San Francisco Giants' Trade Deadline Strategy Blueprint
The San Francisco Giants have fallen six-and-a-half games behind the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks. The Giants have stumbled towards the All-Star break, having lost 12 of their last 14 games. They are now fourth in the division.
In 2012, general manager Brian Sabean made three moves which helped the Giants make the playoffs and eventually become the World Series champions. Prior to the deadline, Sabean traded for Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence, which provided a big lift to the team.
Sabean then acquired Jose Mijares off waivers from the Royals—giving the Giants a valuable third left-handed reliever.
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching this season, Sabean and the Giants have to make a critical decision before they solidify their strategy.
Will the Giants make moves to try and get back into the heat of the race, or is it time to start rebuilding for next year?
Given that the Giants are the reigning world champions and no team has run away with the NL West, it is most likely that the Giants will try to bolster their team for a stretch run.
Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez—all free agents at the end of the 2013 season—are players who could be dealt if the Giants decide to cash in their chips on this season.
That, however, is unlikely. Giving up is not in the Giants' blood, as they have repeatedly proven over the past three years.
The Giants would like to add bullpen help, a solid starting pitcher and one more bat. That's the wish list, but accomplishing it is easier said than done.
Look for Sabean to try to make some key additions without losing top pitching prospects like Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton or Clayton Blackburn.
Let's look at 10 players who could be on the trading block and assess the likelihood of them coming to San Francisco.
All stats are courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
Salary details are courtesy of baseballprospectus.com.
No. 10: Chase Utley
Chase Utley has been a fan favorite in Philadelphia since he broke in back in 2003. Utley is a five-time All-Star but has been plagued by injuries in the past three seasons.
Finally, Utley is healthy and playing well. He is currently hitting .281, with 11 home runs and 30 RBI. He has a strong OBP at .345, with an OPS of .859.
Utley will be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. He is being paid over $15 million this year.
If the Giants make a move for Utley, they will likely require the Phillies to cover a portion of his remaining salary, which would be roughly $7 million.
The other issue is where the Giants would play Utley, as they already have Marco Scutaro—an All-Star at second base.
There are a couple options. The Giants could use a four-player rotation at three infield positions, not counting shortstop. Utley can play second or first base. When he's at second, Scutaro can also move over to third base and spell Pablo Sandoval.
Brandon Belt could play both first base and get some action in left field. The Giants are not getting enough production out of left field. Inserting Utley in the infield and moving Belt to left would not be out of the question.
Utley is an institution in Philadelphia, and the Phillies will ask for a lot to part with him.
Do not expect Sabean to give up a lot for a 34-year-old infielder with bad knees. The rent-a-player approach is not an ideal strategy for the Giants. The odds of Utley wearing a Giants uniform are very slim.
No. 9: Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy was an All-Star in 2012 for the Chicago White Sox. At the age of 32, Peavy still has some gas left in the tank.
With the White Sox 18 games under .500, this is a team looking to cut salaries and rebuild. Peavy is on the books for $14.5 million per year for this season and again in 2014.
Peavy has thrown 67 innings this year, allowing 63 hits and 15 walks, while striking out 66. Peavy has an ERA of 4.30 and WHIP of 1.164.
Although Peavy could help the Giants, it's extremely unlikely that Sabean will agree to anything that will add so much to the Giants' payroll.
No. 8: Alex Rios
Alex Rios has been linked to the Giants several times over the past few years. A powerful right-handed hitter is an asset the Giants have coveted for several years. For whatever reason, the right deal was never made.
Rios would add some much needed punch to the Giants' offense. With the White Sox, Rios is currently hitting .268 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI.
Rios is under contract for $13 million in 2014. If the Giants acquire him, it may mean the end of Hunter Pence's time with the Giants following this season.
In addition to the high salary level, the Giants may be concerned with Rios' defense in the outfield. He has only played 32 of his 83 games in right field, with the remainder of his starts as a DH.
Rios has only played one career game in left field, so it would probably mean Pence would have to move.
With defense being so important, especially at AT&T Park, Rios is not a good fit for the Giants. Rios will struggle defensively and cost the Giants in the field.
No. 7: Glen Perkins
It would take a lot to pry Glen Perkins away from the Twins. However, with Minnesota 11 games out in the AL Central, the Twins will be sellers at the trade deadline.
Perkins will make $3.75 million in each of the next two years, which is very attractive to the Giants. With Javier Lopez a free agent following the 2013 season, adding Perkins will be a good move now, as well as for the next two seasons.
Perkins is having a very good season with the Twins. In 32.2 innings of work, Perkins has allowed only 18 hits and seven walks, while striking out 45. He also has 20 saves, with an ERA of 1.93 and an outstanding WHIP of 0.765.
If Sabean can pull off a deal to acquire Perkins without giving up Kyle Crick, it would be an excellent move.
No. 6: Matt Thornton
Matt Thornton, who will be 37 years of age in September, is not part of your ideal trade scenario. However, he could be a nice addition for the Giants.
