Trade Season

Tomorrow is July 1 and that means 30 days until the non-waiver trade deadline passes. Today the Giants lost their second straight game they could have won if they had anything resembling a major league offense.

What this means is start paying attention to MLBTraderumors! It’s going to happen. Sabean always makes moves in July. The question is what will be the philosophy behind the moves that he makes.

The two schools of thought, as I see them are:

  1. Make a big move and cash in some chips for a player who can make a dramatic impact at a position of great need. Sabean and the Giants did this memorably in 1997 and 2003 (though there are other examples). In 1997 the team desperately needed pitching and they added Wilson Alvarez, Ramon Hernandez, and Danny Darwin. It was a significant deal. The 2003 trade for Sidney Ponson can easily be mocked in retrospect but he was the prize of the trade season that year and no one was complaining when the deal was made.
  2. Make a series of small moves and hope that enough of them work out. In other words win a war of attrition. This is the philosophy the team followed last year, adding Burrell in late May, calling up Posey, trading Molina, acquiring Fontenot, Ross, Ramirez, and Lopez.
Here is a very unthorough list of some names that have come up in conjunction with the Giants:
  1. Jose Reyes SS
  2. Alfonso Soriano OF
  3. A whole bunch of catchers including, most recently, Ramon Hernandez and Yorvit Torrealba
  4. Michael Cuddyer OF/1B (he also appeared at 2B this year for the injury plagued Twins)
  5. Carlos Pena 1B
  6. Carlos Beltran OF
  7. Juan Uribe SS/2B/3B
Here’s my opinion of each option:
  1. Jose Reyes fills a huge need in just about every way for the Giants. He is clearly the best example of the first philosophy. The cost will be exorbitant: a new ownership group in NY might think they can re-sign him and he’s having a career year. I’d love to have him but the package the Giants will have to put together to get him would cause us all to vomit and might not even be enough to do the deal anyway.
  2. Soriano is interesting because he represents a different deal than I described above and different from what Sabean typically does. I can’t, without doing some research, remember him engineering a bad contract for bad contract deal (Matt Morris doesn’t count). The only way to really get this done is to make it a Zito for Soriano swap. As evidenced this week, the Cubs could use some pitching help, but I just don’t have any confidence Sabean can get this kind of a deal done. I also don’t really like the trade period: Soriano doesn’t represent enough of an upgrade at this point in his career to carry his contract for 3 more years.
  3. Of the catchers I’ve read about Ramon Hernandez is the most interesting because of his bat. How do the Reds trade him while they are contending though?
  4. Cuddyer is a good player but is he really an improvement over Nate/Cody/Pat and Belt (when he comes back)? Probably not.
  5. Pena is super intriguing because he is a great fielder, he gets on base, and he hits home runs. He’s like the player Pat Burrell was last year but probably better. I also don’t know how the Giants could not afford to take on the rest of his salary considering it’s only for the remainder of the season. No idea what it would take to get him, but the most interesting on this list.
  6. Lefty Malo floated the idea of Beltran the other day. In some ways he’s a good example of a combination of the two philosophies. However, I think the Mets will want some players for him (and Rowand probably won’t be one of those players) and he will have the highest price tag over the remainder of the season.
  7. OOOOREEEEBAY. Sabean quickly shot this one down which actually makes me think there might be something to it. Makes a ton of sense for the Dodgers to get rid of him, and though he’s been super stinky this year, maybe coming back to the Giants would revitalize Juan. That said, the issue remains about his contract over the next two years. It was too much for the Giants at the beginning of the season and it still doesn’t make any sense now. If it was a rental for the rest of the year I’d say do it yesterday, but two years of a fat, terrible Uribe won’t be good for anyone.
This would be my plan for the rest of 2011:
  • Trade for Torrealba
  • Trade for Mike Aviles (he’s fallen out of favor in KC and they have plenty of younger prospects to sort out…we’ll take him) and cut Bill Hall
  • Get healthy: particularly Brandon Belt and Mike Fontenot…quality and depth
CF Torres
2B Aviles
3B Panda
LF Burrell/Belt
1B Huff
RF Cody/Nate
C Torrealba
SS Crawford/Tejada
It’s not perfect and it’s also probably not what will really happen, but I do think that Sabean will follow the plan from last year and make some smaller moves and try to use the teams depth to its advantage.
(-SB)
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Week in Review (6-20/6-26)

Results:

5-1 (44-34, 1.5 game lead in NL West)

9-2 L vs. Min; 5-1 W vs. Min; 2-1 W vs. Min; 4-3 W vs. Cle; 1-0 W vs. Cle; 3-1 W vs. Cle.

