To Trade or not to Trade

With the trade deadline coming, trades that the Giants might make are grist for conversation: Kawakami (SJ Merc), McCovey Chronicles, SF Chronicle.

In addition to the Valdez rumor that I noted yesterday (I never wish injury on anyone but Jennings is now out with finger injury so we don't have to worry about a Valdez for Jennings trade), the Chron noted that the Angels are reportedly interested in Tomko plus the Angels beat writers saw Jason Schmidt's ESPN home page on Scioscia's computer screen (maybe Schmidt is on Scioscia's fantasy team! :^). However, then it was noted that the Angels have a deep farm system that would allow them to part with 29-year-old reliever Scot (sic) Shields: just say "NO!". If they have a deep farm system, give us a couple of their pitching prospects plus a hitting OF prospect instead, we don't need another reliever, especially with Benitez coming back early.

The other two discussions cover the lack of tradeable parts that the Giants currently have. But I guess that depends on your point of view about where the Giants stand. Many of them think that the Giants should be sellers because they don't have much going for them this year (and next).

One thing that I find most people discussing changes don't do is view it from a point of reality. The reality is that the Giants are going to go for it this year and next, as long as Bonds is potentially able to play. They need to keep their $20M+ man happy and motivated and the only way to do that is if they continue to try to win the pennant. They also have a chunk of expiring season ticket holders who they would like to renew and pay for the nice loan they got to pay for their edifice by the cove. It don't really matter what we think the Giants should do in this case because they are not going to approach this from the viewpoint of rebuilding, they are going to go for it.

And why not? The Giants are not that far out of first place. With their win today and 'Dre's loss, the Giants are now 7 games back. They just activated Alfonzo and when Grissom rejoins the team, the roster will be basically what we would have started the season out with and it would have been a good lineup, even without Bonds, capable of scoring enough runs to keep an OK pitching staff on the plus side of the winning ledger.

Unfortunately, we have not had an OK pitching staff so that just made things doubly bad while all the regulars were out with an injury. Unfortunately, our pitching staff has not turned out the way we had hoped, basically Schmidt and Lowry had an extended spring training that lasted into May/June and only recently righted themselves. Plus our bullpen suddenly could not do what was expected of them.

But the starting staff is starting to jell. And the bullpen, with the addition of Munter (there has been talk of him being similar to Minton in terms of sinker effectiveness) and Hawkins and the emergence of Walker plus the continued excellence of Eyre and handyman Fassero, has been humming along for a while now. They have righted their ship.

So if the Giants are trading to improve themselves and trading for today and the future (i.e. no rental), what can they reasonably do? First off, there is no way the Giants are trading Schmidt. Ace pitchers are hard to come by and, despite his rocky start, he has basically pitched like an ace (just not a league-leading dominating ace) since he figured out his problems.

I think the bullpening of Rueter is a clue to the Giants intentions. Despite his stellar relief outing, he's still in the bullpen - why? I thought maybe they wanted him to "prove" himself more but like he noted, he has nothing to prove. I think now that the Giants are doing this for two reasons.

One is that this gives his arm a rest for the second half of the season. He has had arm problems the past couple of years so the rest will help rejuvenate his arm for the stretch run. And obviously the management believe in his abilities, else they would have jettisoned him when they got rid of Herges and Brower (I think they were "examples" to the remaining players of what could happen to them if they continue to screw up).

But the main reason I think they are doing this is to see how Correia and Hennessey do with more starts plus showcase them and Tomko for other teams. Correia had two OK starts then was beaten like a drum in his last start. Hennessey has had 5 good to great starts and 2 horrible starts. With a better offense, he could be 5-2 right now instead of 3-2. And he had a great outing against the great offense of St. Louis, shutting them out on 3 hits in 7 IP. And Tomko, for his career, has a 4.84 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .277 BAA, 41-42 W/L record pre-All Star Game and a 4.20, 1.28 WHIP, .253 BAA, 38-26 W/L record post-All Star Game. Any team competing for a playoff spot would love to get those stats for a half season. They are all trading chips for Sabean to use to get what he wants.

Tomko is the most likely player to be traded. He has mid-level stats that would get him a $7M/year contract like Benson and the Giants are not going to re-sign him at that price. So I expect him to go. And you won't get much more than a rental trading Hennessey or Correia - Tomko will bring the most value, even more than Rueter.

The Giants can probably expect to get from a contender 2-3 prospects for him, one currently or was in the MLB but did not do great, plus others who have done well in the minors but either are lower or had a hiccup moving up a level, kind of like what we gave up to get Ponson, or a serviceable spare part, like a good vet reliever or utility guy. Obviously they would be players that Sabean has scouted and approved of.

