San Francisco Giants: Health is the key to 2019 spring training

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Madison Bumgarner #40 and Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate their 3-0 win over the New York Mets during their National League Wild Card game at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Madison Bumgarner #40 and Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate their 3-0 win over the New York Mets during their National League Wild Card game at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

After a forgettable 2018 season, the San Francisco Giants enter 2019 spring training with one thing in mind: staying healthy.

A recurring theme hovers over the start of camp for the San Francisco Giants as health plagues a team still capable of contending. Besides manufacturing runs and pitching, Bruce Bochy hopes to leave Arizona with a roster at full strength.

Last season became a washout before the first pitch got thrown. A freak injury to Madison Bumgarner after taking a line drive off his hand shelved the ace for almost half a season. The year before saw him injure himself while riding a dirt bike before the Giants took on the Colorado Rockies in Denver.

Bumgarner enters spring training in a contract year. His name will heavily circulate the trade rumor mills should the Giants fall out of the race. With new president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi calling the shots, Bumgarner could find himself in a different uniform.

San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants /

San Francisco Giants

Zaidi has stated he believes the current core is capable of winning another championship and complimentary pieces are needed to round out the lineup. With the expectation to change fortunes around, Zaidi has a vote of confidence from the front office, but maybe not so much from the fanbase.

Bryce Harper is unbelievably still available given his ability to immediately upgrade any club offensively in which the Giants could desperately take. Harper is looking to cash in as he is about to enter his prime. The Giants did meet with Harper as he seeks a long-term deal and not a lucrative short-term deal, which is what they reportedly offered.

Harper could still end up in San Francisco should a deal be made. The Giants made a splash years ago after signing Barry Bonds away from the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, Zaidi is not into signing players for long tenures, instead looking to attain players for a reasonable price and duration.

For Zaidi, he is not looking at the present but also the future for the Giants to stay consistently competitive. The Giants have one of the worst farm systems in the majors. With Joey Bart the likely candidate to get called up in the future, no other prospect appears ready to make the jump.

Money is an issue with a few pitchers who have not lived up to expectations. Both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija dealt with injuries the past two seasons after stellar performances upon signing with the Giants.

With Samardzija, he is a high-risk, high-reward pitcher who will challenge hitters in the strike zone. In command of his pitches, he can be lights out. One bad throw, though, and the Giants can find themselves in a hole quickly. They are not a team with the offensive power to climb back into contests.

Besides his first year wearing orange and black, Cueto has been a bust. He must show he is ready to go and not find himself on the injury list shortly after the season gets underway.

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Both deals were poor decisions. The two starting pitchers could fetch a decent return, but the contracts are keeping teams from wanting to absorb the salary cap hit. With the contracts given out in recent years, Zaidi is going to have trouble implementing his system to see his fruits of labor take root.

As for Harper, he wants to win now, and throughout the contract he signs. The Giants can give Harper those demands; one area management failed last year in convincing Giancarlo Stanton to waive his no-trade clause to come to the Bay Area.

Stanton wanted to be on a contender for the long haul. He knew the Giants could not meet his demands with where their farm system ranks. With Zaidi, a realistic chance remains with Harper. Money is no problem now with Fanatics operating all Giants’ Dugout Store locations.

Oracle Park and a high tax rate are the only factors not working in the Giants’ favor.

Buster Posey is one player to watch during spring training after coming off hip surgery. His absence from the lineup during 2018 hurt the team and led to questions of the catcher possibly moving to first base. With Brandon Belt a likely trade piece again, Posey is set to be the everyday catcher.

Mark Melancon and Will Smith will compete for the role of closer. Melancon will have a chip on his shoulder to prove his worth after injuries have set him back. His emergence will be a blessing for a bullpen still trying to regain the dominance of the club’s championship runs.

With or without Harper, the outfield provides intrigue. Mac Williamson was exciting during his brief stint last season before the injury bug knocked him out of the lineup. He will most likely get the starts in center field and hopes to get back on track.

Madison Bumgarner hoping to avoid trade. dark. Next

Plenty of questions surround the 2019 Giants with all areas not set in stone. No matter which players leave after spring training concludes, health will go a long way for a core of players still believing another championship is possible.