Bobby Evans

Giants’ mission — spend Trade Deadline being Dodger-blockers — is now complete

Huh, sounds familiar.

The Giants are currently in second place, a half-game behind the Dodgers in the NL West. They finished as the second Wild Card a year ago. It drives fans crazy to hear that the Giants were “runners up,” or “made a late push,” or are “on the periphery.” And that’s just what the tweets from the national writers say. “Well, we tried” and “we did not receive a rose,” both coming from the organization itself, show just how little members of the front office worry about not sealing the deal with these big name players.

It surely helps that each player they (supposedly) coveted — Yasmany Tomas, Pablo Sandoval, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and David Price, and you can throw in Johnny Cueto as well — ended up on teams other than the Dodgers. The Giants are Dodger-blockers, and they like it that way. And several good blocks deserve another.

But the Giants are performing the basketball equivalent of blocking someone out at halfcourt. Sure, your opponent won’t get the rebound, but your opponent wasn’t going for the ball.

According to David Cameron of Fangraphs and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Dodgers are the most brilliant team ever for pulling off a 13-player, 3-team deal today. To summarize their points of view, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi aren’t interested in paying high prices for famous veterans.

In other words: “Neener-neener, we didn’t want Hamels or Price anyway!”

Instead, they’d rather pay ridiculous signing bonuses for international prospects, then trade said prospects for cheap, risky pitchers. And instead of adding aging, high-priced players who become untradable almost immediately after the ink runs dry on their contracts, they’re using their money to buy other teams’ less punitive financial mistakes, guys like Morse and Bronson Arroyo, to get young, possibly underrated talent (Alex Wood and Jose Peraza) in return.

The Dodgers also got Latos, which highlights how this is a deal the Giants never would’ve considered, regardless of budget or the composition of their farm system. Brian Sabean wouldn’t trade for Latos in a million years, for obvious reasons including an announcer’s broken moonroof, his history with the Giants, and …

They also never would’ve paid all that money for Morse — otherwise they would’ve signed him before the season, when he was still thought of as an above-average hitter who could play first base reasonably well. Morse hasn’t hit well this year, with only four home runs (three fewer than Justin Maxwell). And, as anyone could’ve predicted, he’s also dealt with some injuries.

Wood is an intriguing player, but it’s tough to imagine the Giants giving up a lot for someone Cameron described like this:

Going for Wood instead of Hamels or Price is somewhat similar to going for McCarthy instead of Max Scherzer or Jon Lester, with the Dodgers betting they can get 85-90% of the performance for 25% of the cost, and taking on some health risk in the process. Wood has already had Tommy John surgery once, missed some time with forearm tightness last year, and if you haven’t seen him throw before, check these GIFs out, and you’ll quickly see why a lot of people think he’s not going to be able to do this forever. That delivery could be charitably described as funky, and while predicting future injuries isn’t a secret anyone has yet solved, he certainly seems to check a lot of boxes for a guy who might be a short-peak pitcher, not entirely unlike Tim Lincecum.

Ouch. Sorry, Timmy. Didn’t mean for you to catch shrapnel there. Hope your hip is feeling better.

If the Braves let the Giants know Wood was available, the Giants probably would’ve been spooked. In recent years they’ve shied away from guys with injury concerns, unless they’re totally desperate and the guy is cheap (like Morse in 2014). They traded for Jake Peavy, sure. But he tore his latissimus dorsi back in 2011 and had proven that his shoulder and body could handle the wear and tear, plus he had a connection to the team via Bruce Bochy and Tim Flannery. Wood doesn’t seem like a guy the Giants would attempt to acquire, but the Dodgers see his salary (near-minimum) and his upside (very high) and feel like he’s a better use of their assets than a fancy rental.

As Cameron noted, the Dodgers went after two injury-prone former Oakland A’s starters this past offseason rather than throwing nine figures at the top two starters on the market at the time. Brandon McCarthy started his four-year, $48 million tenure with Tommy John surgery at the end of April. Brett Anderson gave the team a scare with some sort of minor Achilles irritation a week ago, but he hasn’t hit the disabled list once this season and has pitched reasonably well. The Dodgers are fine with gambling on talented players with a reputation for being fragile, and the last huge splash the Giants made was when they traded for one of the most durable players on the planet in Hunter Pence.

Two different ways of doing things. And two things are funny about this whole Giants/Dodgers thing.

1. We know the Giants don’t build their team by signing or trading for superstars. We know they love their homegrown players. We know their farm system isn’t universally acclaimed to the point where they can easily trade for superstars. We know they think very highly of their own roster — even when everyone else has doubts — and are more concerned with keeping the Dodgers from making key additions than making expensive upgrades themselves.

But with any hint of a rumor that describes the Giants’ interest or involvement in talks, we all fly off the handle and think acquiring a superstar is realistic, when history and logic tell us it is most certainly not. And this pattern repeats itself every five-to-seven months.

2. It doesn’t matter what the Dodgers do, the media will lap it up every time.

— The vast majority thought it was a masterstroke to acquire Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in a post-deadline deal. They went from two games behind the Giants when the deal was done to ten games back in September and eight games behind at the end of the season.

— I actually enjoy Yasiel Puig’s game. He’s a lot of fun, in his own frantic way. At the same time, I understand why some fans and writers criticize his excessive bat-flipping and selective hustle. However, according to “baseball twitter,” anyone who didn’t like Puig had sticks up their asses … that is, until Molly Knight’s book came out and everyone found out that Puig’s teammates can’t stand him.

— It’s still considered uncouth to question Clayton Kershaw’s postseason resume. Small sample size, of course, but c’mon! Everyone has their own kryptonite (I’m bad at Facebook and driving past In-N-Out without stopping), and Kershaw’s is the month of October until proven otherwise.

— If the Dodgers would’ve landed Cueto, Hamels or Price, we’d see “The Big Three” graphics plastered all the way from ESPN to MLB Network to Fox Sports One. Now, after ending up with Latos and Wood, the Dodgers are brilliant and creative. Sure, their bullpen is mediocre and all they did to fix it was add Luis Avilan (who’s OK) and Jim Johnson (who pitched great in the no-pressure atmosphere of Atlanta this year after bombing out in Oakland and Detroit a year ago), but now they’ll surely run away from the Giants and everyone else. Right?

Maybe it’s because the Yankees are kind of boring these days, with the only captivating story coming out of the Bronx being Alex Rodriguez, but it seems like an awful lot of people who aren’t even L.A. fans REALLY want to see the Dodgers succeed. Who knows, maybe they will. They definitely have the better team on paper (wink, wink) and they just churned the roster enough to get praised by some prominent columnists, but the Giants have to be happy they didn’t get any of the top three deadline prizes.

  1. Cueto would’ve been frightening as a No. 3 starter.
  2. Hamels would’ve been douchey, annoying, and outstanding as a Hollywood golden boy.
  3. Price pitches so many innings that the Dodgers’ bullpen would’ve gotten better immediately.

Instead, they got Wood (whose numbers are down this year) and Latos (traded three times in the last 43 months, but now that he’s a Dodger he’ll probably become known as a misunderstood artist whose passion for the sport clashes with the artificial constraints of this stoic game). We’ll see if it’s enough.

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