Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 1:00PM Pacific Standard Time is the deadline for MLB teams to make trades without going through waivers. For many teams, it will be the last best shot to make a serious run at the playoffs.
For the Giants and every other MLB franchise the July deadline is not only about your team, it’s also about what other team’s might do. Before 2012, Giant fans might rightly focus their attention on other National League West teams, but with the wild card expanded from one team in each League to two teams concern and attention expands exponentially to multiple teams across all League boarders.
Right now, the Giants (49-40) hold a two game lead over the stumbling Dodgers (48-43) who are 6-18 over their last 24 games. But look at the NL wild card standings. The Giants start a three game series today in Atlanta (49-39), who shares the NL wild card lead with Pittsburgh (49-40). Right behind them are some tough and talented teams: the Dodgers, St. Louis (47-43), and the Mets (46-43).
Two wild card winners in each League now puts an even bigger premium on teams to win their Divisions. Within most Divisions the competition is four other teams and at least two of those likely have very bad losing records. For example in the NL West San Diego is 36-55 and Colorado is 35-54– teams you want to play fighting for a Division win.
MLB teams fighting for a wild card slot face a more intensive level of competition: at least of two of the best three teams in each Division. And that’s where the trade deadline looms so large– who will improve their chances, who will boot an opportunity, and who stays put and crosses their fingers.
The San Francisco Giants have multiple needs, like virtually every other contenting team. The key is prioritizing those needs, then assessing the market of available players, and finally coming to an organizational consensus on what you’re willing to give up to get the player(s) you need.
Teams have to offer either viable everyday players, valuable minor league prospects, money, or combinations of all three. This isn’t sportstalk radio territory– the San Diego Padres aren’t trading Houston Street to the Giants for Nate Schierholtz and Brad Penny. Sorry Bill from Pleasant Hill.
As noted in an earlier blogpost, San Francisco’s biggest need is to realign the bullpen. That could mean filling Santiago Casilla’s 7th-8th inning spot with a hard strike thrower; or it could mean getting a veteran closer and moving Casilla back into the body of the bullpen where he was invaluable.
Either way, beefing up San Francisco’s bullpen is priority #1.
A hitter? Who is available, who would make an impact, and are the Giants willing to give up Gary Brown, Tommy Joseph, Hector Sanchez, or Heath Hembree to get that bat? I actually believe the Giants are in a position to give up a some combination of high end minor league prospects and a current player to get a legtimate hitter.
Despite his current injury, Hector Sanchez has been extremely valuable as a catcher and a hitter to the Giants this season– which makes him extremely attractive to other teams. Sanchez could be the piece that helps get an impact hitter who could be put under team control for a number of years.
Where is the Giants’ greatest need for a hitter? The only logical offensive position for the Giants to upgrade is at lead-off (which likely means an outfielder).
In a perfect world, Atlanta’s Michael Bourn is the ideal pickup for the Giants. But hold on partner.
First, it would likely take giving up Gary Brown and at least a starting pitching prospect to pry Bourn away from the Braves. And second, why on earth would Atlanta trade a player who has a .366 OBP, is tied for second in MLB runs scored (63), and third in MLB hits (115)? To compare, Melky Cabrera has 122 hits.
Here’s why. Bourn, 30, has a one year $6.845m contract with Atlanta, who must determine if they can sign him long term before he hits free agency at the end of the season, or simply trade him now to extract some value.
Would some combination of either Gary Brown/Hector Sanchez/pitching prospects for Michael Bourn be a good trade for San Francisco? Absolutely and get it done.
Brian Sabean is a wily GM who has been to this dance a few times. And ownership should have little problem with taking on payroll to make a final push to the 2012 post season.
But there are, as usual, questions. After losing star minor league pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the Mets last year just to rent Carlos Beltran for two months, does the organization have the will to potentially go down that road again? And do the fans have the patience to lose another star prospect?