The San Francisco Giants’ offseason has been meme-worthy.
The Pawn Stars meme, to be specific.
For those who are blissfully unaware of this form of internet art, the Pawn Stars meme features the characters from the History Channel reality show making comical, low-balling “best” offers amid a barter.
Giants fans: We would like for you to sign Aaron Judge and Carlos Rodón.
“The best we can do is Mitch Haniger and Sean Manaea… But, hey, for you guys, we’ll toss in a Ross Stripling, too.”
This was a critical offseason for the Giants. This was supposed to be the winter the team flexed its fiscal and municipal muscles and started acting like the big-market team it is.
Big names. Big money. A big statement for a franchise that is being lapped by the Dodgers and Padres in the National League West.
But the Giants have made another kind of statement this offseason:
Don’t expect anything more from us, because it’s business as usual around here.
Perhaps the fans can extract Carlos Correa from the Pawn Stars this week. He’s a big-time, big-money player.
But they probably won’t. Why would he come to San Francisco over his other suitors? The Giants won’t overpay. The one thing the Giants have is a shortstop.
When you add it all up, the Giants are likely to come out of this offseason in roughly the same spot they entered: Average and charisma-free — a team only an accountant or family member could love.
Let’s be clear: The three players the Giants added to date are solid. Haniger is a strong pickup for the outfield — a guy who averages 31 home runs and 93 RBI over 162 games. We know from his time in Oakland that Manaea can be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 starter. Stripling had a really nice 2022 for Toronto and can probably reach a new level with the way the Giants handle their pitchers.
But not one of those guys is going to sell a ticket.
And they don’t change the paradigm in the division, either.
Don’t pretend Judge doesn’t matter in the aftermath of the failure, either. No one can act like that this route is, in fact, the way to go. The Giants don’t keep pursuing top free agents (only to be rejected) for the exercise of it all. Judge was yet another player the Giants decided they needed that ultimately turned them down.
And instead of pivoting to other big moves by loading up with top arms for the rotation or two second-tier free agents (Judge was a tier to himself), the Giants instead added, yet again, to the middle of the roster, leaving the middle of their lineup vacant.
Despite being the fifth-most valuable franchise in baseball — the 28th-most valuable sports team in the world, per Forbes — Giants are trying to nickel and dime their way to wins again, all while charging large bills for the “privilege” of watching this team.
It’s Moneyball, but the only thing being gamed is this team’s loyal fans.
Even though they are nice, solid players, the signing of Haniger and Manaea feels insulting.
After all, these are two guys who live in the Bay Area. Instead of searching for the best possible players, it’s as if the Giants sorted the spreadsheet for the most proximate.
Yes, after striking out with Judge — perhaps looking — it seems as if the Giants are trying to fill the ballpark with friends and family of their non-stars.
That’s a good model for selling Girl Scout cookies, not Major League tickets (though we’ll have to see how Haniger’s dad does when he takes the sign-up sheets into the office).
What’s worse yet is that there’s no way out of this cycle. The Giants can’t seem to attract top-flight free agents to actually sign with them — even those who have played for the team for a year and said they loved it — and they’re not developing any All-Stars, either.
They’re just a team stuck in the middle. Good enough to keep people generally interested, but not good enough to do anything truly interesting. They’re perpetually living in the purgatory that is the critical 10-game delta between 77 and 87 wins.
Meanwhile, the Padres have a lineup that now has four top-tier MVP candidates, and the Dodgers — who have regressed this offseason (so far, at least) — have only two, but a farm system that has consistently graduated players from their minor-league system to Major League starting roles and could put three new top-100 prospects on the team coming out of spring training.
The Giants aren’t in the same class as those teams. They’re not on the level of the Braves, Mets, or Phillies, either. We can have a conversation about the Cardinals and Brewers, but the Giants might lose that battle, too.
In fact, the Giants should be more concerned about the teams coming up behind them in the standings. The Diamondbacks had a nice June, July, and August before a funky September where they tried out a whole bunch of experimentation.
If Correa doesn’t come to San Francisco, what will the Giants sell come the start of the season?
Can they interest you in young pitcher Kyle Harrison come June?
He is from Danville, after all.