The worst-case scenario for the 2024 San Francisco Giants

Welcome back to the annual offseason tradition of bumming you out, then slowly making you feel better before Opening Day. It’s time to talk about the worst-case scenario for the 2024 Giants, and it won’t be a lot of fun.

Last season’s worst-case scenario wasn’t a perfect match for what actually happened to the 2023 Giants, but it did include these sentences:

• In a worst-case scenario, Mitch Haniger becomes the next Tommy La Stella in the “good idea at the time” pantheon.

• In a worst-case scenario, the Giants’ remarkable run of success with their buy-low free-agent pitchers comes to an end.

• There are waiver claims and minor trades sprinkled in, with players you’ve never heard of replacing players you’ve barely heard of.

That last one looks a little unfair in retrospect. You probably had heard of Johan Camargo, Paul DeJong and AJ Pollock. The larger point stands, though, that last year’s team was mostly dull and unwatchable. It wasn’t the worst Giants team in history, and it wasn’t particularly close, but it might have been the most bleh team in franchise history. It was an entire season of white noise. The Baseball-Reference page for the 2023 Giants is like the painting on the wall in a room at Motel 6. It makes you feel nothing, and in a week you won’t remember what it was a painting of. You’ll just remember the bleh.

It wasn’t the worst-case scenario, but it was sure closer to it than it was to the best-case scenario.

This year’s worst-case scenario is a little different. The Giants still have a chance to be boring, but not much of one. If they lose 90 games after having the most expensive and active offseason in franchise history, there will probably be flames that reach the ionosphere, and those kinds of seasons are rarely boring. Hard to watch, sure. Painful, absolutely. But KNBR lines would be buzzing. That doesn’t happen when a team is boring, until there are firings and heads start to roll, that is.

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With Blake Snell and co. on board, the 2024 Giants have very little chance of being boring. (Andy Kuno / San Francisco Giants / Getty Images)

This year’s worst-case scenario doesn’t even have to do with all of the expensive free agents collapsing at once. No, Blake Snell and Matt Chapman could have excellent seasons, and it could still lead to a worst-case scenario for the 2024 Giants.

That’s because the worst possible season for the Giants is one where you’re not excited about anyone on the expected roster for the 2025 season, other than Logan Webb. Snell is gone, and so is Chapman, one-and-done Giants like Carlos Rodón before them. Or, even more uncomfortably, they’re so unproductive that they opt-in to their contracts, and they become next season’s Michael Conforto — someone who represents a decent idea and poor results, and who doesn’t get you excited about baseball. Conforto might have a renaissance season in 2024, and you shouldn’t write him off yet, but you’re definitely not thinking “Oh, heck yeah, Michael Conforto” as Opening Day approaches. His first season with the Giants was the 2023 Giants Baseball-Reference page of seasons. There’s a chance that Snell and Chapman will be involved in the Giants’ 2025 plans, but that thought won’t excite you at all given what that implies about their 2024 performances.

It’s a scenario where you’re not looking at Jorge Soler as the best chance to finally give the Giants another 30-homer season, but as a Mitch Haniger-type who makes it harder for the Giants to build a better roster in the near future. If he’s more 2022 than 2023, the Giants will be stuck with a DH-only player, which is exactly what they’ve been trying to avoid since the DH came to the National League.

In this chilling vision of the future, there isn’t a single young player who has a guaranteed job. Kyle Harrison struggles with his command and control and bounces between Triple-A Sacramento and San Francisco. Marco Luciano spends the summer swinging and missing, over and over again, regardless of what level he’s at. Luis Matos and Wade Meckler don’t carry over their strong springs, and they get trapped in the Heliot Ramos Zone, where nobody is sure quite what to do with them for years and years.

I’m trying to think of how poorly Patrick Bailey would have to hit to lose his spot, but his .197/.279/.273 line from Aug. 1 to the end of last season gets pretty close. The official (and likely correct) explanation for that dip is that he was tired after a full season of being an everyday catcher, but we’re still talking about a player who hit .225 in A-ball just two seasons ago. There might be a lot of major-league struggles ahead.

The spookiest part of this thought experiment is to wonder what it would take for you to be completely unexcited to watch Jung Hoo Lee next season. It wouldn’t be pretty. The Giants gave him a lot of guaranteed money because they’re confident that he’s special; if they’re wrong, they’ll have a poor man’s Fred Lewis (albeit with fewer strikeouts) for another five years. Lee isn’t just a player for whom the Giants are expecting good things, but he’s also the prospect the fans have been waiting for over the last decade. The Giants haven’t had a player in his mid-20s get fans excited since the Brandons, with apologies to Joe Panik and Matt Duffy. It feels like every other team gets to go goofy over Julio Rodríguez or Adley Rutschman or Evan Carter, but the Giants can’t find anyone even remotely close to them in terms of excitement and fan interest.

Lee gives them a shot at it. If he really does have a game that’s similar to his idol, Ichiro, you’re already excited to watch the 2025 season. All of the rest of the above can happen, but give Lee a Rookie of the Year trophy and a top-five finish in the NL batting average race, and you’ll still get baseball-shaped goosebumps thinking about Opening Day 2025. One franchise-type success story from a young player, just one, would go a long way.

In the worst-case scenario, you’re looking over a list of free agents because it’s the only possible way out of the mess. Except it would be the offseason after the busiest offseason in franchise history, with no possible way to repeat it. If it didn’t work in 2024, when the Giants made a series of expensive, widely praised moves, why would it possibly work in 2025? Free agents only help when there’s a team to build around. If you’re not excited about anyone other than Webb going into the offseason, and if there isn’t any clarity when it comes to who will be around for the next Giants contender, not even Roki Sasaki would make you feel better.

Well, maybe Roki Sasaki. But, whoops, he’s on the Dodgers. Don’t forget that it can always get worse.

The Giants are at a crossroads. To the left, you have sunshine and rolling hills, chocolate bars and puppies. This is where at least a couple of the rookies and second-year players transition into franchise cornerstones. They don’t have to remind you of the Braves, but they allow you to have greedy dreams. They get you excited about the future of Giants baseball.

To the right, you have fetid swamplands and a possum with a hacking cough. Now he has your wallet in his mouth, great. This is where Hunter Renfroe rumors live, where the only path to a functional major-league team is to keep bringing in help from outside of the organization, except these players won’t have MVP votes or Cy Youngs. This is what could happen with another season of bleh. The Giants had a great offseason in terms of free agents, but you can’t expect that every offseason.

In the worst-case scenario, the Giants still don’t have an identity. They aren’t drawing kids from Gilroy to watch their favorite players, if only because those kids don’t have favorite players. It’ll be more bleh. It’s bleh the whole way down.

Tomorrow’s article will be a lot more fun. Here, watch this:

(Top photo of Chapman: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

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