Very likely, the San Francisco Giants will soon be eliminated from postseason contention. Eyeball the current National League wild-card standings, and you'll find the Giants are 4.5 games out of playoff position, which at this late hour puts them squarely in longshot territory. Indeed, SportsLine going into Tuesday's slate gives them less than a 1% chance of making the postseason.
The frustrations of those slim odds surfaced Monday night following the team's 2-1 win over the Padres. The team's ace Logan Webb twirled another gem – one run across a full nine innings – which solidified his standing as a leading Cy Young contender in the NL. His 24 quality starts paces the majors, and he's now pitched to a 3.25 ERA (131 ERA+) and NL-leading 6.26 K/BB ratio across 33 starts. Webb's 216 innings leads all of MLB.
Afterward, though, the 26-year-old right-hander was in no mood for personal plaudits, as the team's slim hopes loomed over all. Via the Associated Press, Webb told reporters:
"To be honest, winning is more important," Webb said when asked about the Cy Young Award. "If we don't do that then it's kind of a waste. That's my goal. I'm tired of losing. It's not enjoyable. It's not fun. We have to make some big changes in here to create that winning culture that we want to show up every single year and try to win the whole thing."
The Giants haven't enjoyed a winning month since June, and their hopes have cratered in September. This month, the Giants have gone 8-15, and in large measure that's because of the punchless offense. Overall, San Fran hitters this season rank 14th in the NL in runs scored and last in the senior circuit in OPS. During their September skid, the offense has managed two runs or fewer in 12 of 23 games. Six times they've scored one or zero runs. As good as Webb and the pitching staff have been, that's too little breathing room from game to game.
Now let's emphasize the final part of Webb's above remarks:
"We have to make some big changes in here to create that winning culture that we want to show up every single year and try to win the whole thing."
The big changes the Giants need boil down to star-quality bats in the lineup. One can have at-length discussions about whether that amounts to a "winning culture," but that's what they truly need to find a higher level in the standings.
The club under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and the organizational structure he's built out has done an excellent job of "coaching up" reclamation projects, and that's a key component moving forward. However, you can't build a championship team with that approach alone. You need stars on the roster to do that. The Giants have the complementary approach down pat but not the rest of it.
The good news is that the Giants under Zaidi have demonstrated a willingness to vigorously pursue the stars they lack. They had a deal in place with shortstop Carlos Correa last offseason before it fell apart because of his physical, and they came reasonably close to landing slugger Aaron Judge on the free-agent market. So the Giants obviously recognize their need for middle-of-the-order bats, and there's a willingness on the part of Zaidi and ownership to swing big. What's missing is being able to actually make such a pairing happen.
The coming free-agent market isn't a particularly rich one when it comes to thunderous hitters, but the Giants should be front and center when it comes to pursuing Shohei Ohtani and his best-in-class bat. No one would move the needle like him, particularly for a power-starved lineup like San Fran's. Suffice it to say, however, the competition for Ohtani will be fierce, particularly given his intent to resume pitching in 2025. Even with Ohtani, the Giants will need more help on offense, and that's why pursuing trades on that front is advisable regardless of whether they're able to land the prize of the winter.
There are other questions of course. A leading one would be whether they can remain a pitching factory of sorts now that arm guru Brian Bannister has taken a job with the White Sox. What the Giants need more than anything are multiple core bats that far exceed the capacities of last winter's "marquee" additions, Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger.
The coming winter will be telling on that front, and there's mounting pressure on Zaidi to add star power to his roster. Nothing would establish a "winning culture" quite like that.