5 Reasons the SF Giants Hit a Home Run at the MLB Trade Deadline
The San Francisco Giants had lost five-straight games, all at home. The team was floundering as their hitters were struggling, and their pitching was starting to show signs of fatigue.
As the trade deadline approached, it was incumbent upon Giants' GM Brian Sabean to do something to insert some positive spirit back into the team. Sabean's hands had been tied by the Giants' ownership group, which previously had not authorized him to take on a lot of extra salary.
However, a five-game losing streak has a way of changing one's perceptions. The Giants' ownership group opened their collective wallets and Sabean was able to make some moves.
Sabean, given a new sense of freedom, acted quickly and, I believe, hit a home run with his acquisitions. He fortified the Giants offensively and on the bench, both of which were huge needs.
Let's take a closer look at five key ways the Giants helped themselves and the ramifications of Sabean's moves.
5. Marco Scutaro Is a Solid Addition
The acquisition of Marco Scutaro was an excellent trade for the Giants. He immediately fills in at third base for the injured Pablo Sandoval. In addition, Scutaro is a veteran, who will give the Giants a solid at-bat virtually every time he comes to the plate, as well as good defense.
Scutaro has played mostly second base and shortstop throughout his career. If Giants manager Bruce Bochy decides to put Sandoval back at third when he returns from the DL, Scutaro can platoon with shortstop Brandon Crawford and give second baseman Ryan Theriot a rest from time to time.
More likely, however, Scutaro will stay at third base and Bochy will move Pablo Sandoval over to first base, where Brandon Belt has been a big disappointment.
I'm sure Sandoval will be instructed not to do the splits anymore when trying to stretch out and catch a throw. When someone is as big and overweight as the Panda, it's never wise to try something like that.
With the trade to pick up Scutaro, the Giants also designated Emmanuel Burriss for assignment. Burriss was adding almost no productivity to the 25-man roster and was seldom used by Bochy.
4. The Giants Needed to Counter the Moves by the Dodgers and Diamondbacks
If the San Francisco Giants had not made a major deal at the trade deadline, their fans would have been irate. More importantly, the message it would have sent to the Giants players was that ownership was not totally committed to winning.
Nothing takes the wind out of your sails like indifference and a lack of belief. Had the Giants settled for just the Marco Scutaro deal, that would have sent the wrong message to the team, especially with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks making aggressive moves.
The Dodgers have acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Brandon League, all of whom strengthen their roster.
Ramirez fills a gaping hole at third base, and if he's engaged, has the talent to play like a superstar. Joining the Dodgers with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, Ramirez does not need to "be the man," which lowers the pressure placed on him. He will be engaged and focused for the stretch drive in Los Angeles.
Victorino solidifies the Dodgers outfield, as they now have three quality stars patrolling the vast grounds at Chavez Ravine. Victorino will most likely bat at the top of the order, and if he can get on base consistently, it will give Kemp, Ethier and Ramirez an excellent chance to do some major damage.
League has been a fine power pitcher in years past, but had struggled at times this season in Seattle. He gives the Dodgers another power arm in the bullpen to complement Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario. League will undoubtedly get an adrenaline boost pitching for a contender.
In Arizona, the Diamondbacks have been quietly making up ground on both the Giants and Dodgers. Kirk Gibson's squad stands only three-and-a-half games off the lead in the NL West.
Arizona acquired Chris Johnson, a power-hitting third baseman, from the Astros. He paid immediate dividends, blasting a grand slam to help beat the Dodgers in his debut with the D-Backs.
With both Arizona and Los Angeles making major moves, it was incumbent upon the Giants to follow suit. By doing so, they have strengthened themselves to battle it out for the NL West crown and a playoff berth.
3. The Giants Didn't Really Give Up a Whole Lot to Make These Deals
If you take a close look at the deals that netted the Giants Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro, the Giants did not really give up that much.
Traded in the Pence deal were outfielder Nate Schierholtz and two minor league prospects, catcher Tommy Joseph and reliever Seth Rosin. Schierholtz was frustrated by his status as a spot starter and late-inning defensive replacement. He felt he should have been given a shot at a regular starting job.
In reality, manager Bruce Bochy gave Schierholtz several chances to establish himself as an everyday player. Schierholtz proved to be very inconsistent, prone to long slumps and injury when he played regularly.
The real issue was Schierholtz's lack of run production as a corner outfielder. This year, in 196 plate appearances, Schierholtz has five home runs and only 17 RBI. In his career, over 1,316 plate appearances, Schierholtz has only 23 home runs and 119 RBI. His career OBP of .319 and SLG of .412 are also subpar.
Schierholtz is a fine defensive outfielder and can get hot for brief stretches. However, he has never been able to sustain his hitting and is best suited as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
The trade to Philadelphia gives Schierholtz another chance, but unless he is able to produce more than he did in San Francisco, he will likely find himself in the same role he had with the Giants.
