SAN FRANCISCO - At several points in August, while explaining why he still had hope, manager Bruce Bochy compared his team to St. Louis. The Cardinals disappointed throughout the first half, but put it together for a few weeks and got themselves back in the race. Bochy hoped this weekend's series would be meaningful for two franchises that ruled the National League for much of the past decade.
It will be meaningful for the Cardinals, who are currently in the second wild card spot, but for the Giants, it's simply the final road series on the way to "shaking it up."
That feeling has been percolating on Giants Twitter for two years. There are many fans who have been ready to blow this all up for a while now, and recently, team president and CEO Larry Baer gave that group some hope.
"We're gonna shake it up," he said during an appearance on KNBR. "I can't tell you how it gets shaken up from a players' point of view. I think Brian (Sabean) has said it - we're just gonna shake it up."
With the end of the season fast approaching, it's worth asking what exactly that might mean. How many Giants are on their final trip in orange and black? How many big names might be shipped out?
Well, for the Giants, "shaking it up" will be much harder than it appears because of three other words: no-trade clause.
Buster Posey has a full no-trade clause. Brandon Crawford does, too. Ditto for Mark Melancon. Those are three of seven Giants owed at least $14 million next year (Pablo Sandoval is an eighth, but the Red Sox are paying nearly every penny), and they're going nowhere.
Add Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to that list, too, for a different reason. Both are hurt, and you can't trade an injured pitcher who lives in the $20 million per year neighborhood. You just can't.
Out of the big contracts, that leaves Brandon Belt ($16 million) and Evan Longoria ($14.5 million, although the Rays are contributing). Longoria turns 33 in three weeks and, while he's been much better of late, it was still a down year offensively and his contract runs through 2022. It's hard to see any scenario where moving him is realistic or brings back a return that makes the Giants better, and when you talk to team officials, Longoria is never a name brought up as a trade option.
Belt is the player mentioned most often in hypothetical discussions, but that ignores the details. A Belt trade would be complicated by the three years and $48 million remaining on his deal and the fact that he's about to have knee surgery for a second time. And again, we bring you back to those contract details. Belt can provide a list every offseason of 10 teams he cannot be traded to. He has never shown any inclination that he wants to leave San Francisco, and his list is said to reflect that desire. It would not be hard, given how many teams are in tank mode these days, for Belt and his representatives to form a list that makes it nearly impossible for the Giants to find a trade partner.
There are other ways the Giants could shake it up, of course. Joe Panik and Hunter Strickland are notable Giants who are starting to get pricy in arbitration, there could be changes in the front office or to the coaching staff, and more firings are expected with support staff. There's the nuclear option, too. Madison Bumgarner has one year remaining on his deal and at some point the Giants could put him on the market.
Bumgarner doesn't want to go anywhere, though, and like the others, he would have some say in the matter. Yep, you guessed it. His contract includes the right to block a trade to eight teams. Once again, "shaking it up" will be harder than it sounds.