As the 2014 MLB trade deadline nears, the San Francisco Giants are gearing up for a grind-it-out dogfight against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the up for grabs NL West. At the start of Thursday, the Giants occupied first place by a mere percentage point, gripping a one-game edge in the loss column over the Dodgers. General manager Brian Sabean dubbed the Giants’ bench “weak” in a recent interview with San Jose Mercury News reporter Tim Kawakami, further stating all players within the organization are available via trade.
The Giants have been here before: They infamously acquired Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets in attempt to become the first National League franchise to win back-to-back World Series titles since the Big Red Machine achieved the feat in 1972-73. Sabean made a similarly big splash in 2012, prying Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies, a move that helped spark the Giants’ second title triumph in three seasons.
Sabean has been deliberately successful throughout his reign in the Giants’ front office. He’s the longest tenured GM in all of baseball for good reason: The moves he makes often pay dividends — fat dividends, like the diamonds that show up on shiny championship rings. It’s practically undeniable the Giants would very much like to make a big push toward winning their third title in a span of five seasons, an accomplishment that would essentially make the franchise baseball’s modern dynasty, but pending roster decisions over the offseason could prevent them from striking an Earth-shattering deal this July.
According to Chris Haft of MLB.com, the Giants have actively scouted Tampa Bay Rays‘ ace David Price and veteran infielder Ben Zobrist, sending none other than special consultant Pat Burrell to Tropicana Field to gets the goods on two players who could potentially remake San Francisco hands-down favorites to win the NL pennant. That news in itself is enough to make Giants fans drool in dreamy anticipation of what could be. The reality of the situation is that it probably won’t happen — at least, not unless team ownership gives Sabean a sizable increase in team payroll for both the remaining three-plus months of this season and the 2015 campaign.
This offseason is going to be one of the most decisive roster construction periods of Sabean’s 18 years as Giants GM. San Francisco has already allocated more than $127 million to 13 players for the 2015 season. The Giants must make decisions on six arbitration eligible players, including potential long-term contracts to Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. They must also determine whether to re-sign four valuable in-house free agents, namely Pablo Sandoval, who is in supposed pursuit of a ridiculous none-worth-it contract exceeding $90 million. Other Giants free agents include Michael Morse, Ryan Vogelsong and Sergio Romo.
While the addition of Zobrist would not handicap the Giants’ ability to re-sign impending free agents, the acquisition of Price would essentially guarantee the imminent exit of Sandoval, which could very well happen, regardless. Price would remain under club control through next season, but he will become free agent eligible after the conclusion of the 2015 campaign and will reportedly seek a massive contract that eclipses the $200 million marker. If a trade were to happen, the Giants would be on the hook for the remainder of Price’s current one-year, $14-million contract.
In theory, the Giants would have minimal issue taking on the remaining sum of Zobrist’s modest $7 million contract for the remainder of this season, which includes a $500K buyout. The difficult aspect of potentially making a blockbuster deal with the Rays lies in whether the team is willing to avoid arbitration with Price in the upcoming offseason. His price tag for the 2015 campaign would exceed $20 million. The likelihood of the Giants extending Price beyond next season would be highly unlikely.
Money matters, but it’s not the only factor at play. The Giants would likely be forced to part with future ace Kyle Crick, rookie infielder Joe Panik and promising outfielder Mac Williamson in order to acquire both Price and Zobrist. Backup catcher Hector Sanchez could also be in the mix. The Giants firmly believe this moment in time is their “window of opportunity” to seize as many titles as possible. The next few weeks will determine just how big a bite the front office is willing to take out of its future in order to win now.