Can Giants Regain Even-Year Magic with Fading McCutchen & Longoria?

Matthew Jordan

Monday, January 15, 2018 10:24 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 10:24 PM UTC

The most disappointing team in the baseball last season had to be the San Francisco Giants. They have taken a rather unique strategy (is it 2013?) this offseason in an attempt to turn things around.

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They love even-numbered years this decade at the San Francisco Giants. The 2010 team beat the Texas Rangers in five games in the World Series. The Giants missed the playoffs in 2011 but returned to the Fall Classic in 2012 and swept the favored Detroit Tigers. In 2013, it was a below-.500 record and missing out on the playoffs again, but in 2014 the Giants beat the Kansas City Royals in a seven-game World Series thanks to one of the great pitching performances in MLB postseason history by Madison Bumgarner.

The odd-numbered curse struck again in 2015 as the Giants missed a playoff spot, but they were back as a wild-card team in 2016. Bumgarner dominated the Mets in the wild-card game but the Giants lost in four in the NLDS to the Cubs. Alas, last year was an odd-numbered one and the Giants fell apart – losing Bumgarner early in the season for nearly three months due to a shoulder injury suffered in a dirt bike incident was the killer.

Frankly, even if Bumgarner had stayed healthy the Giants didn’t have enough offense to return to the postseason. San Francisco scored just 639 runs, better than only the punchless/rebuilding San Diego Padres. The Giants were dead last in homers (128) and slugging percentage (.380) by a wide margin. The Giants were 64-98 to barely avoid the club's first 100-loss campaign since 1985. They were an ugly -3778 units on MLB moneyline betting in 2017.

The two primary goals for vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean and GM Bobby Evans were to upgrade at third base and center field this offseason. The Giants have landed two big names for those spots, but guys who appear past their prime.

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.@MrBrianKenny, @BenReiter, @RonDarlingJr and Dan O'Dowd break down the #SFGiants' reported acquisition of Andrew McCutchen on #MLBNow.

— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 15, 2018

Five-time All-Star outfielder and 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen was acquired from Pittsburgh on Jan. 15 for prospects. McCutchen, who will be 32 in October, batted .279 with 28 home runs and 88 RBIs last season. He is entering the final year of his contract and is slated to make $14.5 million in 2018. McCutchen is still a solid enough player but not the five-tool star he was from 2011-15 when he was a perennial MVP candidate. His defense has really slipped and his WAR was just 2.5 in 2017 compared to 4.8 as recently at 2015.

On the bright side, the Giants don’t lose any compensatory draft picks by signing McCutchen as they would have by going after someone like free-agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain. The Giants were in on Giancarlo Stanton, but the Yankees made the Marlins a better offer. McCutchen became San Francisco’s outfield priority once Stanton went to the Bronx.

Back in December, the Giants traded for another guy who appears to be trending downward in Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who will be 33 in October. It’s too bad the Giants couldn’t get the 2013 versions of McCutchen and Longoria, as Longoria hit .269 with 32 homers, 88 RBIs and a WAR of 6.3 back then, and McCutchen hit .317 with with 21 HRs, 84 RBIs, 27 SBs and a WAR of 8.2. Last year, Longoria had 20 HRs, 86 RBIs, a miniscule .313 on-base percentage and WAR of 3.6. Longoria is also owed $86 million over the next five years. Giants third basemen were last in the majors in average (.216), home runs (nine), RBIs (51) and OPS (.568) in 2017 so Longoria can only help.

"It's an even year coming up, and I know the Giants win in even year,” Longoria said after the deal. “That I am looking forward to."

A Giants starting lineup could look something like this, although another new addition and past-his-prime guy in Austin Jackson will figure in the outfield as well (might allow McCutchen to move to left):

  • CF Andrew McCutchen
  • 2B Joe Panik
  • C Buster Posey
  • 3B Evan Longoria
  • 1B Brandon Belt
  • RF Hunter Pence
  • SS Brandon Crawford
  • LF Jarrett Parker/Gorkys Hernandez/Mac Williamson
  • Pitcher

A rotation of Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Stratton, Tyler Beede/Ty Blach has potential. Former starting pitcher Matt Moore was dealt to the Rangers in a salary dump.

SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks still have yet to release 2018 win totals or divisional odds. At BetOnline, the Giants have improved to +2000 to win the World Series – they were as high as +5000. FanGraphs projects the team to finish third in the AL West at 81-81. That would be two games shy of the final wild-card spot (Diamondbacks projected 83-79).

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