The loser of this race has a chance to be one of the wild-card teams, but that is far from certain. There are five teams that are in the hunt for the only two remaining spots in the playoffs. In addition, the wild-card entrants must play the one-game playoff, and you never know what will happen in that situation.
Therefore, it would behoove general manager Brian Sabean and the Giants to do everything in their power to win the division.
The Giants have a major need for a center fielder and second baseman, especially one who can bat at the top of the order. A player like Emilio Bonifacio who can play both center field and second base would be ideal. Another solid reliever would also be a plus.
However, the most important thing the Giants can do to bolster their chances of winning the NL West is acquire a top-notch starting pitcher.
There are several good pitchers who could be on the market, such as Jorge De La Rosa, Tommy Milone, Jake Peavy and Bartolo Colon. If Sabean is unable to land the stud pitcher the Giants need, one of these pitchers could be a good secondary option.
Hamels is still owed $94 million for the period of 2015-18. He has had some arm issues in the past, so he is not an ideal option for the Giants.
The player the Giants must make every effort to acquire is Price. He is having a fine year, and his contract status is much more reasonable.
Price has a record of 10-7, with an ERA of 3.06 and WHIP of 1.041. In 155.2 innings pitched, Price has allowed 141 hits and 21 walks, while striking out 173. His strikeout total leads the majors.
In late August, Price will turn 29 years of age, so he's still relatively young. He is a four-time All-Star, including this year. Price also won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012.
Price is making $14 million in 2014, so the Giants' prorated share would be about $5 million. Looking ahead to 2015, Price will be in his final year of arbitration eligibility. This means the Giants will have him under their control through the 2015 season, at a minimum.
It will not be cheap, however, as Price will likely earn in the $20 million range next year. Although this is a large amount, the Giants will have four major contracts coming off the books following the 2014 season.
Ryan Vogelsong's $5 million, Sergio Romo's $6.3 million, Michael Morse's $6 million and Pablo Sandoval's $8.25 million will be gone. It is entirely possible that none of these players will return, freeing up more money to sign Price.
Vogelsong is 37 years of age, and the Giants may not want to pay Romo what he will demand, if he is not their closer. Morse will also likely want a significant raise, and his prior injury history makes that a big risk.
In addition, Sandoval has asked for a deal in the range of Hunter Pence's five-year, $90 million contract, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. If he insists on those kind of numbers, there is no way the Giants will keep Sandoval, either.
If all of that happens, $25 million comes off the books. The Giants will certainly need to replace these players, but the likelihood is that the cost to do that will be well below the $25 million. Even with Buster Posey getting a raise of $6 million in 2015, that frees up money to allocate to Price.
With the potential departure of four key players following this season, it is incumbent upon Sabean and the Giants to try to win now. Price will give them the best chance to do so.
The Giants' ownership group has enjoyed sellout crowds, high merchandise sales and a great vibe at the ballpark. Although the addition of Price will mean some increase in the payroll, if it gets the Giants into the playoffs with another chance to win the World Series, it will all be worth it.
The Giants' interest is only half of the equation, however. They still must come up with a deal that Tampa Bay will agree to. Other teams, including the archrival Dodgers, have expressed interest in Price, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The cost will be extremely high in terms of what Sabean must be willing to trade away.
On the surface, the Dodgers are in a better position than the Giants because the Dodgers seem to have an endless supply of money—and they have shown absolutely no reluctance to spend lavishly.
Los Angeles also has a much deeper farm system than the Giants. The Dodgers' top prospects, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias, are all much more enticing than anything the Giants have in the minors. However, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti thinks the team is unlikely to sign Price or Hamels.
The deal Sabean should propose to the Rays would include Brandon Belt, Kyle Crick, Heath Hembree and another mid-level prospect, either Gary Brown or Clayton Blackburn.
If the Rays demanded catching prospect Andrew Susac instead of Brown or Blackburn, it would be a tougher decision, but it's still a move that needs to be made.
The thing about minor league prospects is you never know how they will develop. Although Crick, Hembree, Brown, Blackburn and Susac are some of the Giants' top prospects, there is no guarantee any of them will develop into major league stars.
Price is already a star, and his arrival in orange and black would also mean the Dodgers don't have him. In addition, the uncertainty surrounding Matt Cain's elbow makes acquiring Price an even bigger necessity for the Giants.
What starting pitcher do you expect the Giants to acquire prior to the trade deadline?
This would be a very aggressive move, but even so, there is no certainty that the Rays would accept it.
The reality is that the Giants probably will not do something this aggressive and instead set their sights lower. This has typically been Sabean's approach, and you cannot argue with his success in utilizing this strategy.
However, Price is the one piece of the puzzle that becomes the difference-maker for the Giants, or whichever team gets him. The thought of him in a San Francisco uniform through the 2015 season is quite exhilarating.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
All contract data courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.