Giants Trade Scenarios: 5 Deals San Francisco Could Make to Boost Playoff Odds
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Every season since 2004, the San Francisco Giants have had the same problem: they can't hit. Ever since Barry Bonds' final MVP season buoyed an otherwise mediocre offense in 2004, the Giants have been in the bottom half of the league in scoring.
Led by Bonds' insane .362/.609/.812 batting line in 2004, the Giants finished seventh in the league in scoring. Since that season, the Giants have finished 29th, 24th, 29th, 29th, 26th, 17th, 29th and 26th so far this season in scoring.
As it turns out, if you take the greatest player in the history of baseball away from general manager Brian Sabean, he doesn't have the competence to build even a mediocre offense, with the exception of the World Series team in 2010.
Alas, Bonds is not walking through the door to save the Giants offense this season. However, there are some players on the trade market who could significantly improve the team offensively.
After a weekend in which the Giants scored just three runs while being swept into a first place tie by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, who recently acquired a big bat in Hanley Ramirez, the time to act is now.
While Sabean told Jim Bowden of ESPN and Sirius XM radio that a big bat doesn't exist, here are five potentially available bats that could bolster the Giants' tepid offense in a significant way: Shin-Soo Choo, Alfonso Soriano, Hunter Pence, Yunel Escobar and Justin Morneau.
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Choo will become a free agent after next season, and there is likely no chance that the small-market Cleveland Indians can extend him beyond next year.
Choo would be the best hitter on the market if the Indians decide to deal him. For his career, he is hitting .292/.383/.475, and after a down year last season, he's hitting a very robust .291/.378/.484 with 12 home runs this season.
Choo, 30, would also serve as insurance in the outfield next season in case the Giants cannot re-sign Melky Cabrera. He would not be a rental like Carlos Beltran was last season, as the Giants would control him for two pennant races and have the opportunity to work out a long-term contract extension.
He is making a very affordable $4.9 million salary this season, and while that will go up next year in his final season of arbitration, it wouldn't break the bank or prevent the Giants from attempting to extend Cabrera for big money.
The real cost for Choo would be the prospects required to pry him away from Cleveland. A hypothetical package built around Brandon Belt would make sense given that the Indians lack a long-term answer at first base.
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Soriano is making a ton of money this season and through 2014, but if the Cubs were willing to pick up most of his salary and take non-premium prospects in return, the Giants could get the power bat they desperately need.
Soriano, 36, is on a pace for 31 home runs and 36 doubles this season. He is currently hitting .274/.324/.507 with 19 home runs, which would lead the Giants by a significant margin.
I would not recommend taking on much of his salary or trading anything significant for him, but if the cost was minimal, Soriano would give the Giants a massive upgrade in left field, with Cabrera moving to right.
The light-hitting Gregor Blanco-Nate Schierholtz-Justin Christian platoon of fourth outfielders that the Giants are using in right field is just not good enough for a contending team. Soriano would give the Giants some legitimate thump behind Cabrera, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval in the middle of the lineup.
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The odds of Pence being moved appear to be slim, especially after the Phillies gave a massive contract extension to Cole Hamels last week. The Phillies are not rebuilding; however, they could decide to trade Pence for someone close to big league ready in order to get under the luxury tax threshold for next season.
Pence, 29, will enter his final season of arbitration next season, but unlike Choo, he's not going to be very affordable. Pence is making $10.4 million this season, which could balloon up to $15 million next year.
Pence is having a slight down season so far this year, hitting .271/.336/.447 with 17 home runs. However, his career batting line of .289/.342/.480 is much better than his current seasonal batting line.
Pence would probably be a better fit than Choo at AT&T Park because right-handed pull power plays much better than left-handed pull power, given the massive gap in right-center field that knocks down a ton of home runs every year.
However, a trade for Pence might have to be built around Gary Brown, who could replace pending free agent Shane Victorino in centerfield for the Phillies next season. If the asking price is Brown, the answer should be thanks, but no thanks.
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158 games into his pro career, Brandon Crawford is hitting just .223/.289/.323.
On the bright side, he plays excellent defense and he's only 25 years old. I would say that given his youth he's likely to get better, but in two seasons of Double-A ball, he hit just .250/.313/.369.
Yunel Escobar is four years older than Crawford, and he's also not having a great offensive season, hitting just .255/.301/.349. However, Escobar's career line of .285/.357/.394 is more in line with his true talent level, and much better than anything Crawford is likely to ever give the Giants.
Escobar is also an excellent defensive shortstop who the Giants could control through 2015 at a very affordable price of $5 million per season.
It's unclear what the Blue Jays would want in return for Escobar, but given his offensive struggles, the price may be affordable. Gambling on Escobar having a big second half is a much better bet than expecting Crawford to suddenly learn how to hit in the heat of a pennant race.
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Morneau is another left-handed pull hitter that would not be helped by the spacious confines of AT&T Park.
He's on the wrong side of 30, and he's making a lot of money through next season. He's also spent the last three seasons battling injuries, and like Pence, it's unclear how available he is.
However, his name has been on the rumor mill and he would be an offensive upgrade at first base. Target Field in Minnesota is not an easy park to hit at, either, and Morneau is hitting .260/.322/.457 with 13 home runs so far this season.
If the Twins were willing to eat some of the money owed to Morneau, he would be an upgrade at first base on Belt and the recently activated Aubrey Huff.
Belt is hitting just .237/.342/.375 without a home run off of a right-handed pitcher this season, while Huff has looked washed up for two straight seasons. Huff also went missing in action during a road trip in New York due to anxiety issues (h/t The San Francisco Chronicle) and then injured his knee while attempting to celebrate Matt Cain's perfect game.
Giants fans should temper their expectations after Sabean said no big bat was available on the trade market on Sunday. However, while Choo, Soriano, Pence, Escobar and Morneau might not be considered big bats or might not get dealt by Tuesday, the Giants should take at each player because they all can upgrade the team.
If it were up to me, I would make a series run at Choo, and if the Indians decide not to move him, I would turn to Escobar to upgrade shortstop, Soriano to upgrade the outfield and hope that Belt or Hector Sanchez can fix first base internally.
After getting swept by the Dodgers this weekend it should be clear to Sabean that the offense needs a lift at the trading deadline. However, after eight straight seasons of failing to build an above-average offense, it has become unclear whether Sabean has the competence to bolster the offense.