As MLB trade deadline nears, Giants show off talent vs. Dodgers

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Giants feeling good regardless of what happens at deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gabe Kapler planned to go home Thursday night and make two lineups for Friday's game, one with Buster Posey starting and one with Curt Casali at catcher, but even that might not be enough. 

There is a chance that before most of Kapler's players get to the ballpark on Friday, the Giants will have a different look. Major League Baseball's trade deadline is at 1 p.m. and while the Giants haven't swung a deal yet, they have been busy behind the scenes. 

Sources characterized their search as one that is mostly focused on bigger names, the kinds of impact players that could take a roster chock full of depth to the next level, making this team more of a World Series contender. That list included Max Scherzer, although as the Giants played the Dodgers on Thursday, word emerged that Scherzer is potentially headed to the Padres

As those rumors circulated, the Giants watched Johnny Cueto show spectacular timing. The veteran right-hander had perhaps his most impressive start of the year given the opponent and the stakes, taking a shutout into the sixth and leading the way in a 5-0 win

Cueto's outing was one of many reminders Thursday that the Giants may be just fine if the clubhouse is intact Friday afternoon. They have one of the best rotations in the NL, and with Logan Webb throwing the way he is and Cueto shutting down the Dodgers, starting pitching is more of a luxury than a need. 

The bullpen is always an easy place to add, but Jarlin Garcia continued his dominant stretch by getting Cueto out of a jam, and Dominic Leone, Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee cruised. Rogers seemed to make his own statement, striking out the side in the eighth inning against a team that has seen him well

The Giants have looked for lineup help, too, with Chicago's Kris Bryant standing out as the biggest target. But if they can't get an impact bat there, they won't worry too much. They have reinforcements on the way. Brandon Crawford returned from the IL with a two-run double and Brandon Belt is starting a rehab assignment. Evan Longoria and Tommy La Stella are not far behind. 

Because of all this, Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris find themselves in a good spot. The Giants are 64-38 and have a three-game lead in the NL West, and this already appears to be a roster capable of winning the division and making noise in October. Zaidi and Harris can be patient, waiting to see what is possible or reasonable before the deadline.

"I think we're in a pretty good position," Crawford said. "First place is a good position to be in. We could always add pieces, there are some guys that are available that could probably help us. But we have the best record in baseball so we're doing things pretty (well) also. If we add, great. If we don't, great. We're playing well."

Cueto entered the day as the veteran with perhaps the most on the line. He has been inconsistent, but against the Dodgers he pitched like someone eager to hold his rotation spot. Afterward, he said he'll be on board no matter what the front office does.

"I'm here to do my job," he said. "I'm here to win games. Whatever the decision is that's made by the manager or the general manager, it will be respected."

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Cueto allowed just four hits, but Donovan Solano's bobble and a long walk by Justin Turner loaded the bases in the sixth. Kapler came out for a conversation and decided to summon Garcia, who has been one of the better relievers in the NL since returning from the IL. He whiffed Cody Bellinger on three pitches, helping secure a win for Cueto, who hit 95.6 mph, a season-best. 

"I thought it was Johnny's best outing in a long time," Kapler said. "I also thought his stuff was especially crisp. I certainly think his timing mechanisms, the ability to upset the rhythm and the timing of the opposing hitters, was important. He had really good body control today. The fastball was as good as we've seen it in a long time, so I think those things were key to Johnny's success today."

Cueto's outing should allow Zaidi and Harris to feel a bit better about their rotation moving forward no matter what they do on the market. It came with a price, though. Garcia often accompanies Cueto on shopping trips in big cities, so stranding three of Cueto's runners could earn Garcia one of the best hauls of deadline week.

"I think I'm going to buy him a bottle of wine," Cueto said, "And yeah, he has earned himself some shoes from Louis Vuitton."

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