San Francisco Giants name untouchables, but issues remain

 The San Francisco Giants are playing competitive baseball. They only problem is their competition is the Philadelphia Phillies, and the prize is that the loser is deemed the worst team in baseball.

With all that has gone wrong for the San Francisco Giants this season, which their 29-51 record reflects, the team is going to be active at the deadline. Even with Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford reportedly deemed the “untouchables”, there are plenty of pieces that others teams will covet.

The problem for the Giants will be getting fair value for those players, and, at least partially, this is their own fault.

Johnny Cueto would be a great addition for a team looking for a rental, or for a team looking to add a solid starting pitcher for the next few seasons. The problem is that interested teams won’t know which they’ll be getting–a rental or an expensive rotation piece for four more seasons–as reported by Ken Rosenthal over the weekend. It looks as though the Giants will either have to take less than full value, or risk letting him walk this offseason with nothing to show for it.

Mark Melancon back to the Washington Nationals would make plenty of sense, but the Giants bullpen needs all the help they can get. While it would seem easy to just move on and find a replacement for Melancon, the determining factor here will be how soon the Giants plan on returning to contention. He is potentially signed through 2020, but also has a pesky opt-out clause.

The two main pieces that could be on the move would be either Brandon Belt or Joe Panik. Sure, Hunter Pence can still give a good speech, but his peak playing days are likely behind him at this point. Injuries are becoming a concern, and he’s batting .266 with a .308 OBP, both well below his career averages.

Moving Belt will be tricky. Last season the Giants signed him through 2021, and he’ll be due $17.2 million every year. Giants fans like to claim that Belt would hit way more homers if he didn’t play in San Francisco, and if there is a team that believes that to be true, they may take on that contract to acquire the 29-year-old. With $70M remaining on his contract and approaching the magical age of decline, getting value in a deal here would be rough. It would almost be wise for the Giants to take what they can get for Belt to clear his contract from the books and open up first base for either Posey down the line, or one of their top prospects, Chris Shaw, in the near future.

That leaves Panik as their biggest trade offering. He’ll be entering arbitration next season and won’t hit free agency until after the 2020 season, which leaves three and a half seasons of team control. After an injury plagued season in 2016, Panik has gotten back on the right track this year and is batting a tick below with his career average of .280. He isn’t going to smack a ton of home runs, sitting on five currently, but his flashy defense should be an added bonus to any team looking for an upgrade up the middle.

According to FanGraphs, Panik’s Defensive Runs Saved this season is at -4, but he has also put up seasons of +2 and +3 the past two years. The eye test says he’s a good defender, the metrics slightly disagree.

With the amount of time remaining on his contract and his value as roughly a three-win player over the course of a full season, Panik could be the biggest chip that the Giants have to cash. If they were to move him, Christian Arroyo would likely slide in to second base long term.

One interesting trade partner could be the Philadelphia Phillies. While this deal likely wouldn’t happen, a swap that included Panik for the newly available Maikel Franco would be something to consider. Franco has pop, and that’s something that the Giants always need to add to their lineup. He also plays third, which will be a position that could need filling soon. The Phillies may not be willing to move on from Cesar Hernandez at second just yet, but Panik has playoff experience and could help bring along J.P. Crawford when the time comes.

All in all, the Giants should be willing to trade just about everyone, and they are. Finding a deal that doesn’t basically give players away, however, may be a bit tricky. The coming month for GM Bobby Evans could determine the fate of the franchise for years to come, and will give the fans a glimpse into what to expect in coming seasons.

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