Joseph was one of the Giants' better prospects. He has shown very good power in the minors, but the Giants are deep at the catching position. In addition to Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez, the Giants also have another good, young prospect in Andrew Susac. Joseph, therefore, became expendable.
Seth Rosin is a mid-range prospect with a 4.31 ERA in A-ball at San Jose.
In the deal that netted the Giants Marco Scutaro, Sabean gave up infielder Charlie Culberson. He had a brief appearance with the Giants earlier this year, but hit only .136 in 22 at-bats.
Culberson is only 23 years of age, so he does have some upside potential. However, in my opinion, he looks like a career minor league player. In six professional seasons, Culberson has never hit above .290.
This year in Triple-A Fresno, Culberson was batting only .236 with an OBP of .283. He also does not have a great deal of power, as his season high for home runs is 16, which he accomplished in A-ball at San Jose in 2010.
In looking at the players the Giants gave up, it was a very small price to pay for the chance to win now.
2. The Giants Retained Their Top Two Prospects, Gary Brown and Joe Panik
The fact that Giants GM Brian Sabean was able to make these deals without giving up Gary Brown or Joe Panik was outstanding.
Brown was the Giants' first-round selection in the 2010 amateur draft, and Panik was their first pick in 2011. Brown had an excellent year in 2011, playing for the Giants' High-A team in San Jose. He hit .336 with 14 home runs, 80 RBI, 115 runs scored and also stole 53 bases.
Brown is also a good defensive player and projects to be the Giants' starting center fielder and lead-off hitter in a year or two. The current plan is for the Giants to move him to Triple-A Fresno in 2013. He could be a mid-season call-up or position himself to take over the starting job in 2014.
After getting off to a very slow start this year at the Giants' Double-A affiliate in Richmond, he has come on strong of late. Brown is hitting .290 with seven home runs, 37 RBI, 61 runs scored and 28 steals. He has been thrown out 14 times trying to steal, so that is an area Brown still needs to improve.
Meanwhile, Panik has been getting regular playing time in San Jose and is having a solid though unspectacular season thus far. In 414 at-bats, Panik is hitting .275 with five home runs, 59 RBI and 62 runs scored.
The Giants hope Panik develops into a starting middle infielder at the major league level in the next few years.
By holding onto Brown and Panik, the Giants have retained the top two non-pitching prospects in their organization. For a team that hasn't had much success developing top position players outside of Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, if either Brown or Panik can become an impact player, it would be a huge plus for the Giants.
1. Hunter Pence Is a Great Addition to the Giants
Of all the players on the market, the Giants made the deal for the one guy I was hoping they would get. Hunter Pence is an excellent all-around player and will immediately bolster the Giants lineup.
In addition, Pence is a decent outfielder—not great, but better than some of the other potential trade targets that were rumored to be options for the Giants. These included Josh Willingham and Alfonso Soriano, who are both poor fielders.
Pence will most likely hit in the fifth spot in the batting order. He will be a better RBI man than either Pablo Sandoval or Angel Pagan. At the time of the trade, Pence was hitting .271 with 17 home runs and 59 RBI. He also has an OBP of .336 and OPS of .784, both very strong numbers.
In addition, Pence is only 29 years old and under the Giants' arbitration control through 2013. Unlike their deal last year for Carlos Beltran, where they traded top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler, this is not a rent-a-player situation.
The Giants will have Pence at least through the 2013 season. This also gives them some insurance in case they are unable to sign Melky Cabrera, who will be a free agent after this season.
The acquisition of Pence gives the Giants a proven run producer who will bat in the heart of their order. This is the move that was necessary in order for the Giants to have their best chance to win the NL West.
The Time Is Now For The San Francisco Giants
In the game of baseball, the window of opportunity can be very short. After winning the World Series in 2010, the Giants were hit hard by injuries.
2010 was a magical season for the Giants, as they won their first title since their move to San Francisco back in 1958. The Giants players, management and fans want to experience that championship feeling again.
The deals completed by GM Brian Sabean enable the Giants to have the chance to make another run at the title this year. I give the Giants' ownership group credit for opening the purse strings to allow Sabean to make these aggressive moves.
Great pitching can be a very fleeting thing, and nobody knows what the future holds. Ryan Vogelsong is 35 years old and cannot be expected to be this good for too much longer.
Who knows if Tim Lincecum can recapture anything close to the brilliance he displayed earlier in his career. Even if he does, Lincecum will be a free agent after the 2013 season, and there is no guarantee he will stay with the Giants.
Age, injuries and free agency have a way of humbling a team, and especially a strong pitching staff. The Giants' window of opportunity is right now, with Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Melky Cabrera and Vogelsong all playing at a very high level.
Although the Giants could have used another relief pitcher, they have certainly hit a home run with their trade deadline deals. Sabean did his job; now it will be up to manager Bruce Bochy and the players to make it happen.