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Sept. 22, 2017 - Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America

Max Rosenfeld

For the Giants, 2018 is All About Doubling Down

2017 was their worst season of the decade. Rather than tearing it apart, the San Francisco Giants are doubling down. But is acquiring a trio of veterans enough to make one last run at baseball’s most coveted prize?

This appears to be a franchise-altering season in San Francisco, as the Giants have made their intentions clear–winning is, and always will be the top priority. It’s just a matter of whether or not the Giants’ plan to execute this philosophy will pan out.

A proud organization, 2017 was a test of will for San Francisco. The Giants won only 64 games and finished in last place in the National League West, seven games behind the San Diego Padres for fourth place, and a full 40 games behind the rival Los Angeles Dodgers for first place.

Injuries to pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto particularly nagged the Giants, as did more minor setbacks such as those suffered by Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.

With the Dodgers reaching Game Seven of the World Series and having not won a championship since 2014 (a long time in Giant years), this offseason has presented a decision to the club: to reload or rebuild.

The roster obviously still has many of the pieces that have guided them in championship seasons past, most notably in the All-Star battery duo of Bumgarner and Posey. And the Giants are not a club accustomed to consistent failure, after all, there was a time when it seemed they might win every even-year title for the rest of eternity. Glory is required in San Francisco.

But this team is old. It lost 98 games a year ago. And it competes in possibly the best division in baseball, with the Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks having all qualified for the postseason in 2017.

So how did the Giants front office choose to combat these dilemmas? By doubling down, of course.

The Giants will not only bring back most of the same players that were on the roster last season. They’ll also add a trio of aging veterans in an attempt to sway the West’s balance of power back in their favor, hoping that there is still something left in the tank for a group of guys trying to get back in contention on the last legs of their careers.

The flashiest of the moves made by the Giants this offseason was the trade for former MVP outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to deal in exchange for right-hand pitcher Kyle Crick and outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that the Pirates will cover $2.5 million of McCutchen’s $14.75 million salary, which is set to expire after the 2018 season.

McCutchen brings a pedigree of productivity to San Francisco. On top of winning an MVP award, McCutchen is a Gold Glove winner, has appeared in five All-Star games and has been presented a Silver Slugger award six times. But McCutchen’s value is in question, as his performance has indubitably dipped in recent seasons.

McCutchen is a lifetime .291/379/.487 hitter, but last season he slashed .279/.363/486. Still, this is better than the .256/.336/.430 slash line he posted in 2016.

Make no mistake about it–McCutchen is still a very talented player, and even at his worst will bring a presence to the lineup that will improve upon any plans the Giants seemed to have prior to his arrival. After all, McCutchen is only two seasons removed from performing at an MVP-type level.

It will be difficult for McCutchen, who had expressed interest in remaining in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career, to adjust to life on the Bay. But when he does, he will bring veteran leadership to a club that is looking to retain its professionally ambitious mentality.

2018 will be McCutchen’s age-31 season.

The next fascinating of the Giants’ offseason moves was the trade for third baseman Evan Longoria, who San Francisco acquired for Denard Span and a package of prospects.

Like McCutchen, Longoria brings a reputation to the Giants. At 32 years old, Longoria is a seasoned veteran who saw bright glimpses of team success in Tampa Bay but failed to consistently find the postseason.

Longoria recognizes that in San Francisco, the culture is different. He will need to produce in order for the Giants to grant Longoria the opportunity to play in the postseason once again.

Longoria is a three-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner, one-time Silver Slugger winner, and was the Rookie of the Year in 2008.

And despite being possibly the least sexy of the Giants moves this offseason, outfielder Austin Jackson could prove to be the most impactful. Jackson signed with San Francisco for 2 years and $6 million.

Jackson spent 2017 with the highly successful Cleveland Indians, where he hit .318/.387/.482 with 7 home runs and 35 RBI’s in 85 games. These are clearly abbreviated numbers for Jackson but are exciting nonetheless. If Jackson can present a version of himself that is even 80% of his 2017 campaign, it could be a deciding factor in a division with several competitive teams.

The Giants will not accept anything less.

Main Photo: Sept. 22, 2017 – Source: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America

Max is a student at Saint Joseph's University where he is a Communication Studies major. He is a contributing writer for Baseknock MLB and the host of the Payoff Pitch Podcast, which airs every Tuesday morning.

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