Melky and Posey are excellent, but they need another thumper in the lineup.
The San Francisco Giants enter play on Saturday just a half-game behind the first place Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. The Dodgers new ownership group is flush with cash, and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will soon come off of the disabled list to rejuvenate the struggling squad.
With the trade deadline fast approaching, the Giants have some obvious holes that need filling by General Manager Brian Sabean. Sabean, the game's longest-tenured GM, has made several bold moves during his tenure—including a big splash at last season's trading deadline to acquire Carlos Beltran for top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler.
This year the Giants have two clear needs this season: power and pitching depth.
With Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito struggling in the rotation and closer Brian Wilson out for the year, the Giants pitching staff could use reinforcements.
Offensively, Buster Posey leads the team in home runs, but he is only on pace to hit 19. The Giants are second to last in all of baseball in home runs—highlighting their need to acquire some thump.
However, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the addition of two more wild card playoff teams and the overall parity that exists in baseball will likely put a damper on trade activity this year.
The new CBA prevents teams from offering salary arbitration to impending free agents acquired mid-season. This prevents the acquiring team from receiving draft pick compensation if they are unable to re-sign the player they acquired at the deadline.
In the past, a team like the Phillies—who are quickly falling out of contention—would deal impending free agents like Cole Hamels and Shane Victorino for top prospects. However, teams are going to be less likely to sell the farm for a two-month rental because under the new CBA they can no longer replenish the farm system by collecting draft picks if they are unable to re-sign their rental player.
Right now, only the Cubs, Astros, Rockies, Padres and Mariners are more than 10 games out of a playoff spot. The Rockies and Padres are in the same division as the Giants, making them unlikely trading partners. The Twins are nine games out of a playoff spot, but they just gave a contract extension to the veteran Ryan Doumit, a clear sign that they are not in full rebuilding mode.
That leaves the Cubs, Astros, Mariners and perhaps the Kansas City Royals (seven games out) as the most likely trading partners for the Giants.
Let's take a look at five potential upgrades that the Giants can make at the deadline to propel them to their second NL West crown in three years.
The Giants top home run hitter is on pace for only 19 big flies, and Josh Willingham has already launched 18 home runs in the first half of the season. The 33-year-old left fielder is hitting .265/.377/.537 and is on pace for 35 home runs.
Willingham signed a 3-year, $21 million contract with the Twins this past offseason. He won't come cheap, given his power and team-friendly contract. However, the Twins are desperate to rebuild their pitching staff, so it is possible that they could sell high on him in order to acquire pitching prospects.
Willingham would not be a rental like Carlos Beltran was last year, and he would give the Giants insurance in case they are unable to retain impending free agent Melky Cabrera. Putting Willingham behind Cabrera and in front of Pablo Sandoval and Posey would give the Giants one of the best lineups in the National League.
Jed Lowrie is third in all of baseball amongst qualifying shortstops in OPS, while Brandon Crawford is 19th.
Crawford is the Giants starting shortstop for his glove, but his offense is so weak that he needs to play defense like Ozzie Smith to give the Giants value.
Alas, Crawford has nonetheless struggled with the glove at times this year, making his hold on the position tenuous.
If the Giants cannot acquire a power threat like Willingham, upgrading their weakest offensive position with Lowrie would be an excellent alternative.
In 2010, Sabean was close to upgrading the Giants right field position by acquiring David DeJesus from the Kansas City Royals. Before the trade was finalized, DeJesus suffered a season-ending injury, the Giants ended up acquiring Cody Ross off of waivers from the Marlins instead...and the rest was history.
Like Willingham, DeJesus is under contract beyond this season, so he would not be a short-term rental, and he would serve as insurance in case the Giants lose Cabrera and Angel Pagan in free agency.
He is not a power hitter, but his .272/.361/.389 batting line would be a slight upgrade over the struggling Gregor Blanco, who is hitting .251/.338/.377 entering play on Saturday.
Barry Zito had a solid first half, posting a 4.01 ERA and nine quality starts in 17 tries. However, his 1.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests that his first half success is not likely to carry over into the second half.
Tim Lincecum only had four quality starts during the first half, while posting an atrocious 6.08 ERA. He's been the Tim Lincecum of old out of the wind-up, but once runners get on base, he looks more like a right-handed Jonathan Sanchez than a former Cy Young winner.
Acquiring a veteran starter like Ryan Dempster would bolster the Giants rotation, and allow them to bolster the bullpen by moving Lincecum into a late-inning role.
Dempster, 35, will come off of the disabled list tomorrow. In 81 innings this season, he has posted a 2.11 ERA and a 3.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Giants have given Lincecum every opportunity to right the ship in the rotation, but it is time to accept that it just might not happen this season. In a relief role, Lincecum would be tough to hit. His fastball velocity would play up, and his four-pitch mix would be lethal if he was only going through a lineup one time.
Lincecum may not want to go to the bullpen, but the Giants cannot afford to keep running out a starter with one of the worst ERAs in the game. Given his small frame and the wear-and-tear of throwing over 1,110 innings in the big leagues, a move to the bullpen may be the second act that is necessary to save his career.
If Lincecum can somehow get his act together in the rotation during the second half, the Giants' need for a starter would be less acute.
If Santiago Casilla continues to struggle in the closer role, acquiring Jonathan Broxton from Kansas City would allow the Giants to move Casilla back to the seventh inning while leaving Sergio Romo in a setup role.
Broxton has a shiny 1.99 ERA, a 95 MPH fastball and an 88 MPH slider. He also has more closing experience than anyone currently on the Giants roster. However, his 6.54 strikeouts per nine innings does not match up well with his excellent ERA and velocity.
It would be nice to acquire a proven closer who could blow the ball past hitters, but Broxton has not shown the ability to miss bats this season. However, as long as the asking price is low, taking a chance to see if Broxton can rediscover the ability to strike hitters out would be a risk worth taking.