With McCutchen Trade, Giants Offseason Going According to Plan

SAN FRANCISCO -- The end-of-season press conference at AT&T Park in October felt more like a funeral than a session with reporters. Larry Baer, Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy sat at a podium with grim faces and few answers about how a $200 million roster lost 98 games. 

It seemed like the Giants should look toward the future. They disagreed. 

"This isn't a 'blow it up,'" Sabean said that day. "We hope it's a reset."

It was hard to see how that would work at the time. A few days earlier, Pablo Sandoval of all people had kept the team from having the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. The Giants had holes in the outfield, the bullpen and third base. Their starting staff didn't inspire confidence. Just about every contributor was on the wrong side of 30. 

What, exactly, was the plan?

"We can't come back next season with the same roster and expect different results," Evans said. 

No matter where you fall on these offseason moves, give Sabean, Evans and the rest credit for this: They are not coming back with the same roster and expecting a magical uptick. 

On Monday morning the Giants made their second significant trade of the offseason, acquiring Pirates star Andrew McCutchen in exchange for right-hander Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. The offseason is not over, but it's approaching the finish line, and the final accounting looks generally positive. 

The Giants have added Longoria and McCutchen -- two potent right-handed bats -- to the lineup, while still... 

- Staying under the luxury tax. Because Denard Span was included in the Longoria deal and the Giants got cash back from the Rays, it appears they'll be able to avoid becoming a tax team for the fourth consecutive season. That will help in the bid to rebuild at some point and allows them to fish in next season's offseason pond, the deepest in MLB history. 

- Trading only one of their marquee prospects. Christian Arroyo might come back to haunt the Giants, but the team held onto Heliot Ramos, who has superstar potential, and Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede, who should contribute to the 2018-19 clubs. Reynolds was a former top pick, but he generally was viewed as part of the organization's second tier of top 10 guys. 

- Keeping the big league roster intact. If you think you can compete in 2018 -- and whether you agree or not, the front office believes it can -- you don't want to create additional holes. The Giants kept Joe Panik, who should team with McCutchen atop the lineup, and Brandon Belt, who will hit behind Longoria and Buster Posey. Crick was more of a sixth-inning guy in this bullpen, and that spot can be filled internally. 

- Maintaining some semblance of flexibility. McCutchen is on a one-year deal, and if this all goes south, he should be a nice trade piece at the deadline. Ditto with Belt, Panik and others. And if the Giants hold McCutchen all year, they can make him a qualifying offer to recoup a draft pick. 

Having said all that, there are a million ways this offseason plan could blow up. 

Longoria is 32 and McCutchen is 31, and there's a very real chance that this entire lineup is in decline. Johnny Cueto's blisters could return. The back end of the rotation could be a mess. The bullpen could duplicate what the 2016-17 bullpens did. Injuries will pop up. The division is still loaded, and we all should remember that the Giants didn't just finish 40 games behind the Dodgers, they also finished well behind the other three West clubs. 

But, at least on January 15, the Giants appear significantly better than they were during that somber press conference, and the future roster and payroll situation isn't much bleaker than it already was.

It's a different roster. Now we'll see if that leads to different results. 

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