Perhaps you heard the news. Or maybe you did not. There is an equal chance of both. Considering the way the Golden State Warriors have dominated the Bay Area sports news cycle, I cannot blame you if you have not heard. But the Giants called up infielder Casey Schmitt on Tuesday, and he introduced himself to the big leagues with a bang.
It was a move that certain segments of Giants Twitter have been clamoring for since Schmitt tore up the Cactus League in spring training, winning the Barney Nugent award given to the best Giants player in their first big league camp. The former second-round pick out of San Diego State came into this season as the Giants No. 4 prospect, but as the one most ready to make the big leagues, also had the most hype surrounding him.
With Brandon Crawford injured and David Villar struggling the Giants decided that Schmitt was hitting the ball too well and Triple-A Sacramento to be ignored any longer, poor strikeout-to-walk ratio be damned.
This is not a move that will have much of an impact on the Giants playoff chances. Don't be so quick to rush to your favorite betting site, as Schmitt's arrival is unlikely to change the National League Rookie of the Year odds (Marco Luciano is going at 10,000 to 1 at Bet MGM though). As exciting as his debut may be, this is not the second coming of Tim Lincecum or Buster Posey in terms of prospect arrivals.
This is also not an attempt to turn a mountain into a molehill either. Let's be clear, this is still a big deal. Schmitt represents the first position player drafted by the current Farhan Zaidi led regime to reach the big leagues, and the second player drafted overall to do so behind reliever Cole Waites. Schmitt is also the first prospect that Giants fans have been excited about to reach the big-league level as well as the first prospect to carry any sort of meaningful expectations to the club's future. His arrival should be looked at as the beginning of the wave of prospects that is finally approaching the Giants after years of waiting. And that is a developmental win for an organization that has been bathing in L’s and incompletes so far during its tenure at Third and King.
It also comes at a time when the Giants 2023 season is about to enter a whole new phase. As I mentioned above, the Golden State Warriors have been the dominant player in the Bay Area sports scene in the last month and a half. This has provided the Giants with some cover to their slow start as the Warriors playoff run absorbs most of the headline energy as well as interest from fans.
With the Warriors playoff run on the precipice of coming to an end much sooner than most would have wanted, it signals that the attention tides will soon be shifting. Once the Warriors season comes to an end, their playoff exploits will no longer cover the headlines leaving a gap in the sports news cycle that traditionally speaking the Giants would then cover.
What makes us so precarious for the Giants? Is that the tepid interest currently being shown to them right now by the Bay Area sports fans may not get the boost that they would have seen in the past when the Warriors season came to an end. As interest in the Giants amongst fans has somewhat regressed in the last year as longtime fans become more and more disillusioned with the current direction of the team and the way it conducts baseball business.
With that said, I have a modest proposal for the Giants. Don't just stop with Schmitt. Bring up more guys from the farm system and just commit to a player development season in 2023.
Part of the reason that Giants fans feel so detached from the current roster is because most of its big names are either not superstar players, such as Mike Yastrzemski or Crawford, or are not expected to be mainstays in the Giants future such as Michael Conforto and Joc Peterson among others. Giants can rewrite the narrative on the season by introducing a wave of players that fans can actually take the time to get to know and love due to their importance to the organization's future in the next five to seven years.
Such a commitment will come with its caveats. Playing prospects at the major league level rarely results in baseball victories, which means the Giants record, which currently is struggling to get above .500, probably will not cross that threshold this season should they take this course of action.
There is the matter of the roster crunch and the list of veteran players the Giants would have to displace to make such a change of direction. In order to see names like Bryce Johnson (fresh off the injured list), Heliot Ramos or even a Luis Matos, the Giants would need to remove an outfielder or three from the active roster. Mitch Haniger is locked in for the next two seasons after this year, so he is not going anywhere, and the Giants need Conforto to play well enough this year to allow him to opt out of the second year of his deal, so playing time is a must for him as well. That does leave Austin Slater, Yastrzemski and even LaMonte Wade Jr as potential roster crunch options. Those are moves I struggle to see this team making.
Then there is the 40-man roster crunch too. If the Giants were to give Patrick Bailey and Will Wilson a big league shot, they would have to be added to the 40-man at the expense of some other player's spot. That could be as simple as moving off of Brett Wisely, Isan Diaz, or if the Giants really want to go bold, Wilmer Flores. Fine players for the now, but do nothing for the team beyond 2023.
Can the Giants get some of their young pitching up as well? That would mean putting Kyle Harrison and slew of young relievers on the 40-man as well, and removing pitchers off the 40-man is not as cut and dry as position players. For one, the Giants need Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea to pitch well enough to use their opt outs this winter, which will be hard to do it they are losing innings to guys like Harrison.
The roster crunch could be messy, and feelings may be hurt, but it might be necessary for the long-term future of the Giants. Yet despite these drawbacks, the best reason for a youth movement might be that doing so could save the jobs of Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler.
The Giants came into the 2023 season preaching that the playoffs are an expectation, even if the roster construction suggests something different. Playoff expectations mixed with playoff shortcomings is not a great way for a baseball regime to last very long. By committing to a youth movement, the Giants can remove the expectations of a playoff appearance this year, push those expectations to next year, and possibly reduce the heat level of the seats of Zaidi and Kapler.
In 1986, coming off the worst season in franchise history in which the Giants suffered their only 100-loss season, the team featured a roster full of young players. Will Clark was 22, Robby Thompson was 24 and Chili Davis was 26. Also on that team was 24 year old third baseman Chris Brown, who was the centerpiece of the trade that brought back Kevin Mitchell and others in 1987. That squad was built around the season motto of “You gotta love these kids.” Those kids surprised many by winning 83 games, and while they did not make the playoffs that year, the ’86 season did mark the start of one of the more popular eras in San Francisco Giants history.
The current Giants have a similar chance before them now. The Giants need to give their fans reasons to be invested in the team and believe in the future of the organization. By injecting that future into The Now, even if it is a bit early, presents the chance to bring those fans back and give them a future to be invested in. It might be one step backwards now, but as 1986 showed Giants fans then, the two or three steps forward that follow will make it all worth it. And that is something the Giants simply cannot pass up at this time.