The San Francisco Giants have been among the league’s most pleasant surprises this season, a team not much was expected of this spring but that now finds itself tied with the Arizona Diamonbacks for the first NL Wild Card spot. And yet, for all the feel-good vibes, a lot of work needs to be done: The rival Dodgers show no signs of slowing down atop the NL West, and the Phillies, Reds and Marlins are all breathing down San Fran’s neck in the Wild Card race. Plus, a recent rash of injuries has thinned the roster out at some crucial spots.
All of which is to say that Farhan Zaidi and Co. figure to be among the most aggressive bigger-market buyers as the 2023 trade deadline nears. What positions and players might he target? And what might those deals look like? Let’s break it all down.
Giants trade deadline preview
First thing’s first: pitching. This is true of just about every contending team, but it’s especially true of the Giants, who’ve been looking all year for someone to emerge behind the 1-2 punch of Logan Webb and Alex Cobb. Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea have all had their moments — and Gabe Kapler deserves a ton of credit for how he’s mixed, matched and massaged things so far — but none of them have been consistent enough (or healthy enough) to plan around down the stretch. Look for Zaidi to add at least one rotation arm.
The Giants are flush with corner infield options, but injuries to both Thairo Estrada and Brandon Crawford have left things pretty thin up the middle, with only a pair of rookies (Casey Schmitt, Blake Wisely) and the light-hitting David Villar. San Francisco ranks 11th in the NL in OPS from the second base spot and dead last in the league at shortstop, so look for Zaidi to evaluate those trade markets carefully.
Marcus Stroman, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs look more like sellers with each second-half loss, and Stroman’s sinker-heavy approach would be a tremendous fit with San Francisco’s strong infield defense. The righty — who figures to forgo his 2024 option and elect free agency this winter — has pitched to a 131 ERA+ since 2021, and he would give the team a third option to rely on come the postseason.
Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals
If Stroman’s bidding gets to steep, however, Flaherty could be an intriguing buy-low candidate: The 27-year-old righty is a pending free agent who doesn’t appear to figure into St. Louis’ long-term plans, and while he’s had an up-and-down 2023, he’s shown flashes of the guy who looked to be a future superstar in 2019.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
Anderson’s been miserable at the plate this year, slashing .236/.277/.276 with a sky-high ground ball rate. But he’s shown signs of life lately, and at just 30 years old some contender is bound to bet on his stellar track record. He can play both shortstop and second base, and as a pending free agent, he’ll be of little use to a White Sox team that will enter 2024 with a lot of questions about its long-term core.
Schmitt and recently promoted outfield prospect Luis Matos represent some young Major League talent that San Francisco can dangle in a trade if they so choose. After that, the main draw is a pair of top-25 prospets: Triple-A lefty Kyle Harrison, who comes with control issues but also has a 14.7 K/9 this season and has as much upside as any pitching prospect in baseball, and shortstop Marco Luciano, a tremendous athlete who’s flashed big potential but has yet to put it together for a full season.