As the Deadline passed Thursday afternoon, Sabean couldn't quite find the right fit with another team to obtain an offensively proven second baseman to strengthen the lineup, nor could they add an outfielder to provide depth in case Pagan encounters roadblocks in his recovery from a back injury.
Sabean indicated that teams' asking prices were too high.
"I feel as good about not getting something done as any year we've done something," he said. "There were bad moves on our end to be made, and we certainly weren't going to do that."
So unless a player slips through waivers who Sabean covets -- as was the case in August 2010, when outfielder Cody Ross joined the club -- the Giants must rely on their current roster to try to overtake the National League West-leading Dodgers. Welcoming back a healthy Belt and Pagan will be essential for the Giants in their bid to reduce the Dodgers' lead, which stood at three games entering Thursday.
That was the numerical difference between the Giants and Dodgers. In real terms, the Giants' ongoing struggles -- as manifested in their 16-29 record since June 9 -- have left Sabean wondering exactly how competitive the Giants can be.
"I don't know how close we are; we haven't played too well," he said with typical candor on a post-Deadline conference call with reporters. "I know we were missing some people, and I know that the long Philly series probably took a lot of energy out of us, and the Dodgers had a day off and we were playing them without our front-line pitching, but the look of it wasn't very good.
"I don't know how close we are, both to winning the division or even being right there for a Wild Card."
Sabean said trade talks were specific to fixing their offense, particularly second base, since the last-ditch Dan Uggla move appears to be unsuccessful. Sabean confirmed that Uggla is still on the roster, but did not travel with the team to New York and is contemplating whether he wants to return to Triple-A Fresno. A corresponding roster move will be made on Friday.
So, who's going to play second base?
"It's going to be a work in progress," Sabean said. "Might be series to series."
Marco Scutaro is on the 15-day disabled list with a highly troublesome back. Joe Panik has been unspectacular since his June callup. Perhaps Double-A middle infielder Matt Duffy, the team's No. 18-ranked prospect who is hitting .332 in 367 at-bats for Richmond, will get the next shot?
The Giants reportedly coveted Emilio Bonifacio, 29, for his ability to play both infield and outfield. He thus could have strengthened not only second base but also the outfield in case Pagan's return from back pain stalled. Instead, the Cubs dealt him and James Russell to the Braves for catching prospect Victor Caratini, who was a second-round pick of the Braves in 2013, hitting .279 with five home runs, 42 RBIs in 87 games for Class A Rome.
Sabean said the team will be active during the waiver process, both in signing players and blocking other teams (see: Dodgers) from acquisitions.
But after not mortgaging the farm, it's two horses that have been at sickbay the Giants are tying their playoff hopes to.
"Our biggest barometer is going to be when we get our two players back, to see how we flip the switch then," Sabean said.