Tim Lincecum could prove to be a decent trade chip for the Giants.
The San Francisco Giants are hovering around .500 deep into the month of June, and many are already looking forward to the July 31 trade deadline.
Although the Giants almost certainly will not be sellers, they could still end up parting with a player or two from the big league roster.
Last year, the Giants packaged right fielder Nate Schierholtz with two minor leaguers to acquire Hunter Pence. One season later, the Giants could use an upgrade in the other outfield corner.
Unfortunately for the defending world champions, acquiring a left fielder won’t be the club’s most pressing need. Due to both injury and ineffectiveness, the Giants are in desperate want of both starting and relief pitching.
But who will they give up in order to land the new talent? Good players don’t come cheap, a fact that became painfully obvious to Giants fans when the team parted with top prospect Zack Wheeler to land Carlos Beltran.
This year won’t offer a repeat of the Beltran debacle, mainly because the Giants don’t have any prospects in their system who are as highly regarded as Wheeler was—and still is. So if the Giants want to improve their roster, they will likely have to part with an established big leaguer.
Let’s take a look at who they have to offer and what each player’s odds of being dealt are.
- Matt Cain: 0 percent
- Madison Bumgarner: 0 percent
- Ryan Vogelsong: 5 percent
- Chad Gaudin: 10 percent
- Barry Zito: 10 percent
- Tim Lincecum: 30 percent
The Giants recently extended the contracts of both Cain and Bumgarner, making it evident that the organization views the two starters as long-term anchors of the rotation. There is no scenario in which Cain or Bumgarner will be dealt.
Vogelsong is injured and was ineffective before hitting the disabled list. That being said, if the righty comes back strong and pitches well before the trade deadline, it’s not impossible to imagine that a team desperate for starting pitching would give up a decent prospect for the well-traveled veteran. But the Giants themselves are shallow in that department, making it very unlikely Vogelsong will be wearing a new uniform come August.
Gaudin is an interesting case. If Vogelsong proves himself healthy before the deadline, the Giants could elect to move Lincecum to the bullpen. Should that happen, Gaudin could be packaged with a B-level prospect to a bullpen-desperate team in exchange for a fifth starter. But if Gaudin continues to be effective as a starting pitcher, he almost certainly will stay put.
As long as Zito doesn’t reach 200 innings pitched this year, his contract will come to a close at the end of the 2013 season (with a $7 million buyout). Last postseason, the enigmatic lefty showed he can still be a factor in crucial games, making him a viable option for a playoff team in need of starting pitching. But if the Giants want to get anything in return, they would have to cover most of the remaining balance of his contract.
Of the six pitchers who have started games for the Giants this season, Lincecum is most likely to be traded. Despite his recent struggles, he is still a two-time Cy Young Award winner who is averaging 8.82 strikeouts per nine innings. Additionally, he showed in the 2012 postseason that he can be dominant out of the bullpen. Based on his skill set, he could net the Giants a decent return in a potential trade.
- Marco Scutaro: 0 percent
- Brandon Crawford: 0 percent
- Buster Posey: 0 percent
- Nick Noonan: 5 percent
- Joaquin Arias: 5 percent
- Guillermo Quiroz: 10 percent
- Tony Abreu: 10 percent
- Brandon Belt: 20 percent
- Pablo Sandoval: 25 percent
Posey and Crawford are both players who the Giants will keep around for as long as humanly possible. End of discussion.
Noonan and Arias are both valuable to the Giants as utility infielders. The club likely wouldn’t have any qualms with trading Noonan, but he’s simply not good enough to net any decent talent. Arias could be part of a package for a fifth starter, although that scenario is not particularly imaginable.
If Sanchez and Arias can prove their 2012 seasons were not flukes, and if Scutaro and Sandoval remain healthy, Quiroz and Abreu could become expendable. Even so, neither player would bring back anything significant in a trade.
Belt has been a frustrating player to watch. At times he shows the type of ability that makes Giants fans salivate. But, more frequently, the lanky lefty looks lost at the plate, causing talent evaluators to wonder if he will ever be able to put it all together on a consistent basis. If the Giants grow tired of waiting, they could deal him to a club that thinks it could extract the promising talent from the 25-year-old first baseman.
Sandoval has drawn frequent criticisms about his conditioning and inability to stay healthy. But when he’s right, the Kung Fu Panda is one of the toughest outs in the game. If Sandoval comes back from his foot strain and continues to rake, the Giants could land a substantial return for the two-time All-Star. Although he’s a fan favorite and a proven revenue builder, his apparent unwillingness to stay in shape could cause the Giants to cash in while they still can.
- Hunter Pence: 0 percent
- Angel Pagan: 5 percent
- Gregor Blanco: 10 percent
- Juan Perez: 10 percent
- Andres Torres: 20 percent
The Giants outfield is already in dire straits, and the loss of Pence would likely knock them out of contention. Throw in the fact that the club is interested in re-signing the quirky right-hander, and you’ve got the makings of a player who won’t be moved.
After re-signing Pagan to a four-year, $40 million deal, the Giants were hoping for consistent production from the leadoff spot in the order. Due to injury and mediocre performance on both offense and defense, the Giants would probably be willing to ship Pagan to any club willing to assume his contract. But $10 million per season is a lot to pay for a hitter with a career slash line of .280/.332/.420.
Blanco and Perez are both speedy center fielders who play Gold Glove-caliber defense. Either player would be a decent fourth outfielder on any team, although the jury is still out on Perez’s bat. But the Giants seem to value defense above all else, and the two highlight-reel speedsters are likely to remain with the club.
Torres offers offensive production that is superior to that of most fourth or fifth outfielders. Plus, his speed and ability to play all three outfield positions could make him a cheap, coveted option at the trade deadline. If Pagan can re-establish himself as the everyday center fielder and Perez continues to show promise, Torres could be expendable.
- Sergio Romo: 0 percent
- Jeremy Affeldt: 0 percent
- Santiago Casilla: 0 percent
- Javier Lopez: 5 percent
- Jean Machi: 10 percent
- Sandy Rosario: 10 percent
- Jake Dunning: 10 percent
- Jose Mijares: 20 percent
Romo is a bona fide closer making only $3.5 million. He’s not going anywhere. Affeldt was recently re-signed to a three-year, $18 million deal. He is the club’s eighth-inning man with Casilla—who also had his contract extended before the 2013 season—on the DL. All three pitchers are staying put.
Lopez is set to be a free agent at the end of the season, and the only way the Giants deal the lefty specialist is if they fall out of contention. Not likely.
Machi, Rosario and Dunning are all unknown commodities at this time. If Casilla comes back strong, one of the three could potentially be part of a trade for a fifth starter.
After being claimed on waivers in 2012, Mijares pitched well for the Giants. In 2013, however, he hasn’t been nearly as effective. Because there are two other lefties in the bullpen already, the Giants would likely part with Mijares if they received a decent offer.
The Giants are in the market for pitching, which usually comes from teams that are out of contention. These teams almost always want cheap, young talent in return. Besides Brandon Belt, the Giants don’t have any big leaguers who fit the bill.
Therefore, the most likely scenario is that a promising minor leaguer, such as Kyle Crick or Gary Brown, will be the headlining name in any trade for an above-average starting pitcher.