For the second straight year, Giants players put president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi in a weird spot.
There’s no question that Zaidi was brought in to oversee a rebuild, but the 2019 Giants got hot right before the trade deadline, causing Zaidi to hit the pause button on a full sale. This year’s team has hit more than expected and the pitching staff stabilized at the right time, allowing the Giants to go into deadline day just half a game out of a playoff spot.
Zaidi honored the clubhouse’s wishes last year when it came to his biggest pieces. While he took lots of phone calls this time, too, he ultimately again decided not to sell. He’s hopeful this version of the Giants can sneak back into the postseason.
“You can tell there’s a lot of belief within the group about what we can accomplish here down the stretch,” Zaidi said.
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It’s a little unclear if the Giants would have been able to sell, anyway. Not much starting pitching was moved around the game, and that’s the main area of surplus for the Giants. Or, it was. The Giants figured to go into the deadline this year with Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly all available, but two of those guys are hurt — along with fifth starter Trevor Cahill — and the other two are crucial to postseason hopes.
A year after they dealt from their bullpen depth, the Giants instead added pitching. Anthony Banda, a lefty swingman, was acquired from the Rays. It didn’t sound like Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris were too eager to trade a pitcher like Gausman in what ended up being a market where the returns for starting pitching looked light.
“You want to be careful that you don’t wind up in a battle of attrition at a position where you think you might have some depth or even some surplus,” Zaidi said.
The Giants looked at adding in other areas, targeting right-handed relief and a lefty bat for the outfield.
“Nothing there materialized,” Zaidi said. “We feel comfortable with the team we have and we’re right in the thick of the playoff race, so we wanted to be careful with how we evaluated any trade opportunities.”
Those holes will have to be filled internally. Zaidi is happy with the way Sam Coonrod and Trevor Gott have thrown over recent appearances and said Austin Slater (groin strain) could return soon. Chris Shaw was added to the alternate site last week and the Giants will take a look at him to decide if he can be a needed lefty bat.
The rest will be status quo for a group Zaidi said is balanced and showing positive signs. While people around the game wondered what this deadline — one coming less than a month before the end of the season — would look like, Zaidi said phone calls picked up in the final hours. The moves came quickly for other organizations on Monday, but the Giants ultimately had a quiet day.
“I just think we were maybe in a situation, partly because of our own competitive picture, where it wasn’t as easy to find those obvious matches,” Zaidi said. “We were really not that aggressively pursuing pure buy-sell type deals. We were looking to make our team better, looking to target players that we liked as long-term pieces of the puzzle, and nothing materialized, maybe because our situation was a little more nuanced.
“It’s always more challenging to make trades as opposed to a situation where you’re just a pure seller and out of the race. It’s not terribly surprising. Obviously there were a lot of names that were rumored to be on the move that weren’t traded today. It always seems like it works out that way. It wasn’t for lack of conversation. We just didn’t see anything that ultimately made sense for us.”