If you were hoping that the San Francisco Giants would get their grubby paws on some of the players who were recently made available in Waiverpalooza, my condolences. They didn’t get any of them. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the pitchers on that list having the best seasons went to the Cleveland Guardians, and the Cincinnati Reds were the only team in direct competition with the Giants in the National League wild-card race to claim players. The Reds claimed a pair of defense-first outfielders with a little pop, but nothing that should alter the race.
Of course, it’s possible that the Giants have used up their allotment of August waiver magic for the next, oh, 100 years or so. They got a Cody Ross, and that kind of luck will do for a century.
So instead of welcoming Hunter Renfroe or Lucas Giolito, let’s travel back in time to the trade deadline. We’ll be armed with statistics and a month’s worth of additional information. What should the Giants have done at the deadline? We’re really smart, here, in the future. Would we have taken a different approach than the one the Giants employed?
Let’s go position-by-position and see what the Giants already had available to them at the deadline:
Nope. No need here. Blake Sabol has become a rare baseball creature, a backup catcher who isn’t an automatic out at the plate. Get yourself a catcher who can hit the ball 430 feet when the mood strikes.
A backup shortstop would have been a good add at the deadline, now that we know that Brandon Crawford was going on the IL. There were only two pure shortstops traded at the deadline, though. The first was Amed Rosario, who went to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s not a great defender, but he has pop and a prospect pedigree, and he’s currently hitting .236/.276/.444 for his new team. He can run into one, but it’s not entirely certain that that makes up for his lack of glove.
The other shortstop traded at the deadline was … Paul DeJong. The Toronto Blue Jays wanted him to shore up their infield, then grew tired of his inability to hit, leading to his release and subsequent signing with the Giants. He’s hitting .120/.115/.240 in 26 plate appearances with the Giants, which isn’t great*, but the defense has been sound. They got him for free and didn’t have to trade a prospect like the Blue Jays did.
* One time I got in an argument with a guy at a kid’s birthday party because he laughed at me for saying an on-base percentage could be lower than a batting average. I hope he’s reading this right now and feeling bad. I didn’t know the guy, and while he was taller than me and was wearing an expensive shirt, I’d like to announce that I was right and he was wrong. I hope his 401(k) tanks.
DeJong is fine for what the Giants needed, although Casey Schmitt was hot in Triple-A Sacramento and recently had his first two-hit game in the majors since June 11. He might be a DeJong-type player, but with upside and development gains that can help future teams. Still, it’s hard to suggest the Giants whiffed on an infielder at the deadline when they got one of the only two shortstops that were traded.
The real answer was Brandon Drury, but the Angels had to be weird at the deadline. Not sure why they didn’t waive him, too, but the Guardians or Reds just would have scooped him up anyway.
I’m going off this list, which was exhaustive enough to include the Jack Larsen trade, so apologies if I missed something. But I think these are the only outfielders with a major-league at-bat who were traded at the deadline:
Pham wasn’t acquired, for obvious reasons. Gamel hadn’t appeared in the majors this year before the Padres acquired him, and Canha has hit .271/.357/.400 for the Brewers while playing his typically solid-not-great brand of defense. He would have been preferable over the outfielder the Giants acquired, Pollock, although the Brewers gave up a prospect for Canha, and the Giants gave up a few bucks.
If the Giants wanted Grichuk, they still could have had him.
Five Angels were claimed on waivers. Randal Grichuk only one not claimed.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 31, 2023
The reason they didn’t want Grichuk was likely the logjam at the position. Mike Yastrzemski is back. Mitch Haniger is back. Austin Slater’s hamstring is feeling better. Wade Meckler is starting to put together good at-bats. Sabol and Joc Pederson can play some innings in the outfield, in a pinch. Luis Matos and Heliot Ramos are back in Sacramento. Even without Michael Conforto, the Giants have room for a clear outfield upgrade, but not a lateral move.
Not seeing how Grichuk fits in with that kind of arrangement. The same goes for Pollock, as long as we’re on the subject.
Since the deadline, Scott Alexander has appeared in 11 games and thrown 8 2/3 innings, with nine runs allowed. He’s allowed 18 hits and five walks in those 8 2/3 innings, which seems hard to do. Armed with this information from the future, it’s possible that the Giants would have explored a left-handed addition to the bullpen. They were out there — Andrew Chafin, Brad Hand, Ryan Yarbrough, Sam Moll, Génesis Cabrera and Aroldis Chapman all switched teams — and there are definitely some pitchers in there who would have helped.
It’s hard to get too angry that the Giants didn’t explore those ideas more. Alexander had been enjoying a fine season until August, and the Giants weren’t ever going to pay the going rate for a high-leverage reliever on the trade market. They had (and have) plenty of right-handed options in the bullpen. This wasn’t the part of the roster that needed resources devoted to it.
Jordan Montgomery. That was the play. Either him, or Aaron Civale, although the latter would have been much more expensive because he’s under contract for next year.
Lance Lynn is doing magical things for the Dodgers now, which is as predictable as it is obnoxious. But you can’t shame another team for not making that trade. He really was terrible with the White Sox this season. Justin Verlander has been strong with the Astros, and Max Scherzer is thriving with the Rangers, but they both cost some serious prospects. Jack Flaherty has been pretty bad with the Orioles. Michael Lorenzen has thrown a no-hitter for the Phillies already, but he’s been inconsistent enough to let the Giants knock him around, if you can imagine such a thing.
No, the answer was probably Montgomery, just as it was before the deadline.
It’s a mini-shame that Lucas Giolito didn’t make it to the Giants on waivers, but I have $5 on him signing with them in the offseason. It’s too perfect of an offseason marriage.
So if you’re taking a Delorean back to Aug. 2, note that the Giants wouldn’t have done much differently. They might have sprung for Montgomery, knowing what they know now. They might have picked up an extra left-handed reliever. Everywhere else is pretty stuffed.
If the Giants had a more acute need and more room on the roster, it would have been neat to see Gold Glover Harrison Bader in center, although not quite as much at the plate. They wouldn’t have done anything differently in the infield, and they probably wouldn’t have done much in the bullpen. An extra starting pitcher would have helped, but the emergence of Kyle Harrison has made up for a lot.
The Giants would have liked to have their pick of waiver claims. It wasn’t to be. But that doesn’t mean they’re feeling regretful about their dull, dull trade deadline. Considering that they ended up with DeJong anyway, there aren’t a lot of regrets to be had, aside from Montgomery or Lynn.
We’ll see if this is an issue when Montgomery is starting for the Rangers in the World Series against the Giants, who will counter with Scott Alexander. As is, it’s been a month since the trade deadline, and the Giants have only a couple of coulda-shoulda-wouldas. That’s pretty impressive for a team that sat out the trade deadline and immediately got their foot stuck in a toilet over the next month. You’d think there would have been more regrets.
As is, they’ll count on their existing roster over the final month. It’s just wacky enough to work, and it’s hard to imagine a player who was just claimed by the Guardians or Reds making that much of a difference in the first place.
(Top photo of Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi: Lucas Peltier / USA Today)