Why Brandon Crawford Will Decide the Future of the Giants

The San Francisco Giants are 33-51 this season. Flash back one week ago and the Giants were 27-51. The only Major League team having a worse season than the Giants so far has been the Philadelphia Phillies.

The only difference between those two teams is that the Phillies don’t have a $175 million payroll and weren’t expecting to be a serious contender entering the season.

The other day, I broke down my disdain for the idea of ‘holding’ at the upcoming July 31st trade deadline. The Giants aren’t one of the teams that needed to read my article because their course of action should be clear this month.

Sell.

However, because baseball just can’t stand to be simple, the Giants’ decision is much more complicated to have a simple one word solution. The question of ‘buy or sell?’ has a clear answer, but the next question that the Giants must ask is, ‘but who do we sell?’

This past Tuesday, reports came out of San Francisco that the Giants were willing to trade anyone except for Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Brandon Crawford. This makes a lot of sense to the naked eye, but I find just one problem with it.

If I’m gonna go shopping at the Mall de Gigantes, Brandon Crawford is the only one that I would be willing to give up some top quality assets for. Not only do the Giants need to reconsider Crawford’s place on that ‘untouchable’ list, but I believe that they need to trade him.

Whether or not you agree with me is based around where you believe the Giants are positioned in relativity to winning the World Series. If you believe that San Francisco is just having a down year and needs to stay the course, you’d definitely be inclined to hang onto Crawford. But, if you believe that this is an aging team on the verge of total abyss, then Crawford must be traded.

I fall into the latter category for several reasons.

First of all, take a look at the Giants’ 10 most expensive players in terms of 2017 salary. The youngest among them is a tie between Madison Bumgarner and Matt Moore, both 28 years old. The oldest is Hunter Pence at 34 years old.

According to Bill James, the average MLB players’ prime production years range from his age-27 season through his age-31 season. Considering that all 10 of these players are closely around that age range, the Giants should be right in their prime of contention.

The Giants are on pace to lose 99 games in this prime, showing clearly that this is not a team built to win right now. But, if not built to win right now, maybe there’s still a realistic hope that the Giants are built to win in the near future…?

I wouldn’t count on it.

Christian Arroyo, the top prospect and crown jewel of the Giants’ farm system, just broke his hand in his first game back off the DL and is expected to be out for the rest of the regular season. Tyler Beede, the top pitching prospect, has struggled in his jump to Triple-A. After posting a sparkling 2.81 ERA in a hitter friendly Double-A league, Beede has slogged his way to a 5.81 ERA in 90.2 innings in a much more pitcher friendly Triple-A league.

Ty Blach, another pitching prospect, has shown flashes of brilliance at the Major League level but is struggling this season to the tune of a 4.89 FIP in 86 IP this season for the big club. Joan Gregorio, already a 25 year old Triple-A veteran, just got busted for PED’s and handed a suspension that will keep him off the field for the rest of the 2017 season.

Everything within the Giants’ farm system appears to be collapsing in an almost mirror image of the Major League team.

An aging, terrible Major League team combined with a collapsing and already thin farm system lead me to believe that the Giants’ are on the verge of the rebuilding abyss. The most recent team to experience the rebuilding abyss was the Philadelphia Phillies, who fell into the trap of trying to squeeze too much out of an aging core.

Almost 6 years later, the Phillies are still trying to emerge from the wasteland that they wandered into, and with the worst winning percentage among all MLB teams in 2017, they don’t appear to be anywhere close.

However, the Giants can still choose to go one of two directions. They can either enter into a full and accelerated rebuild, as I recommend, or they could stick to their guns and look to give the World Series one last run with this core of players before blowing it up.

And the decision hinges entirely on what the Giants decide to do with Brandon Crawford.

San Francisco has already tipped their hand by saying they intend to hold onto Crawford. Their plan, I presume, will be to maximize the value of players like Eduardo Nunez, Matt Moore, and Brandon Belt while still planning to contend immediately in 2018 with a theoretically younger team and improved farm system.

But, for the sake of this exercise, let’s take a look at what the Giants should do in both of my scenarios.

Assuming that San Francisco decides to hold onto Crawford, I believe that they shouldn’t sell, but rather buy at the deadline. The core of the Giants – Posey, Bumgarner, Pence, Crawford – are aging and unable to be counted on past 2019, I believe, which leaves the Giants 2 more years of legitimate contention in this universe.

So push all your chips to the middle of the table. Instead of selling off Nunez and Moore for future prospects, take a package like that to the Blue Jays and go land Josh Donaldson. Take Christian Arroyo and Ty Blach and go get Yoenis Cespedes from the Mets.

If you’re gonna stick with your core and make one last run, why not go all in. Why do a halfway rebuild in hopes of landing a bargain somewhere when you can go get some big time players and make a big time run. 

With the current 99 pace that they are on, it would make no sense for the Giants to buy right now. But if they’re planning to contend next year, buying is what they need to do. Cespedes and Donaldson are rentals, but they are rentals beyond this year that would immediately put the Giants in a prime position to contend in 2018.

On the contrary side, if the Giants decide to rebuild, don’t do a halfway rebuild. Selling Brandon Crawford should trigger an all out firesafe that includes only 3 untouchables; Arroyo, Bumgarner and Posey.

Nunez, Pence, Belt, Crawford, Moore, Strickland, Panik, Samardzija and anyone else with two working legs and a Giants contract should be aggressively shopped. Sell everybody, hit the re-start button, and aggressively re-build in the same way that the White Sox, Astros and Cubs all have.

What the Giants are planning to do is what i’m going to call a halfway, accelerated rebuild. They will conveniently sell all the players they don’t need in 2017 in hopes that they will be rewarded with talent that can help them win as soon as possible and well beyond.

The halfway rebuild is such a beautiful concept, but it’s not realistic and it has a track record of failing miserably.

The Anaheim Angels have been trying a halfway rebuild since the dawn of the decade and they are an absolute mess right now. A Major League team full of expensive, aging and severely underperforming stars combined with a dumpy farm system has all combined together to create what could be kindly called as a mess.

Are both of my scenarios risky? Absolutely, and the moves that I’ve proposed are also pretty reckless, but the Giants need something risky and reckless to get themselves back on track.

As a team on the verge of the rebuilding abyss, San Francisco doesn’t have the luxury of time or patience. They also don’t have the luxury of being able to be conservative. If they don’t do something radical right now, they could wander into the same wasteland that Philadelphia has been trying to get out of for 6 years and counting.

Trading Brandon Crawford is the radical thing that the Giants need right now.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan

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Why Brandon Crawford Will Decide the Future of the Giants

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