I expect to get a project, like Estes was, in exchange. Perhaps a Gavin Floyd of the Phillies or a Kyle Davies of the Braves, pitchers on the verge but not quite there yet, not enough for their current team when they need help now, but with some potential. The Giants could put him in the bullpen in long relief (help now) with the thought that he could fill a spot in the rotation in 2006 (future), meanwhile Rueter would take Tomko's spot in the rotation.

Another player that I expect to go is Tucker. He has been playing a lot more lately and while part of that is because Linden and Shabala did not do anything to convince the Giants to continue with them over Tucker, I think part of it was a showcasing of what he can do. And he has played nicely since he started starting again in the OF, showing teams what he can do for a contender.

If fans could get past the lost draft pick aspect of his acquisition, he is not that bad a player. My first recollection of him was when Carlos Beltran went out with an injury while he was with KC and Tucker played so well that KC was the surprise team in the AL, winning a lot of games in a hot start. He is not great but he is good enough if you use him in a platoon plus he can play all 3 OF positions and hits well enough as a lefty.

The Giants are probably not bringing him back next season - Linden will probably take his place - and by trading him they can pick up something for him this way instead of letting him go without getting anything. Plus whatever they pick up will essentially replace the draft pick they lost, should a trade happen. And the prospect will probably be more developed than the guy they might have picked had they kept the draft pick. And Linden would take his place on the roster.

Lastly, I expect either Alfonzo or Durham to go in a trade. Basically, it will be a mistake exchange where each team receives a player in exchange who could hopefully contribute in another area, like if we traded one of them for a pitcher who isn't doing well as expected, based on salary, but isn't doing that badly, like Alfonzo and Durham have. This move would clear the way for Feliz to become the full-time 3B with Alfonzo or Durham playing 2B for us.

I expect Durham to be the one to go because of the injuries that he has had, of his ability to still play at an elite level (when he is able to play), of his lead-off abilities with some power, and because they have been playing Ellison in the leadoff spot so much and hitting Durham 5th, to try to show off how he can hit both as leadoff and in the RBI spot (unfortunately for the Giants he hasn't been showing that off much, which any of us could have told them based on his stats hitting with runners on, both this year and for his career for the most part.) Alfonzo is a nice part right now but without any elite skill to convince another team to take him, unless Boston or San Diego, who the Giants outbid for Alfonzo, decides otherwise, no team is really going to want to take him with that big contract for next year ($8M if I recall correctly, more than Durham's $7M player's option for next season).

Everyone else, well, are not untouchable but the Giants don't have any alternative backup ready to take over - Tomko replaced by Rueter, Tucker replaced by Linden, Durham/Alfonzo replaced by Feliz - so any move of another player on the roster would just create another hole to fill (and Moises Alou is not going anywhere if his father has anything to do about it). And unless they trade Cain, none of the Giants other prospects are developed enough to get them an established starter or left-handed hitting CF who can leadoff, unless they can pull off a Charlie Finley special and trade 7 or 8 prospects to get one good/star player.

A dark horse trade possibility that I just thought of is the Giants might be able to trade Tyler Walker. There has been a lot of talk recently about how good Munter's sinker is, how he reminds some people of Greg Minton's sinker, so perhaps he could take over as closer if Walker is traded until Benitez is ready and supposedly he could be ready sometime in August, which is not that far away now. I would have to think that any team trading for Walker as a closer would be pretty desperate for a closer and pay dearly for him, perhaps a top prospect or two (or three if it is a prospect high on potential but also high on problems).

Another dark horse trade is perhaps Rueter going to the Cubs to rejoin his old manager and pitching coach who helped him out early in his Giants career, Dick Pole. I heard this on the radio and it would make sense in that way but who would we get from the Cubs that would be useful to use? Jerome Williams? I wouldn't expect anyone better than him from the Cubs but why would the Cubs give us anything better or even him, they are not really in the race right now, so many games back of the Cards and with a .500 record so not really in the wild card race either. But you never know, maybe they think they can get back in the race with him, based on Dusty and Dick's recommendation, you never know.

Lastly, perhaps the Giants could bundle Ellison and Niekro and another prospect to get a more established lefty hitting CF (or right-handed hitter who hits RHP well).

Centerfielders that come to mind include Mike Cameron of the Mets and Randy Winn of the Mariners. And you never know, perhaps the Angels might be willing to trade Steve Finley to us for Tomko (assuming they pay the rest of his contract) and Ellison in a package.


Blogger Gregory said...

The premise of your post is that we should be trading to win this year, that are offense is good enough to support our weak pitching staff and get us a division win (followed by a quick death in the playoffs.) As of today we are 13 games below .500. Yet when you get to the Cubs a team at .500, you say they are out of it because of the Cards, yet they are in a better position to win the wildcard then we are to win the division. If the nats continue to collapse, a five game win streak puts the Cubs right there.

