valuable Bumgarner has been to the Giants’ recent success.
Beede lasted five innings against the Phillies, surrendering 10 hits and four runs on a night that could have been worse for the Giants starter. Despite pitching his way out of three early traffic jams, Beede was blindsided in the bottom of the fifth when Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins clobbered a first-pitch fastball into the bleachers in left center field.
“I feel good with where I’m at, I’m still confident with my stuff and my stuff is too good for me to be giving up 10 hits in the last two outings,” Beede said.
When coupled with the recent command issues fellow rookie Shaun Anderson has dealt with, it’s fair for Zaidi to wonder how a rotation that’s relied so heavily on the success of young starters such as Beede will hold up over the final two months of the season.
Aside from expressing a desire to continue listening to offers on his top assets, Zaidi has also noted that he might be willing to buy instead of sell or stand pat at this year’s deadline. If the Giants do hold onto Bumgarner, closer Will Smith and other high-profile relievers, the club provided Zaidi with another reminder of the pieces the team is still missing on Tuesday.
Outside of needing another veteran arm to supplement the starting rotation, the Giants could also use one or two more right-handed bats. The club doesn’t expect third baseman Evan Longoria (left plantar fascia strain) to return for at least another week and rookie Zach Green has struggled after a strong debut against the Mets.
In their series opener at Citizens Bank Park, the Giants didn’t score against Phillies left-hander Drew Smyly, who posted an 8.42 ERA in 13 games with the Texas Rangers before being designated for assignment earlier this month. Brandon Belt and Stephen Vogt each delivered pinch-hit home runs in the top of the eighth off reliever Nick Pivetta, but it was too little, too late for a Giants lineup that didn’t reach base often on Tuesday.
“I think we’re a better team against left-handed pitching now with the bats we have, it was just an off night,” Bochy said.
Smyly’s outing against the Giants marked his second consecutive impressive start, but if the club has any hopes of sneaking into the postseason, it must improve an offense that has scored more than five runs just once in its last 11 games.
With 24 hours remaining before the trade deadline, the market appeared to favor teams interested in buying major league talent as few organizations had parted with any highly touted prospects. However, the Braves and Rangers completed a deal on Tuesday evening that could indicate a late market shift that would entice sellers to do some additional negotiating.
The Braves acquired Rangers reliever Chris Martin, a free agent-to-be, in exchange for former first round draft choice Kolby Allard, a 21-year-old starting pitching prospect with a promising future.
If a prospect with upside similar to Allard is attainable for a reliever, it won’t come as a surprise if Zaidi parts with a bullpen arm or two on Wednesday and still maintains his belief the Giants can compete for a playoff berth.
Whether the Giants make any deals of greater significance, including a potential trade of Bumgarner, will reveal how the front office views the 2019 club’s playoff chances.