With Jose Mijares having problems with his consistency, Thornton could help solidify the Giants' bullpen.
Thornton has appeared in 38 games, throwing 26.2 innings. Over that span, he has allowed 23 hits and nine walks, while striking out 20. His ERA is 3.04, with a WHIP of 1.200.
Thornton would give manager Bruce Bochy another quality lefty out of the bullpen. If the Giants chose to go this direction, he could replace Jose Mijares.
At his age and also with an expiring contract, Giants' GM Brian Sabean would not have to give up much to acquire Thornton.
No. 5: Joba Chamberlain
Chamberlain pitched very well in his first couple years, but battled injuries in 2011 and 2012. Chamberlain appears to be healthy, but he has not been very effective.
In 20.1 innings of work, Chamberlain has allowed 26 hits and 10 walks. He has displayed a live arm, however, as he has struck out 22. Chamberlain's ERA is a very high 5.75, with a WHIP of 1.770.
A change of scenery could be exactly what Chamberlain needs at this point in his career. With him being a free agent following this season, Chamberlain could likely be had for a mid-level prospect.
The Giants are awaiting the return of Santiago Casilla, which should happen later this week. Nevertheless, another quality arm from the right side would be a positive addition for the Giants.
No. 4: Matt Garza
The Giants went after Miami starter Ricky Nolasco, but lost out to the Dodgers. With Nolasco now off the market, Matt Garza could be next on the the Giants' target list.
Garza battled injuries last year and is finally rounding back into top form. He has thrown 57.1 innings this year, allowing 46 hits and 18 walks, while striking out 52.
The Cubs are unlikely to retain Garza, who will hit the free-agent market following the season. His 2013 contract is $10.25 million, so the Giants would be on the hook for roughly $5 million for the remainder of the season.
The acquisition of Garza would allow the Giants to move Chad Gaudin back into the bullpen and solidify two areas of weakness.
If the price tag does not include Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta or Clayton Blackburn, a deal for Garza would definitely be a positive one for the Giants.
No. 3: Jesse Crain
Jesse Crain was one of the most attractive relievers on the market, but a recent shoulder strain landed him on the 15-day DL.
Crain has been very good this year, as his 0.74 ERA and 1.145 WHIP can attest.
The Giants have a history of making deals with the White Sox, and with Chicago out of the race in the AL Central, they could be a good trading partner.
There are two concerns the Giants would have in making a deal for Crain. The first issue is whether his arm comes back healthy after his DL stint.
Secondly, Crain will be a free agent after the 2013 season. The Giants will not want to trade a top prospect to the White Sox, nor should they. If Sabean can make a deal to acquire Crain without giving up one of their best prospects, he should jump at the opportunity.
The Giants would love to add a quality right-handed reliever, and if healthy, Crain would fill that need.
No. 2: Jeff Francoeur
Jeff Francoeur was waived by the Royals and has passed through, as no other team made a claim.
The Giants could sign Francoeur for the pro-rated Major League minimum, while the Royals would be responsible for the remainder of his $6.75 million contract.
The Giants' offense has struggled mightily over the past few weeks, and the loss of Angel Pagan is proving to be very costly. Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres were supposed to platoon, but now they are both starting.
Blanco is ideally a fourth outfielder and Torres a fifth, but now, both are starting. Neither player provides enough punch to the lineup to warrant being an everyday player.
Francoeur would come cheap, but could provide a jolt of energy to the moribund Giants' offense. He was doing very poorly this year with the Royals, batting only .208 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 183 at-bats.
Francoeur is a good defensive player with a very strong arm, so he would not be a liability in the Giants' outfield. A change of scenery might be just what he needs at this point in his career.
In 2010, the Giants picked up Pat Burrell and Cody Ross off the scrap heap, and both were instrumental to the Giants' World Series run. It's entirely possible that Francoeur could provide the same lift that Burrell and Ross did in 2010.
No. 1: Bud Norris
Bud Norris would be an ideal acquisition by Brian Sabean and the Giants. He is the type of young, up-and-coming pitcher the Giants need, and his contract status is favorable.
Norris is making $3 million this year and will undoubtedly get a raise for 2014 and '15. However, the Giants would control Norris for at least the next two seasons as an arbitration player. Norris is not eligible for free agency until the 2015 season.
At the age of 28, Norris is at the peak years of his career. Norris has made 18 starts for the Astros this year, compiling a record of 6-7, with an ERA of 3.22 and WHIP of 1.367.
These numbers are even more impressive considering Norris pitches half his games in Houston, which is a bandbox. Norris could flourish in the spacious AT&T Park, home of the Giants.
With Tim Lincecum not under contract for 2014 and the Giants planning to execute a buyout of Barry Zito's final year, also 2014, it's conceivable that both Lincecum and Zito will not be on the roster next year.
The addition of Bud Norris will soften that blow. Looking ahead, Norris would be an ideal third starter for the Giants.