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.