Time to break up the Giants

Ed Zurga

The arrival of Jeff Francoeur should signal the beginning of a great unraveling.

Forty wins against 49 losses. The defending World Series champions are nine games under .500 on July 9 with 73 games to play. They are six games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks with three teams in front of them in the NL West, and are 9.5 back of the Reds for the last NL wild card spot, with five teams to beat. Cool Standings gives them a 6.7-percent chance to make the postseason, while Baseball Prospectus gives them just a 4.8-percent chance. It's not impossible for them to come back, and to that end Brian Sabean is bringing in reinforcements in the form of Jeff Francoeur. I'll wait while you stop laughing.

Let's not kid ourselves: That rebound is not coming. That would require a perfect storm of crappy baseball from damn near everyone else, and a huge turnaround by the Giants' once-vaunted pitching staff. The Giants have allowed 4.47 runs per game, but that's incredibly deceptive, given their home park. In fact, the club's 83 ERA+ is dead last in the National League.

Want more on the Giants? Take it for Grant-ed at McCovey Chronicles

Madison Bumgarner has been great. Matt Cain has allowed a few more homers than he normally does, but he's otherwise been exactly the same pitcher he's always been and is a good bet to bounce back. But Tim Lincecum has been a basket-case for a year and a half now, with his velocity well below where it was at its peak. Heading into 2012, Lincecum had allowed line drives on 19 percent of his batted balls, and a home run on just 5.3 percent of his flies. Those numbers have risen to 25 percent and 8.1 percent respectively. Batters are simply teeing off on his reduced stuff. Barry Zito hasn't been Barry Zito since he put on a Giants uniform (or, once could argue, since 2002), and isn't about to bounce back now. Ryan Vogelsong won't be back until at least the end of July, but had a 7.19 ERA when he went down. Chad Gaudin has been tremendous filling in, but...I mean, c'mon. It's Chad Gaudin. That's not going to last.

The Giants' defense isn't likely to cut them any slack going forward either, with the fourth worst defensive efficiency in the National League and second-worst fielding percentage (although Ultimate Zone Rating and Total Zone love what the Giants have done as a team this year, each ranking them third in all of baseball). And finally, there's nothing on the offensive end that seems like a good bet to improve. Buster Posey's already damn near perfect. Brandon Belt and Marco Scutaro are both having strong seasons. Brandon Crawford is suddenly and inexplicably an average offensive player. Gregor Blanco has played well in place of Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence is doing Hunter Pence things. Only the Panda is scuffling, as he struggles to (cheap shot coming) hit his weight.

In short, it's time to break up the Giants.

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

When I say that, it sounds bad -- far worse than I intend it to. This is a Giants team that still has a very strong core of talent under team control and that could rebound quickly, so I'm not talking about a full-on fire sale. Legitimately great players like Posey, Cain, Belt, and Bumgarner could still be part of the next Giants World Series winner. Brandon Crawford is a good player still in his cheap pre-arbitration phase. Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, and Jeremy Affeldt just signed this offseason and are probably not worth the money any other team would have to pay them over the next few years, so they'll be staying put. Pablo Sandoval has another year of team control to get himself in better shape and rebound from a disappointing 2013 before the Giants should consider a trade or contract extension.

Nevertheless, the Giants are already an old team in baseball years, with the 10th-oldest roster in the MLB according to ESPN, and have plenty of players coming off the books that won't be able to help them next year anyway. Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum both will be free agents, as will 35-year-olds Javier Lopez and Andres Torres. Chad Gaudin, who has been a huge surprise since joining the starting rotation in June, will also be free after the season, and will command far more than the $750,000 he's making in 2013. Reasonably-priced closer Sergio Romo only has one year of team control left, as does LOOGY Jose Mijares. Heck, even Barry Zito might interest some desperate team if the Giants are willing to pay part of his contract and his buyout (I can't believe we finally made it to the end of that deal -- I think we accomplished something as a nation.). There's a lot here for teams to pick over.

Given that the Giants farm system has consistently been ranked in the mid-to-late 20s by Keith Law, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus, it's not like they have help on the way to replace these guys. Of their top prospects, Gary Brown is a 24-year-old currently struggling to hit in the Pacific Coast League, while Kyle Crick is just 20 and has no experience above High-A, so neither is a good bet to contribute next year, or perhaps ever. Trading the veterans on hand, while not likely to acquire the kind of sexy impact prospects that fans drool over, would at least provide greater organizational depth to draw from should Scutaro begin to show his age, Sandoval continue to slide, or the rotation continue to implode, and could provide a few players with the upside to become the next great Giants.

I know Giants fans have grown accustomed to having a tremendous team of veteran talent, but they'd do well to remember the doldrums at the end of Barry Bonds's career. Brian Sabean put together a club worthy of bringing two titles to the Bay, putting to rest most of the jokes about his veteran-fetish in the process. It's time for him to start putting together another one, starting with someone other than Jeff Francoeur.

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