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Why Giancarlo Stanton would choose to play for the Giants

The Giants lost more games than the Marlins last year. Why would he choose to go there?

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Miami Marlins v San Francisco Giants Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

My job today is to explain how the 2018 Giants won’t be nearly as awful as they were in 2017. You might think that my reputation as a Giants fan with a history of explicit bias would hurt my ability to be impartial, and you’d be right. Just not in the way that you think.

See, I had to watch 162 Giants games last year. Every night, every day, I would watch this horrible team, and then I would have to spend hours writing or talking about them, unless I was writing and talking about them. I’m angrier at the current roster than you will ever be at a sports team. They played like they were trying to lower the price of the franchise on purpose, and it’s hard for me not to write a screed about how they’ll be even worse, out of spite.

Except the current roster does allow for some hope. And it’s not just me who needs to convince you; the Giants need to convince Giancarlo Stanton if they’re hoping the National League MVP will waive his no-trade clause. Let’s figure out what the Giants’ pitch might be.

You don’t necessarily want to start a pitch to Stanton with detailed quibbles about the Pythagorean Theorem and Base Runs. He doesn’t care. You don’t care. It doesn’t matter if the Giants were a true 98-loss team or a true 95-loss team. They were bad, and there’s no washing that stink away.

No, what you start with is that the Giants were supposed to be good last year. More than half of the FanGraphs staff had them in the postseason. More than two-thirds of the ESPN staff had them in the postseason. These were not soccer writers who were filling in because everyone else was on vacation. These were people who looked at a collection of 25 players and thought, yes, there is enough talent here for the Giants to be one of the six-best teams in the National League.

Those 25 players are back, mostly. They’re not going to be 35 or 40 years old. And with a couple of exceptions, it’s reasonable to expect better things from them. Madison Bumgarner missed more time with injury than he had in his previous eight seasons combined. Johnny Cueto had a seven-season streak of above-average pitching snapped, having his worst season since 2009. Jeff Samardzija had a remarkable season in some respects, striking out 205 and walking just 32, but his ERA was nearly a full run higher than his FIP.

There are reasons to be high on all three pitchers for next season, and they aren’t complicated reasons. The pitchers who were recently good are expected to be good again.

The lineup is a little trickier. Brandon Belt missed the end of the season because he was hit in the helmet with a pitch, and while it’s fair to be worried about his history of concussions, it’s also fair to assume that he’ll stop getting hit in the head because nobody is really Sideshow Bob in a field of rakes, dammit. Joe Panik might have leveled off, or he might be entering his prime. Brandon Crawford was a better hitter in the three previous seasons, so it’s reasonable to expect a return to form, and Buster Posey is solid when when he isn’t hitting home runs. They were all part of one of the best lineups in the NL just two years ago, and all of them are 31 or younger.

The pitch would go like this, then: We still have faith in our pitching. We still have faith in a chunk of our lineup. These are the reasons why we made the postseason in 2016 and felt like we had a chance in 2017, and those reasons haven’t changed. Also, we know what needs to be fixed around them.

Put another way, Jeff Sullivan has the Giants as second wild card contenders just by replacing Hunter Pence with Stanton. While “second wild card contenders” is damning with faint praise, that’s assuming a roster without any other changes. That’s assuming Pablo Sandoval starting at third, which he won’t be. That assumes Denard Span will get 150 games as the league’s worst defensive center fielder again, which he won’t.

The best part about a season as terrible as the Giants’ 2017 is that the biggest problems are easy to spot. They know they need a third baseman. They know they need a center fielder. They know they need help for their bullpen. But the rest of the roster is mostly set with the same people that made everyone optimistic about last season.

That is their pitch to Stanton about why they won’t be terrible in 2018. I think it’s a strong pitch, personally, even though I hate myself for believing it.

But the larger, broader pitch is that the Giants have plans for world domination. The Giants used to pay tens of millions every year for AT&T Park. They paid that debt off, and they’ve sunk that money into a huge, sprawling real estate project across from McCovey Cove. There will be about 1.5 million square feet of commercial real estate, about a million square feet of residential real estate, and about 200,000 square feet of retail stores. And it turns out that real estate in San Francisco is a fine way to print money.

The success of this project, though, is loosely tethered to the success of the Giants. The hotter the baseball team is, the more desirable it will be to live near the ballpark.

Or, to dumb it down: Every organization has an investment in their team’s on-field success, and the Giants will, too. Just more so. They’ll need a spend-money-to-make-money mindset to maximize just how chic and trendy all of these shops, offices, and condos can be.

That’s the other side of the pitch, then. The financial future of the organization is healthy. As healthy as any other in baseball. Perhaps not quite the Yankees and Dodgers, but close enough to strut in a presentation. The Giants will be unlikely to trade an MVP away at the height of his powers because he makes too much money, for example.

The Giants have hope for next year.

The Giants have a lot of hope after that, even if the farm system is down and the core is aging.

Our televised basketball games are over by 10:00 p.m., usually.

Now waive the no-trade clause.

Will it be enough? The Cardinals’ pitch is also compelling: “We’ve been excellent for, like, two decades, and we’re not going to stop anytime soon.” Sure, it’s a place where an outfielder can get a moth stuck in his ear, but who even remembers that horrible, scarring incident besides Matt Holliday when he closes his eyes every night? The Cardinals have a track record of recent success and a developmental pipeline that’s the envy of the league.

So just because the Giants play in California, it doesn’t mean that the Giants’ pitch has to sell Stanton. The Cardinals are a model franchise with plenty to offer. But I’ve read comments and tweets from disgruntled fans who assume the Giants are a 98-loss team without a future, and they can’t imagine why Stanton would choose them.

The rebuttal is that they should be better next year, and they’re planning on spending to fortify the team every year after that. They would like to have an MVP setting career milestones to help keep the team watchable and relevant, and they’ll spend to build a team around him. They’re not the Yankees or the Dodgers, but they’re not not the Yankees or the Dodgers, either.

“I would say this is less about getting the resources to compete with the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers and more about us being prudent business people,’’ Baer said, “to be able to grow the Giants.’’

What’s implied is that they’ll get the resources to compete with the Yankees or Dodgers anyway. Maybe not quite that much, but they’ll at least get invited to the same parties.

I’m not saying it’s the winning pitch. But it sounds better than “You can help us lose 90 games instead of 98!”, which seems to be a common assumption. The Giants can offer a little bit. It’s up to Stanton to accept it, but he wasn’t promised magic beans.