Imagine a baseball team as a chess set.
Every piece is important; they are all necessary to ensure the defeat of an opponent. The valuable tokens, kings and queens, are vulnerable without smart play from the pawns (rooks and bishops). It is the manager's job to orchestrate these tokens, to know what they can do and utilize them wisely.
But what happens when fate's arm accidentally bumps the board and half the pieces fall off?
The San Francisco Giants are hurting. Pablo Sandoval broke his other hamate bone (via SF Gate). Now he only needs a ruptured appendix to complete the superfluous body parts injury trifecta. Jeremey Affeldt is on the disabled list because his kid jumped into his knee, according to the Washington Post. Freddy Sanchez continues a rehab stint that grows ever ranker with the stink of a finished career. Yesterday, Guillermo Mota earned himself a 100-game suspension for a second PED infraction, according to the Huffington Post.
In short, it may be time for some metaphorical fresh blood. A look at the active roster as it stands today features this list of infielders:
- Joaquin Arias
- Brandon Belt
- Emmanuel Burriss
- Brandon Crawford
- Conor Gillaspie
- Aubrey Huff
- Brett Pill
- Ryan Theroit
At present, only Huff remains from the team that took the World Series two seasons ago. Along with him in the first base brigade are Belt and Pill. That leaves three infield positions being collectively fielded by five unproven prospects and one slumping veteran.
Concerning seems a bit of an understatement.
What about the bullpen? Always a point of pride for the pitching-driven Giants, 2012 has seen the most significant decline of bullpen talent since the team became world champions. The relievers on the roster:
- Travis Blackley
- Santiago Casilla
- Steve Edlefsen
- Clay Hensley
- Javier Lopez
- Sergio Romo
Noticeably absent is Brian Wilson, who underwent his second Tommy John surgery last month and is slated to miss the entire season (via Mercury News). Familiar faces include Romo and Lopez, who are both in the midst of pitching woes.
Statistics aside, both have looked ruffled on the mound, struggling to regain the dominance fans and opponents have come to expect from them. Toss in Casilla learning the ropes as the team's new de-facto closer, and things are rather uncertain for a bullpen known for its reliability.
Where does the greater need lie?
Essentially it comes to down to this question: Is it more likely the infielder rookies will come around or that the bullpen talent will rediscover itself? I have to side with the bullpen. Certainly Lopez and Romo haven't been awful, and pitching mechanics can take longer to sort out than hitting flaws.
There is no reason to think Romo, Lopez, Affeldt and Casilla will fail to bring the clutch play they were signed for.
On to the infield. Aubrey Huff is a gaping question mark, in terms of if he's a starter, if he'll break for the DL again and what he truly has left in the tank. With Belt delivering superior capabilities with his bat and his glove, the Giants would be wise to cut Huff Daddy and give their prospect the time he deserves to establish himself as a major-leaguer.
Gillespie is a band-aid until Sandoval recovers, so there's no need to worry too much about that roster spot. That leaves the team in need of an upgrade among Arias, Burriss, Theriot, Crawford and Pill.
Brandon Crawford has been a massive failure at shortstop.
Crawford defenders argued at the season's onset that people's skepticism about his worthiness as a starter were unfounded and unfair. Not anymore. All Crawford is good for at the moment is three to five outs and some ugly defense. So far in 2012, Crawford has six errors and .198 BA.
The smart move is to option him down and let Arias and Theriot platoon the position.
If Brian Sabean could buy some magic second basemen powder and sprinkle it over Brett Pill, the majority of issues surrounding the infield would be somewhat nullified. Maybe he could toss a dash Hector Sanchez's way too. I like Pill, and I'm definitely liking Sanchez. Unfortunately, neither is qualified to play second base, which leaves Burriss and Theriot.
Unless Freddy Sanchez really does come back this month, as some reports have indicated, it is the position most in need of player by trade.
Perhaps Huff could be offered as a DH option, or we could finally part ways with the beloved Nate Schierholtz, who try as he might, will never be a full-fledged starter. Gregor Blanco has a bat you want in your lineup, so the sting of losing Schierholtz wouldn't hurt quite so much.
Regardless of the cost, the Giants need to upgrade at second if they want to be considered a serious threat against surging foes like the Dodgers.
In short, it's trade or checkmate.