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Giants Freeze At the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline

ball-biting-batEach year, the MLB non-waiver trade deadline produces innumerable “winners and losers” lists from Baseball sports writers around the country. It’s an opportunity for fans to step away from local broadcast and print media happy-talk about their baseball team and get a sense of what the national press thinks.

For Giants fans, a quick survey of 2010 non-waiver trade deadline winners/losers lists around the Majors will not be reassuring. First, a large number of those lists don’t even include the Giants, suggesting the Giants’ front office did nothing of substance to critique. For the record, San Francisco picked up lefty reliever Javier Lopez from the Pirates, giving up pitcher Joe Martinez and minor league outfielder John Bowker, and got righty reliever Ramon Ramirez from the Red Sox for Double A pitcher Dan Turpen.

The 2010 trade assessment lists that do include the San Francisco Giants put them solidly in the losing column; thankfully they do not appear at the top of any “loser” lists I could find.

Several samples:
                                                              Winners      Losers
Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports              Rangers     White Sox
                                                              Padres        Giants
                                                              Phillies        Red Sox

Jason Stark, ESPN                           Rangers     White Sox
                                                              Padres       Blue Jays
                                                              Yankees    Baltimore
                                                             Astros         Giants

Frankie Piliere, MLB FanHouse     Yankees     Red Sox
                                                              Astros         Giants
                                                              Rangers     Tigers

Jeff Passan of Yahoo wrote, “This is a Giants team with the sort of starting pitching depth that begged for a deal. Whether it was Jose Bautista or Corey Hart or any other big bat, the Giants needed to wave goodbye to Jonathan Sanchez. Another missed opportunity for GM Brian Sabean.”

From Jason Stark of ESPN: “Not dealing for [a bat] could turn into one of those critical missed opportunities to go deep into October. ‘They should have found a bat, no doubt about it,’ said one NL executive. ‘They’ve got the best pitching in the league. Give that team a little more offense, and look out.’”

In reality, Brian Sabean did pretty much what he did last year, when he traded for Ryan Garko and Freddie Sanchez, picking up two non-impact payers for a team rich with pitching and in serious need of more offense. As they have since 2006, the Giants front office continues to be unable to effectively use their deep pitching resources to craft a consistently effective run-scoring offense.

Despite the Giants sitting on the sidelines, the trade wire for hitters was sizzling this year. For example, the San Diego Padres delt for Miguel Tejada of the Orioles (199 hits, .313 AVG with 46 doubles in 2009) and immediately batted him 4th in their line-up at shortstop. What did they give up? Wynn Pelzer, a Double A pitcher at San Antonio with a 6-9 record and a 4.20 ERA this year. Pelzer was the Padres’ 9th round pick in the 2007 amateur draft. Oh, and the Padres also received $1.15 million from Baltimore as part of that deal.

Since we’re talking about San Diego, let’s mention another bat they picked up: outfielder Ryan Ludwick from the St. Louis Cardinals, who was part of a three team deal that included the Cleveland Indians. Ludwick knocked in 97 RBIs in 2009 with 22 home runs. What did the Padres give up? Class A pitcher Nick Greenwood, who is 4-4 with a 4.15 ERA at Fort Wayne.

While these moves were being made, and other teams around the Majors were managing to pick up quality bats, Giants GM Brian Sabean consistently fed the local Bay Area media the same tired party line he has expertly developed over the years: every team he talks to about a deal for a hitter demands a Giants starting pitcher, like Jonathan Sanchez. Oddly enough, virtually all other Major League teams apparently deal with each other at all levels of their organizations and routinely make deals, except when Brian Sabean is looking for a bat.

How can this be? Over the past five years, how can so many other teams manage to land quality Major League hitters by packaging deals that feature double A and single A players, while the Giants are being held hostage for their best pitchers? The problem is not the quality of the Giants’ minor league system, which is rated very high, the problem continues to be a Giants front office rooted in the past, unable to develop long-term planning strategies, their negotiating creativity frozen in fear of giving up any pitching.

Because of the many emails I get from San Francisco Giants fans who apparently, 1) just started following the Giants this year and are unaware of the team’s recent history; or, 2) have been sniffing so much amyl nitrate that it’s no longer possible to keep track of any day-to-day information, I have to again remind the faithful of Brian Sabean’s dismal track record the past five seasons:

2005 – 3rd place, 87 losses.
2006 – 2nd place (SD and LA tied for 1st), 85 losses
2007 – last place, 91 losses
2008 – 4th place, 90 losses
2009 – 3rd place, 74 losses

Despite the lackluster abilities of the front office, the Giants have come to life offensively the past month, and they are now pushing San Diego hard at the top of the National League West. The critical balancing act here is, which is the real team— the April/May/June third place squad or the resurgent run scoring line-up led by hard chargers Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff? 

Watching the July 2010 Giants every day, this could be a team that not only makes the playoffs, but could potentially dominate throughout the playoffs. They’ll just have to do it without much support from the front office. What a story it will be.

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