Giants catcher Buster Posey is reportedly considering having season-ending hip surgery, as the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea detailed in a Tuesday night report:
Giants' Buster Posey likely to have season-ending hip surgery: https://t.co/DREUd3PgfO— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) August 21, 2018
This news is arguably the clearest sign yet that the Giants are waving the white flag on what has been a disappointing 2018 season. Injuries to top starters Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija have been devastating for a San Francisco club that currently sits 7.5 games out of both the NL West lead and the second NL Wild Card spot, as has underperformance by veterans such as Posey, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria, and the now-departed Austin Jackson.
Posey, 31, is in the midst of a career-worst offensive season during which he has posted a .286/.360/.386 slash line with five homers — good for a just-above-average 104 OPS+ — in 439 plate appearances. He’s started just 99 of the Giants’ 127 games, including only 83 behind the plate. It’s been public knowledge that he’s dealing with this hip issue since the All-Star break, when Posey had to pull out of the game to receive an injection that he hoped would take the pain away. With Posey having posted a .655 OPS with no homers in the second half, it appears that it didn’t do much to help — at least to the point where it positively affected his on-field results.
If Posey goes through with the surgery, it’ll only amplify questions about whether he should move out from behind the plate. The six-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, and 2012 MVP has been one of the National League’s top offensive catchers for nearly a decade now, and while he still provides above-average value as a contact hitter in addition to his strong defensive skills, it’s worth wondering whether he’d be able to regain some power — and play more regularly — as a first baseman. After all, he had hit double-digit homers in every full season of his career prior to this year, peaking at 22 in 2014. While Posey’s defense and guidance behind the plate surely would be missed, he also has the potential to be a Gold Glove-caliber defender at first — over 1,669.1 career innings at the position, he has five defensive runs saved and a 5.4 UZR/150.
The Giants signified that they’re ready to move Posey elsewhere at some point in the future earlier this summer, as they drafted Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart — who is expected to reach the majors relatively quickly — with the No. 2 overall pick. If they’re looking to move Posey to first sooner than later, the Giants could re-sign veteran backup Nick Hundley — who has performed well in extended duty this season — to bridge the gap to Bart, or employ a similar strategy with a pending free agent such as Jonathan Lucroy or Wilson Ramos. Where that possible scenario would leave incumbent first baseman Brandon Belt, who is in the second season of a five-year, $72.8 million contract, remains to be determined.
If Posey decides to pull the plug early on his 2018 season, the Giants would presumably turn to Hundley as their starting backstop for the rest of the schedule. That decision would provide them an opportunity to give a month-long test run to former second-rounder Aramis Garcia, who has posted a slightly disappointing .235/.289/.388 slash line in 357 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A this season but has flashed impressive power at every level — with 11 homers this year, he’s hit double-digit homers in every one of his full minor-league seasons.