SAN FRANCISCO - The Giants will welcome the Brewers to AT&T Park this weekend for a four-game series, and at any moment we could be on Hug Watch. The Brewers have been linked to just about every name available before the trade deadline -- they picked up Joakim Soria on Thursday morning -- and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them make another move or two before the end of this series.
As for the Giants? Well, they're typically active this time of year, but this season should be different. Earlier this week, I took a look at where they stand in terms of the Competitive Balance Tax and how that will keep them from making significant moves. It's unlikely that anything will change before the July 31 deadline, although a rough weekend could make some in the front office reconsider the whole "we're not selling" thing.
Until then, let's dive into the Twitter mentions for a pre-deadline version of the mailbag …
"How realistic do you think the floated idea of using prospect to move the remainder of Pence's contract is? And what might they be thinking of doing with that largesse if they get it?" - @rog61
A lot of people asked about the rumor that the Giants are trying to duplicate the Jackson-Gearrin deal with Hunter Pence, and to be fair, this rumor came out before Pence had a good series in Seattle, hitting a homer Tuesday and getting a big hit Wednesday. But it's still an interesting concept.
They are trying to dump more salary in order to clear space for an addition, but this deal would be considerably more difficult than the one with the Rangers. Forget for a second that Pence is actually playing quite a bit for this team right now. If we're just talking finances, Pence is owed nearly $7 million, which is more than Jackson and Gearrin combined.
There's another aspect to this, too. Pence is one of the most popular players in recent franchise history, has planted roots in San Francisco, and likely will be involved with the franchise in some respect after his career is over. He still gets loud ovations every time he walks up to the plate, regardless of what his batting average is. This is on a whole different scale than trading a middle reliever and an outfielder who was here for half a season. It's just about impossible to picture the front office finding a taker for that money plus ownership then signing off on a salary dump of a player this popular.
"Why does ownership think a mediocre, aging team with a bad farm system will fill more seats than a rebuilding team with exciting, talented, young players?? - @RachelPNParker
Look, attendance is down, there's no denying that. But being at the park, there are many more people actually at the games than a year ago, and many of those fans are wearing the jerseys of players who most often come up in Twitter Trade Talks. It was like this in past losing years, too. Everyone wanted Tim Lincecum out of the rotation, but if you went to a Lincecum start, you'd see thousands of 55 jerseys and he would get a standing ovation even if he got pulled in the fourth inning.
Business isn't booming like it did during the title years, but the Giants are doing just fine financially right now, selling 38,830 tickets a game for a team that's still in the race. Is this a particularly intriguing team? No. Would ownership like to be 10 games over right now with young guys like Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger in the lineup? Sure. But for now they're treading water and they're okay with it. Another season like 2017 would have been tough to handle from a ticket sales standpoint, but this isn't close to 2017.
"How much focus is being put on letting some vets go next year with hopes of signing a younger outfielder? For the sake of conversation, reigning HR Derby champ?" - @glormor
Ahhh, a Bryce Harper question. Might as well get warmed up now since you know that'll take up most the air in the room in the offseason. Yes, the Giants have considerable interest in Harper. This front office has been "in" or "kicked the tires" on just about every big name that has come available over the last five years, from Jon Lester to Zack Greinke to Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani. They will be in on Harper, even if it's a long shot.
The rest of the class isn't as sexy as it looked a year ago, but the Giants will still have plenty to spend. They're dipping under the tax line for one season only, and they'll have Pence ($18.5 million) and Andrew McCutchen ($14.75 million, although the Pirates are paying a bit) coming off the books.
Convincing a hitter to come to AT&T Park is always difficult - personally, I can't see Harper, someone very aware of his legacy, signing up to play at a park that might cost him 100 homers over the course of a deal - but the Giants will be able to write some pretty big checks this offseason.
"If Orioles are dangling a lefty reliever and think they can get a top prospect in return, maybe the Giants should check to see what Watson or Smith can bring in. Yes, big loss in bullpen, but maybe rebuild on the fly can work." - @armando1957154
By most accounts, the Orioles got a nice return for Zach Britton, a free agent at the end of the year. I do think the Giants should be - and surely are - taking calls on Tony Watson, Will Smith, Sam Dyson and other relievers, just in case they wake up next Monday with a seven-game deficit in the division and decide it's time to sell a few pieces. But at the same time, Smith has one more year of arbitration and Watson has two years left on his deal. There's no urgency to deal them unless you find someone willing to overpay. It took a couple of years for the bullpen to recover after losing Affeldt and Lopez, and Smith and Watson have been really good from the left side. They can be part of a contending team next year, and if the Giants are out of the race next July, both can pretty easily be traded for decent prospects.
"Alex, tell us what you think should happen!" - @andreaguilera1
I wrote several times in the offseason that I felt the Giants should take a step back and rebuild a little, but something has changed. The future is a bit brighter thanks to the likes of Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez, Steven Duggar, Reyes Moronta and others. Now, I still wouldn't add at this deadline. This is not a team that looks poised to make the postseason, and the Giants have given enough prospects away over the past year. Theres no need to further weaken the farm system or go over the tax.
But there's no need to blow it up, either.
I would take calls on Smith, Watson, Dyson, Derek Holland and others who could be replaced in the offseason. Perhaps you get blown away by an offer. But other than that, I would stand still and let this group try to close the gap in the West. And if the Giants can't do that, and they're sitting eight games out in September, well, at least you've had a better and more entertaining year, and you can turn the final couple of weeks over to the rookies mentioned above, while also seeing what you have in guys like Chris Shaw and Shaun Anderson.