Sabean has not made a smart move sense the 2002 season. Which is fine, getting a Schmidt or Kent trade is the rarity. But the is fact he has made down right terrible moves sense then.

The only reason this season is not being branded what it is by everyone, is that the three teams ahead of us, suck almost as bad as we do leaving the illusion this team can make it. In any other division we are out by atleast 12 games. Yet because of the lowly Padres, some people, and sadly that includes the front office, think we are a team that can compete.

I for one dont care about making the playoffs if that does not mean a real shot at the title. Why sell the future for a pathetic death in the first round?

The reality is management had their shot with Bonds but in 2003 they choose to cut payroll instead of getting that last piece to put them over the top. Do you think they would have to be worrying about season ticket holders if we had won in 2003 or 2004. Sabean had his shot after 2003 to find solid players to back up Bonds, but he choose old veterns that may or may not be what they once were, starting the cycle that quickly reduced this team to what it is now.
Do you think this team would have collapsed if we had choosen to let Torrealba (sp) play instead of signing Aj, or Matheny. We would of had Nathan then which would have freed up all the money that went to AJ, Benetiz, and Matheny, etc which would have been the money to keep kent or get another great pitcher.

Mon Jul 25, 08:24:00 AM PDT  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Thanks for the post Gregory. Sorry I didn't make my feelings clearer: I think the Giants have stunk this year and I don't think they have much of a chance of making the playoffs.

However, the Giants management seems pretty set on trying to make moves to win this year and next year. And I'm saying, why the hell not, you never know, we do have some good pieces together now, we are getting our starting lineup back, the pitching staff seems to be settling down, though there is still some uncertainty in the starting rotation.

If I (and a number of other fans) had our druthers, we would trade to improve ourselves for 2006, and if it sinks 2005, so be it.

However, I don't want them making "new for old" trades where we are renting players and, from their comments thus far, it does not sound like they will be pursuing those types of trades. On that I share your feelings.

But if you can make the playoffs, why not try, just don't mortgage the future doing it. And judging from Sabean's comments, he is looking to make moves to help today and the future.

I think that Sabean has made smart moves since 2002 that unfortunately did not work out the way expected because of circumstances. Signing Durham was hailed when it occurred. Unfortunately it turned out that the player who had played 6-7 seasons of 150+ games suddenly was injury prone; hindsight is 20/20. Ponson was a smart move, we got a pitcher who pitched well for us for 3 pitchers who probably won't see the MLB again. People who cried about his performance in the playoffs forgot that the pitcher many of them had wanted instead, Russ Ortiz, pitched no better in his first start of the playoffs either. Alou, Vizquel, and Matheny were smart moves, they have performed great for us, unfortunately the injuries have put a shadow over their achievements this season. Benitez was a smart move, only who knew he would blow out his ligaments.

I agree that the Giants blew their shot but not for the reason you stated. They did not cut budget, they started out the season with the same budget as the year before. But because they increase the budget mid-year, there was a decrease from year-end to next year but not from the start of the season to the start of the next season. And with the ballyhoo over that, the Giants ended up bumping up their budget anyway, based on the numbers I collected and saw on other sites.

I think the Giants should have signed a player like Vlad Guerrero when they had the chance. They could have added his salary and still got most of the players they signed for just a mil or two more (I put together the math in an article on sfdugout.com). I have no problem with getting old vets, but they should have gotten a young bookend to complement Bonds.

Bringing up Nathan is a nice hindsight view, no one knew he would be that good as a closer, especially after he folded in the playoffs in 2003. Also, Torrealba could have killed the offense vs. RHP, which is like 75-80% of the starters out there, he has demonstrated no skill in hitting RHP the past two seasons, hitting way worse than even Neifi.

And you are delusional if you thought the Giants had a snowball's chance in hell of signing Kent. Have you heard any of his comments about the Bay Area and the Giants since he left the Giants? He clearly has a chip on his shoulder.

And what great pitcher was out there on the market to sign? The Giants did try to sign Maddux but they were probably used by him to bid against the Cubs and push up his contract value. Petitte and Clemens wouldn't have signed with anyone but Houston. Pedro, well, would you really want to commit all those dollars to him for so many years?

Also, the money spent on AJ was 2004's budget while Benitez and Matheny comes out of 2005's plus had some deferred salary, so you cannot just add them together to get a nice wad of cash to sign someone. However, I do agree that if the Giants didn't get A.J. for last season, they would have had the money to sign a Vlad or player of his ilk after the 2003 season.

Mon Jul 25, 03:10:00 PM PDT  

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