I went to the Giants game on Tuesday. It was the first time I’d been to AT&T since 2008 right before I moved to Boston. First time post-World Championship. It was great to spend the day in SF, to stroll around the ballpark, see the new plaques in the walk along right field, see the World Championship flag flying, watch the guys take BP. The weather was incredible. I’ve never been so warm at a night game in San Francisco.

Then the first inning happened. 8 runs. The Giants were coming off a sweep at the hands of the A’s. A 4 game losing streak was turning into 5. The Giants were falling out of first place. Fans booed MadBum. The Giants proceeded to “win” the rest of the game 2-1 and then burn off a five game winning streak of their own (scoring 15 runs in the process…yes, that is 3 runs per victory).

So what does all of this mean? The Giants are the worst offensive (or is that most offensive) team in the National League and yet are winning their division. It seems like there is no way they can keep that up. And yet, here they are. Best bullpen in the game right now, maybe one of the best ever. A group of starters that can shut any lineup down at any time. The Giants will hit the half-way mark in Chicago later this week…it’s been a great first half given all the adversity this team has had to face and yet you can’t help but wonder what it would be like to watch this team at full strength. There will be a trade, so be prepared…let’s hope it’s a smart one.

Hitter of the Week:

Let’s give it up for the catchers. Eli Whiteside tweaked his leg but over the last two weeks is hitting .286 with a home run and 5 RBI. When you adjust for Team that puts his WAR in Jose Bautista territory. Chris Stewart has not been as good, but when taken together they are at .256 with 3 runs, 1 HR, and 7 RBI over the last 14 days. Stewart has thrown out 6 of 10 basestealers and the pitchers seem to really love throwing to him (Timmy’s 12 k game, Cain gem on Saturday, and Bumgarner’s bounce back game last night). I’ll be honest, it’s super depressing that this has to be what we talk about in the hitter of the week section, and these guys are not going to make us miss Buster Posey any less, but I think we can admit that the catchers are not the most pressing issue in the lineup currently.

Pitcher of the Week:

Huge props to the Big Three (Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner) for turning in maybe their best starts of the year this week. Props as well to Ryan Vogelsong for continuing to do his thing. Brian Wilson also had a week of delicious awesomeness. But let’s tip our caps to two guys who can get lost in the shuffle: Guillermo Mota and Jeremy Affeldt. Mota hung 4 and 2/3 scoreless on the Twins in the wake of Bum’s day to forget and saved many arms. It’s arguable that the rest of the week does not go as well if he gets shelled too. Not a big believer in momentum, but I was not surprised to see the team bounce back so nicely in the rest of the series after that debacle…thank you Guillermo.

Affeldt was probably the best non-closer reliever in MLB in 2008-2009 with the Reds and Giants and then ran into injury and control issues last year. He lost his standing in the BP thanks to Romo and Lopez, but he seems to be regaining his form. If he gets back to the 08-09 level of dominance (and it sure looked like he was there last night: 2 innings and 5 ks for the save, and it looked like the Indians had no chance against him) then look out world: no team will have 5 relievers as good as Wilson/Romo/Lopez/Casilla/Affeldt. All are capable of getting strikeouts and ground balls in the right situation. Pure nasty.

Coming up: Day off Monday, double-header with the Cubs on Tuesday (including the return of Zito), 2 more in Chicago, and then on to Detroit for what should be another low scoring inter league match up. Go Giants!

(-SB)

State of the Nation(als)

This has been a year of ups and downs for the good ole Nationals.  Yesterday obviously changed the course of their season and really stirred up this town.  If you haven’t heard yet, Jim Riggleman resigned abruptly after the team beat Seattle.  What makes this more interesting, is the team just got above 500 and they are on a tear (winning 11 of 12).  Let me argue the both sides of this decision.

First, let’s look at this from Rigg’s side.  During the course of his career, he has been a part of a lot of smaller contracts.  He has never signed the “big one” and probably wanted the opportunity.  He had just gotten his team above 500, and I’m guessing, thought now was a time to make a stand.    He has stated that he only wanted a conversation about his contract and Mike Rizzo (VP of something) wouldn’t give him a chat.  Super freaking duper.  Suck it up and coach, Riggs.  I don’t get this move at all. You signed the contract in the first place, now you need to coach under it.  If he would have performed all year-long, I’m sure he would have been signed to a longer deal.

Let’s now look at this from the National’s perspective.  Mike Rizzo doesn’t owe Riggleman a conversation about his contract mid-season.  Yes, Riggs was performing decently, but the Nationals are building something great… if not scary for the rest of the division.  Lets add some more color to that thought.  We all know about the massive contract for Jason Werth and the electric stuff of Stephen Strasburg.  The latter comes back at some point this year and Bryce Harper looms as a scary threat.  That brings us to this year’s draft where the Nationals had the #6, #23, and #34 picks in a very deep and strong draft.  All of this is to say that the Nationals are legitimately poised for something good.  They need and deserve the right manager.  Riggleman could have been that manager, but they needed to be sure.  I don’t fault them for not re-signing him mid-season, I actually applaud them.  Riggs blew it.

