Three National League teams contending for either a Division title or one of two Wild Card spots traded for a second baseman in the final days and hours leading up to the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline.
Just as he did at the July 2013 trading deadline, Giants GM Brian Sabean not only failed to make any of the deals his team desperately needs if they’re going to make a serious post season push, he took time to celebrate the fact.
After the deadline, Sabean congratulated himself for standing still as other National League teams made multiple deals to improve their chances. Sabean gave what can only be described as a troubling quote to reporter Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle: “I’m pleased to say we might be deeper than we thought.”
The Giants’ greatest need was at second base, followed closely by the outfield and augmenting the starting staff. While San Francisco was loudly patting itself on the back for not making any moves, three contenting National League teams each added a second baseman in their push for October:
The Los Angeles Dodgers picked up 2012 gold glove winning second baseman Darwin Barney from the Cubs to strengthen their infield defense. Barney also played some shortstop in the minors.
Deeper than they were before are the Washington Nationals, who traded for Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera will see a lot of time at second base for the Nats the rest of the season.
Other contending NL teams also added additional punch to their 2014 attack.
The Milwaukee Brewers picked up outstanding outfielder Gerardo Parra from the D’Backs; St. Louis added two starters, Justin Masterson from Cleveland and John Lackey from the Red Sox; and the Miami Marlins picked up shortstop Enrique Hernandez and two young starting pitchers in Jarred Cosart and prospect Austin Wates from the Houston Astros.
It was probably just a coincidence that just yesterday the San Francisco front office told the local media that the team is hopeful that the impending return of injured outfielder Angel Pagan and injured first baseman Brandon Belt will make a difference.
Pagan has a chronic back problem that limited him to 71 games in 2013 and 63 games this season. It astounds me that the team is publicly pinning its hopes for postseason play on Pagan when he is obviously returning at less than 100%.
Brandon Belt has suffered through two injuries this season, and has a .758 OPS and a .242 BA. Most troubling is Belt’s on base percentage which is down to .304. Sports concussion injuries are now thankfully taken much more seriously and properly treated. The hope is that Belt can find his stride in the next month and a half.
In the meantime Brandon Crawford now leads all NL shortstops with 16 errors; Crawford had 15 errors in 2013 and 18 errors in 2012. Routine plays have increasingly become a problem for Crawford, so much that Manager Bruce Bochy hinted a week ago that Crawford may see some time at second base this season.
So what will it take for the San Francisco Giants to win enough games the rest of the way to grab a Wild Card slot this October?
With 54 games left to play, if San Francisco plays at their current .537 rate (which includes the winning start in April/May) , they will finish with 87 wins– hardly enough to beat St. Louis, Atlanta, or Pittsburgh to the Wild Card finish line. Even if the Giants play at an accelerated .575 pace, they end up with only 89 wins– close, but not likely close enough.
To end the season with 92 wins, and actual on-field access to post season play, the Giants would have to play the final 54 games at a brisk .625 winning percentage, ending up at 92-70.
The problem is that calls for a significantly higher level of talent than San Francisco can put on the field every day.
And that doesn’t mean the players aren’t playing hard, or don’t care– they play hard and they give a damn. Simply put, the team San Francisco assembled out of Spring Training 2014 was one dimensional, dependent on mediocre players having career years, and dependent on a daily batting line-up with only four qualities hitters (Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Angel Pagan).
Increasingly, Giants’ management and ownership is relying more on their ability to manipulate their pliant fan base rather than doing all that inside baseball stuff needed to build competitive and talented 25 and 40-man rosters.
So we have things like the embarrassing Dan Uggla signing, Gregor Blanco (.245 BA/.636 OPS) playing in 94 games, and trying to convince the fans that Brandon Hicks (.162 BA/.599 OPS) was the answer at second base for 71 games. And so on.
So join the richest ownership group in Major League Baseball as the San Francisco Giants pop the champagne and light huge cigars to celebrate not taking risks, not making any trade deadline moves, and keeping their phantom player salary “budget” as low as possible.
Now get out to AT&T Park, buy lots of those garlic fries and Polish dogs, then be sure to jump up and down when they announce yet another sold out game.