SAN FRANCISCO - After losing 98 games last season with an aging core, it would have made all the sense in the world for the Giants to take a step back and try to rebuild. Instead, they doubled down.
Christian Arroyo, one of their most promising prospects, was dealt to Tampa Bay for Evan Longoria. The Andrew McCutchen trade cost the Giants two former top picks in Kyle Crick and Bryan Reynolds. Neither of those trades seems particularly painful at the moment, and the Giants can feel a bit vindicated knowing they're right in the National League West race.
Doubling down this season appears to have been the right move, but in a twist, this team also might be taking a page out of the playbook many fans were pushing in the winter. Are the Giants sneakily rebuilding, too? A couple of recent flurries indicate they're at least trying to walk dual paths.
Sunday morning's action showed a front office that is ready to embrace the future a bit more than in recent years. First and foremost, the Giants needed to clear salary, and attaching a decent prospect to Cory Gearrin and Austin Jackson accomplished that. But the front office was also trying to clear space for two prospects who earned a right to be in the big leagues.
Steven Duggar, 24, has long been considered the center fielder of the future, and the job is now his to lose. Ray Black, 28, would have been here years ago if not for injuries. A couple weeks ago, manager Bruce Bochy said Black was "on the radar," but no move was imminent. Black's continued dominance in Triple-A forced the issue, and the Giants made space for him, something they haven't always done when it's Veteran vs. Prospect.
"For us, the key is really getting Duggar and Black here, who deserve to be here," general manager Bobby Evans said. "We need to get younger and more athletic, and this is an opportunity to do that -- in center field, no less."
The moves came on the heels of another slightly surprising decision. The staff had to clear spots for Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and the traditional move -- if you've followed this front office and manager -- would have been to keep Derek Holland's veteran presence in the rotation and ship one of the kids back to Triple-A. Instead, it was pretty cut-and-dry. The staff stuck with 26-year-old Dereck Rodriguez and 25-year-old Andrew Suarez.
Now, you could say the Giants still have a long way to go to truly embrace their future. Austin Slater, 25, has not been given a true opportunity, and now might have lost his shot at left field. Mac Williamson is back in the minors. There are still underperforming veterans on the big league roster.
But this is an organization that still believes these veterans can win the division and thrive in October, so if you're in favor of a rebuild, take solace in the fact that one of the oldest teams in the National League has at least gotten much younger during the season. In addition to Rodriguez and Suarez, the staff includes 27-year-old Ty Blach and 25-year-old Reyes Moronta. Hell, the closer, Will Smith, is only 28. There could be a day this week when the Giants run out a lineup that includes two 25-year-olds (Slater and Alen Hanson) and the 24-year-old Duggar.
This is not a rebuild yet. Ownership, eager to fill the ballpark, would never sign off on that. But as the Giants try to make a playoff push, they have gotten younger. If it doesn't pay off this summer, it should in the years to come.