Some genius baseball monk stated before the season that the Nationals should be about 500 by midseason and then fall back.  They look like they should make his prediction true.  Let’s see how they perform under interim manager John Mclaren.

(-JS)

*editor’s note: the Nationals hired Davey Johnson to replace Riggleman today.

Game Day!

My apologies: baseballmonk has been on a bit of a vacation recently. But Steve is currently in California and attending the game tonight vs. the Twins. Regular posting will resume next week, but if you are at the game tonight and sitting in left field look for a dude wearing a Vizquel t-shirt, or just yell BaseballMonk and well chat. Need a win today!

(-SB)

Ramblings…

Some random baseball thoughts before this monk heads out on vacation (which will involve seeing a live Giants game at AT&T…yes!)

– Still super impressed with Brandon Crawford. The rumor mill is churning and it looks like Tejada is out when Pablo comes back. Good riddance.

– Fantasy tidbits: my boy Yovani Gallardo pitches tonight and I hope the turn around continues. My other favorite draft day gold mind right now is David Ortiz: AMAZING production for an 11th round pick!

– I think I may have to give up on my A’s prediction. They’ve gone in the tank and lost 9 in a row and might be losing their best pitcher for the rest of the season.

– The Red Sox have passed the Yankees now for first place in the East. I am still amazed at how “good” the Yanks pitching has been so far this season. Statistically they are among the top 3 in the AL. Sorry, but no way that continues.

– What about Jake Fox as a catching option? He had a ridiculous spring training (which doesn’t mean much) and was released by the Orioles yesterday (probably because of some guy named Matt Weiters). Anyway, he has some pop, but I have no idea what kind of catching skills he has (it appears not much). Could be a cheap way to upgrade the offensive production from that position.

– Still think it’s going to be the Rockies and Giants for the West. Colorado’s pitching has been well above league average (which surprised me) while their offense is as bad as the Giants (also surprising). You know they will score runs at some point, and I just can’t see Arizona hanging in there all season.

That’s all. Hope to keep the weekly rundowns coming even while I am away.

(-SB)

A Giant Hole

So in the past few weeks I’ve had a son be born and Buster Posey proved that he is actually a human being and not a superhero from a distant alien world (or at least is pretending to be mortal just to stop people from being suspicious, I’m choosing to believe this option). The one thing this does is take out of the Giants lineup their identity, the one current player who, I believe, formed the basis of the Giants offense, and even though Posey wasn’t tearing it up yet, he was playing a large role in the success of the Giants. Now we have Eli Whiteside who is definitely NOT a superhero. So what should the Giants do? Catcher is a notoriously shallow position across the league, with only a handful of teams having any real depth at all, and even rarer is a catcher who contributes significantly to the offense of your baseball team. (Honestly at this point I think it’s just Brian McCann, Yadier Molina and Jonathan Lucroy). So what should the Giants do? Here are some options.

David Ross: Considered by many to be the best backup catcher in all of baseball, Atlanta’s David Ross would be a perfect fit. He’s a veteran, he has some pop and the ability to put the ball into play, and he can call a good game and has experience working with a younger pitching staff. Will the Giants get him? No. Why? Because he’s the best backup catcher in all of baseball.

Ivan Rodriguez: The Washington Nationals are one of only a handful of teams in baseball with any real catching depth and Pudge seems like he would be the only that Giants would be able to pry away from the former Expos. The problem is I-Rod is nowhere near the offensive player he used to be, with hash line of .215/.271/.342 in 24 games with 2 HR’s and 15 RBI’s. His arm isn’t as good as it used to be either, so that part of his game is also a negative. The plus? Great experience and knows how to catch a game, but honestly for the kind of offensive production that he would provide the Giants I would keep Whiteside and save money and prospects.

Mike Rivera/George Kottaras: The Milwaukee Brewers are probably the best team for catching depth that I’m aware of in the Majors right now, and that’s why I think they would be a great trade candidate. Two players, Mike Rivera and George Kottaras, both in AAA and both removed from the Brewers 40 man roster make these two excellent choices. Rivera is currently hitting .267/.333/.533 with 4 HR’s and 14 RBI’s in AAA while Kottaras is hitting .300/.395/.443 with 1 HR and 12 RBI’s. Of course those are AAA numbers and Rivera is a career .239 hitter in 9 seasons while Kottaras is a career .217 hitter in 4 seasons, but the thing that is appealing about these two, other than the fact that they could probably be had for cheap, is that neither have had the opportunity to be THE guy at the catching position, but have shown good potential, especially Kottaras who was blocked in Boston and actually did fairly well last season in Milwaukee when given a shot. Will either of these guys turn around the offense? No, but they’re young and have potential above an Eli Whiteside.

