The San Francisco Giants went into the trading deadline needing to fill three obvious areas of deficiency: a lack of power in the lineup, a lack of depth on the bench and in the bullpen due to the loss of closer Brian Wilson earlier this season.
For Giants' general manager Brian Sabean, two out of three wasn't bad.
The late-inning reliever never materialized, because it didn't exist. The relievers that the Giants were rumored to be interested in were ultimately not legitimate options to replace Santiago Casilla in the ninth inning.
Jonathan Broxton and Brandon League were the two biggest names that were moved on the relief market, and while both throw hard, neither misses enough bats to be considered an upgrade on Casilla. You can't fault Sabean for failing to acquire bullpen help when the help that was out there wasn't good enough to warrant selling part of the farm for.
Casilla has been awful over the past month, but his strikeout rate per nine innings (K/9) of 10.2 is much better than that of Broxton (6.31 K/9) or League (5.44 K/9).
In acquiring Marco Scutaro and cash from Colorado for minor league non-prospect Charlie Culberson, Sabean bought low on a player who is a good bet to bounce back in the second half. Scutaro struggled in Colorado, but the main culprit was simply bad luck. Despite an excellent line drive rate, Scutaro saw his batting average drop to .271 from .299 last season.
Scutaro struck out looking in a crucial at-bat on Monday night, but he's also hitting .400 with a walk in three games since coming to the Giants. With Pablo Sandoval on the shelf, Scutaro is probably the best hitting infielder on the current roster. Giants' manager Bruce Bochy is going to have a hard time keeping Scutaro out of the lineup when Sandoval returns.
When Sandoval comes back, the Giants could play Scutaro over the light-hitting Ryan Theriot at second base, over the similarly offensively-challenged Brandon Crawford at short, or they could leave Scutaro at third and replace struggling first baseman Brandon Belt with Sandoval. More likely, Scutaro will be a spot starter at all three infield positions, and a massive upgrade over Joaquin Arias and Manny Burriss, who was recently designated for assignment, on the bench.
While the acquisition of Scutaro did not garner the same excitement as Tuesday's acquisition of Hunter Pence, the deal for Scutaro may turn out to be just as valuable given the low cost to pry him away from Colorado.
The Giants' acquisition of Pence on Tuesday was more costly in terms of both cash and prospects, but it filled the huge need for thump in the middle of the lineup. The Giants entered Tuesday with the fewest home runs in baseball and the 25th worst slugging percentage.
Pence is having a down year, but his 17 home runs and .447 slugging percentage provide a huge boost to the middle of the Giants lineup. Like Scutaro, Pence is a solid bet to improve over the final two months of the season. His .784 OPS this season is down from his career .823 OPS, and way down from the .872 OPS he put up last season.
The Giants had to part with Nate Schierholtz, number two prospect Tommy Joseph and minor league pitcher Seth Rosin to get Pence. The cost was high, but with the Los Angeles Dodgers acquiring League, Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino before the deadline, the Giants were forced into action.
Sabean gets high marks for his deadline work, but that doesn't automatically mean the Giants will hold off the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in the tight National League West race. All three teams are evenly matched on paper after the flurry of trade activity over the past week.
While I hated to see Joseph get dealt, Sabean did well to hold onto top prospect Gary Brown as well as all of the Giants' top pitching prospects. In the end, he gets an 'A' for upgrading the roster without dealing Brown, Belt or any of the top arms in the system, and for getting a player in Pence who the Giants control for next season as well.
The only question left to answer is whether or not these moves are enough to hold off the surging Dodgers and Diamondbacks. If the Giants come up short, it won't be for a lack of in-season activity by their tire-kicking general manager.