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.


The Giants are back in 4th and I feel fine

Well, fine enough. Despite falling back to 4th place with the D-gers two victories over the suddenly toothless Phillies, the Mets sweep of the 'Dres and the Giants are now only 8 games back, though back to 1.5 games back of the the 3rd place D-gers. And the D-gers get to face the same hot Mets and their three best starting pitchers, Victor "I'm the Other" Zambrano, Pedro "I'm YOUR Daddy" Martinez, and Kent "Penthouse Pet" Benson.

Not that the Giants will have a cakewalk with the Marlins as they get to face Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett, and A.J. Burnett, the Marlin's three best starting pitchers (and as a trio are light years better than the Mets trio). However, we are catching them at a good time as Dontrelle is having some problems as a starter lately (unfortunately for my fantasy team) plus has been blasted each time he has pitched at SBC, Beckett is coming off the DL having had 3 lousy starts out of his last 4 and watch his ERA jump from 2.58 to 3.35 and taking 3 losses, and Burnett has had 4 straight games of mainly poor outings (ERA from 3.14 to 3.68), though his last start was the best of the bunch, 6 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 6 K, 3 ER. But there is also steady trade rumors concerning him so it is possible that he could be traded by then and the Giants would face a lesser pitcher.

The cold 'Dres face the cold Phillies, but two of their best starters in Tejeda and Myers so that's a positive for us.

The D-backs are trying to recreate a Giants old-timers team. They just acquired Tim Worrell and had Matt Herges earlier in the season. They also have Royce Clayton and Jose Cruz. They get to face the Braves better starters in Hudson, Hampton, and Ramirez.

So the Giants could conceivably gain another game or two on the three teams above over the weekend if they can win 2 of 3, but are relying on Tomko, Hennessey, and Correia, no sure thing among the three, so we'll see what happens.

Lastly, shocking news reported by SI columnist Ken Rosenthal. Here is the text: "The Giants apparently were willing to trade Class AA righthander Merkin Valdez for Rockies righthander Jason Jennings, but the Rockies balked at the deal. "If he stays a starter, Valdez can at least be Pedro Astacio," one scout says. "I think you might be able to put him at the back end of the bullpen. He's got the body to be an Armando Benitez." Valdez is listed at 6-3 and 220 pounds, but the scout says he could carry 250. " First, Valdez for Jason Jennings? Is Merkin that bad??? Jennings haven't shown anything as a major leaguer and his road stats stinks as bad as his home stats. Second, Merkin Valdez got the body to be Armando Benitez??? Is this the same skinny bones starter I recall when the Giants first got him? And now he's being compared to Benitez? What are they feeding him?


One step at a time, but it could be two steps forward, one step back

How's that for cliches? :^)

Well, the Giants accomplished the first step of their journey towards respectability: they beat the Braves 5-4 to move into a tie for third place with the D-gers, 8.5 games back. They have been in 4th place for too long now. The D-backs are now 3 games ahead of them in 2nd place.

However, it will be hard for the Giants to stay in 3rd (the one step back part) as they face Smoltz tomorrow whereas the D-gers face Lidle and Lieber the next two days, much easier competition than Smoltz. Plus the Giants have not been hitting well against RHP, hence Sabean's stated wish to obtain a LH bat for the lineup (Sanchez does not count...). The one good thing is the Phillies are hot right now, winning their 6th of 7 games Tuesday against the D-gers, so you never know, they could sweep the D-gers for us and leave us alone in 3rd place.

Incredible that Felipe batted Matheny 5th today, the way he has been hitting this season, I'm surprised he didn't get batted higher, sooner, especially given Durham's struggles with hitting with runners on this season (and chronically throughout his career). But 5th? Is Feliz struggling that much? Then again, Matheny already has 9 homers, not far behind Feliz.

