Major League Baseball in 2013 is a different beast than a decade ago. It used to be, poor teams said goodbye to their best players and rich teams signed them up to fat contracts and then won a bunch of baseball games. But free agency has turned into an incredibly inefficient system. Over the past couple of years you can rattle off several names that came at steep prices for minimal returns (and that’s just the Angels, boom!).
This is partly why the Giants are either mad-geniuses or simply mad for jumping the gun and locking up Pence and Lincecum. It’s also why I’m not super excited about the list of potential free agents out there (see yesterdays post).
What this means is that trades have become THE way to exploit inefficiencies and improve your team quickly. The Red Sox are an extreme example but their mega-trade with the Dodgers in August of 2012 is the reason they were able to construct the roster that just won them the world series.
The Atlanta Braves are a great example of all these points: brilliant trade to land an impact bat in Justin Upton, and poor free agent decision in signing his brother, BJ, to an expensive deal.
All of this to say: should the Giants explore trades instead of simply adding players through free agency?
My bold answer: probably.
One of the things that makes off-season trade ideas difficult is determining who is actually available. So, far though, we’ve heard rumors of several players placed on the block by their teams. The quick list:
1) David Price: Price is the prize of the trade rumor mill this winter. The Dodgers are already hatching evil plans, and just about anyone who has any kind of decent prospect is going to be floated because Price is good and cheap for another year or so. He would look great in orange and black and go a LONG way to restoring order. The price (pun intended) will be STEEP.
2) Brandon Phillips: Andrew Baggarly’s been pushing this for a couple of weeks, mainly because he wants an all-Brandon infield, but there are things to like here. He’d be a big defensive upgrade over Scutaro, and he’d allow Scutaro to take on a utility role that he might be better suited to at this stage in his career. I think his power would play well at AT&T and his inside-out swing could pound triples ally. He won’t come cheap either but certainly less than Price.
3) Mark Trumbo: Trumbo is not a complete player by any stretch of the imagination but he can hit home runs. He’s an Adam Dunn/all or nothing type who could decline pretty quickly, but the home runs will be tempting.
4) Daniel Murphy: Murphy is the kind of guy that Brian Sabean loves. He is scrappy. He doesn’t walk a ton, doesn’t strike out a ton, doesn’t hit for a ton of power, and has a decent average. He’ll fit right in. On a less sarcastic note, Murphy is lefty swinger who has played 2nd, 1st, 3rd, and the outfield making him an ideal platoon partner with Scutaro at 2nd and a right-handed power hitter in left. I find it nearly impossible to believe this deal doesn’t get done.
5) Dark Horse: no idea who this might be, but I hope the Giants remember the Sanchez for Melky trade. I love the idea of buying low on a young player that someone else is frustrated with.
I have no idea what the Giants would/could/should offer for these guys. Perhaps another post for another time. I would like to offer the following suggestions:
Don’t Trade These Guys:
- Pablo Sandoval: The Panda would probably fetch the biggest (once again, pun intended) return of anyone on the Giants roster. However, it is my belief that a highly motivated Panda is going to have a huge 2014 season as he heads into free agency. I totally understand the school of thought that says “turn that potential into gold,” but the Giants want to win now and I believe the best way to do that is keep the Panda and let him mash away in their lineup.
- Brandon Belt: Belt could also be a great chip, although not as bountiful as the Panda. I feel the Giants should keep Belt for much of the same reasons: he’s really starting to put it together and unless someone backs up the truck for BB keep him and reap the benefits of patience.
- Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton, Heath Hembree, and Edwin Escobar: I am no prospect expert. I try to keep my eye on things but this is not a place I can really claim to know what I am talking about. So, my completely gut-based assessment of our system is that these 4 are untouchable (plus anyone drafted this year). This means I would be ok trading Clayton Blackburn and Gary Brown and others. I might be wrong about Blackburn but he seems the least likely of our top arms to develop into a top-notch starter. I might be eating my words on this, but if we need to move a prospect to make a good deal happen I’d be ok with this one. The other 4, not so much.
My offseason predictions: trade for Daniel Murphy, sign Bronson Arroyo, add a piece to the bench and bullpen. My dream: Carlos Beltran. Let’s do this Sabes.