Bengie Molina: The former Giants catcher that was love/not loved for many seasons is a free agent and could be had without giving up any players. The guy is a career .274 hitter and had his best seasons in San Francisco, hitting a career high 20 HR’s in 2009 and a career high in RBI’s (95) in 2008. The down side? He was absolutely atrocious last season in San Francisco and had a horrible attitude, threatening to retire if Posey took over full-time catching duties. So the Giants traded him and won the World Series (Note: The Giants are currently the World Series Champions, this is not a lie implanted into your brain by Leonardo DiCaprio.) Honestly I don’t think it would help at all, if anything bringing him back could hurt the team more, but he is VERY familiar with this pitching staff, and players like Lincecum and Cain have raved about his ability to call a game and help them develop.

Bryce Harper: HA!

Eli Whiteside/Chris Stewart/Random minor league catcher: Our current option. Honestly is this that bad? Kinda, but Whiteside has shown to be a competent catcher in the past and Chris Stewart is probably about equal to almost any backup in the league right now. The offense will suffer, yes, but Whiteside is a player the Giants are familiar with and that stability is crucial right now. In addition Eli caught a no-hitter for a certain Giants pitcher (Jonathan Sanchez, just FYI) and that can’t be a bad thing.

In conclusion I wouldn’t mind George Kottaras or Mike Rivera, but the best bet is for the Giants is probably to stay put. Like I said above, the issue isn’t that Buster Posey was tearing up the ball, the bigger issue is that the Giants entire offense needs to get going, and no catcher the Giants could get would do that, that’s a job for Pablo Sandoval.

(-NW)

Third Time Is {Probably} The Charm

June updates to predictions? DONE! Nick Waltz style…

AL East:

I thought all along that the tales of the Red Sox demise was foolish at best, and now I look like a freaking genius. Sox are still my pick for the AL East but I’m changing my Wild Card pick to the Rays. A few reasons: They’ve played out of their minds since Manny left town, and the reworked bullpen ACTUALLY IS WORKING! Their biggest strength last year became their biggest weakness and now it’s a strength all over again. By the way, look at this lineup: Sam Fuld? Johnny Damon? Kyle Farnsworth as your closer? You’ve got to be kidding me, but it’s WORKING. Amazing. Plus I hate the Yankees.

AL Central:

So the Twins are done and the White Sox are looking like it? Amazing. Nothing in the American League Central makes sense this season. I want to stick with the Indians winning the Central (Which was my new pick after picking the White Sox at the beginning of the season), but I have to agree with the great and wise Josh Stover: Tigers look good, and I honestly think they are underperforming right now. Plus there is no way a team could look like one of the 3 worst teams going into the season and ending up being one of the top 3 teams right? Right?

AL West:

So a funny thing happened while no one was looking: The Mariners are 1.5 games back of Texas, and this is happening with Ichiro apparently forgetting he’s one of the greatest hitters ever to play baseball. Amazing. However I’m picking the Rangers to win the division this year. Oakland is looking like they are about to fall down hill fast, and the Los Anaheim Angels of Anaheim have no offense. especially with Morales gone for the whole season yet again. The M’s have no one hitting for them either, which means the Rangers, who were in good shape offensively already before Beltre started  killing it for them this season, will only be better has Hamilton comes back to form, plus you’re looking at a very good rotation still.

NL East:

So the Phillies are still the team to beat, or rather their rotation is, and so they stay my pick for the NL East champs, but what the heck is going on with Florida? They’re making me doubt picking the Braves to win the Wild Card, until I noticed that Josh Johnson is now on the DL and that’ll affect them a LOT. Braves still win the WC but they have some middle relief issues that needs solving, and Dan Uggla needs to stop doing his best impression of Carlos Pena and start getting on base.

NL Central:

The Brewers continue to impress me each time I watch them play. Rickie Weeks is crazy good and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have put together incredible offensive season almost completely under the radar, which makes no sense to me at all. Jonathan Lucroy is the hottest young catcher in baseball and Shaun Marcum is showing how good he really is, all this while Zach Greinke isn’t pitching at his peak yet. Brewers still for the win.

NL West:

What in the world? Arizona is in first? This league is crazy. Losing Posey is a huge blow, but the Rockies took a bigger one with De La Rosa out for the year, so instead of a Giants/Rockies chase, it’s not a Giants/Diamondbacks chase. Will Arizona continue to perform this well? Who the heck knows, but I do know that I’d take the Giants pitching over theirs, (and that includes the bullpen) 100 times out of 100, and there is NO WAY the Giants continue to hit so poorly. Hopefully Huff’s 3 HR night breaks him out and when Pablo comes back, watch out. Giants still win this one.

(-NW)