As maligned as Alfonzo and Grissom have been by certain fans (and yew know who yew are), when they rejoin the team, the team will be relatively healthy (besides Bonds) for the first time since Alou went out with his calf problem (why couldn't he just aggravate it in spring training and be done with it? :^). They may give the team an offensive boost (especially given Ellison's falling back to the mean, and I do mean mean) that will help the team win more frequently, assuming the pitching staff keeps pitching well (and that Walker can stay the closer, he just blew his second save in a row; hopefully he can hold on until Benitez returns, which right now sounds like it might be early to mid-August, much ahead of schedule).

If, if, if... sad when you are reduced to a number of ifs when viewing the season. But the Giants are not in horrible shape right now (just not good), though they still need to keep the momentum going and hopefully catch up with the D-backs by the end of the month (there goes an "if" again). After the Braves leave, the Giants then play Florida, the Cubs, and the Brewers, all .500 teams. If the Giants pitching can continue to do well, the Giants could come out these games with a winning percentage and gain some ground, hopefully, on the 'Dres and the D-backs.

I know there are fans who say what's the use of making the playoffs, we'll get drubbed in the first round, but I believe in the randomness of the playoffs the way it is run, all you need are a few hot players to get you over the hump each series, and you could be in the World Series. And we Giants have been the unfortunate recipients of underdogs coming in and beating us.

So we know that the Giants, if they should make the playoffs, could play the same role, especially if Bonds ever returns this season and if we can get a hot rookie carrying us, like F-Rod did the Angels (hello Matt Cain! :^). And frankly, we were the underdogs in 2002 and yet went the furthest any Giants team has ever gone to winning the World Series since I became a fan. So you really never know.

And maybe Sabean can get the Giants some help via a trade of a AA/A level prospect, a blockbuster trade that gets us players who are young and ready to do well and help in the pennant drive. One can dream...

You knew it wouldn't be that easy

From the euphoria of taking 3 of 4 from the quasi-authentic D-gers (almost a sweep if the boys in blue were watching the batter and not some babe in the stands ... or was it a hot dog... :^), reality slaps us upside the head with a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of a real team, the Atlanta Braves. The Giants, despite their recent wins, are still 9.5 games behind the division leading Padres, it wasn't going to be a cakewalk. Pedro Feliz didn't make it any easier, failing to do anything to get a run in when he batted with the bases loaded in the first and third innings. Had he done something in either case, the Giants might have been emboldened to fight back with a little more vigor.

As I noted in a prior post, this stretch of games against Atlanta and Florida will probably decide the Giants' fate for the rest of the season. A poor stretch of games would finish any waning hopes of coming back to win the division, barring a miracle return of Bonds soon, and push the team to pursue "present and future" opportunities as Sabean and Colletti has been saying.

I've been hearing rumors of trades for other teams and they reminded me that perhaps Sabean could pull off some sort of "Matt Williams"-like trade where the Giants trade Schmidt for a bunch of good, developing, but not polished players, who could further develop this year with the view of contributing next year. I still think that a trade of Schmidt kisses away both this season and next.

Even a diminished Schmidt would be a good 1 or 2 starter for most teams, you cannot obtain a pitcher like him easily or cheaply, especially now with players of mediocre stats getting $7M+ per season in the past off-season. And it is not like we are like the Marlins with a boatload of pitchers who could be a 1 or 2 starter for most teams, we just got Schmidt. If anything, I see the Giants re-doing his final year of his contract to reduce the cost to the team for 2006 and push $ to later years, like with Vizquel and Matheny.

The silver lining of this drubbing is that Rueter had a stout 5 IP, 1 hit, 0 walk, 0 runs, 0 strikeout, outing. This might win him back his spot in the rotation over Correia, who just did not have it this time, or at least get him closer to getting it back. Tomko was out of the rotation for just one start if I remember right, so Rueter might have to have another good outing, since he didn't have it at all the whole season whereas Tomko had that nice stretch in May.

Plus, Alfonzo and Grissom are going on a minor league rehab to get some ABs before coming back to the majors. So they could be back by the end of July, if not sooner. They would both add to the offense and should help us win a few more games, assuming the starting pitching holds up. Go Giants!