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NL West preview: ‘retooled’ Giants look to overcome injury bug

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San Francisco Giants right fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) steps to the plate as the Oakland Athletics face the San Francisco Giants in the final Spring Baseball game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

“We don’t rebuild, we retool.”

This was a popular statement around the San Francisco Giants’ organization this offseason, and it could not be any more true.

The 2017 season for the Giants was absolutely plagued by injuries, causing them to finish tied for the worst record in baseball, a meager 64-98.

San Francisco could have easily used this as an opportunity to launch into a full-scale rebuild, despite being just one season removed from its last playoff appearance. However, many familiar faces remain from two, or even three of San Francisco’s World Series titles this decade. They still have gas in the tank, and management felt they could make another run.

Back in December, the Giants made their first blockbuster trade, acquiring perennial All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays. This move showed that the team indeed intended not to rebuild, but to retool. However, the front office was not done there. Less than a month later, the Giants snatched former National League MVP center fielder Andrew McCutchen away from the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates.

Both moves showed a desire to return to postseason sooner rather than later, but the biggest key for San Francisco’s postseason hopes will be the team health. In the rotation in particular.

So far, not so good on that front. Starter Jeff Samardzija will open the season on the disabled list, and is expected to miss the first three to four weeks of the season with a right pectoral strain. To compound the issue, 2014 World Series MVP and ace Madison Bumgarner was added to the DL the very next day. He is expected to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season with a left hand fracture after being hit with a line drive in a spring training game last week.

The Bumgarner injury could potentially be catastrophic to the Giants’ hopes of returning to postseason play this season. His injury early on in 2017 was indeed the blow that seemed to trigger the team’s downward spiral.

However, there is hope for the team. The lineup is quite talented, and figures to score a great deal of runs with the additions of McCutchen, Longoria and also outfielder Austin Jackson. While the pitching staff will be a huge question mark, particularly until Samardzija and Bumgarner return, the offense should be able to pick up some of the slack. Unless the injuries to the team overall return to 2017 levels, which looks closer to possible with Mark Melancon meeting the DL Thursday, the Giants’ should still be considered a dark horse Wild Card contender in 2018.

Key Additions: OF McCutchen, 3B Longoria, OF Jackson, RP Tony Watson

Key Losses: SP Matt Moore, OF Denard Span, SS Christian Arroyo, RP Kyle Crick

Projected Lineup:

  1. 2B Joe Panik
  2. 1B Brandon Belt
  3. CF McCutchen
  4. C Buster Posey
  5. 3B Longoria
  6. SS Brandon Crawford
  7. RF Hunter Pence
  8. LF Jackson

Projected Rotation:

  1. Ty Blach
  2. Johnny Cueto
  3. Derek Holland
  4. Chris Stratton

Projected Record: 84-78

Melancon, Samardzija, Fernández open 2018 on disabled list

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