In 2011, San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean dealt pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets in exchange for the offensive juggernaut Carlos Beltran. Beltran was brought to bolster the meager Giants offense and push them into the playoffs, but the team ultimately fell short.
In 2012, Sabean opted for a more low-key approach, obtaining second baseman Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies. Few could have predicted the tremendous impact the veteran infielder would have for his new team: Unlike Beltran, Scutaro provided the spark the Giants offense needed and led the team straight to the playoffs and a World Series victory.
Scutaro was the blockbuster trade of 2012.
Alas, it is now 2013. With the trade deadline fast approaching, the window of opportunity for the San Francisco Giants to make a blockbuster trade is closing fast.
It is no secret the Giants need to add another arm to their beaten-down starting rotation. The only source of consistency among the starting five is left-hander Madison Bumgarner. The rest leave much to be desired thus far this season:
- Matt Cain: 6-6, 5.00 ERA, 16 home runs allowed
- Tim Lincecum: 5-10, 4.73 ERA, 1.38 WHIP (and, to be fair, one no-hitter)
- Barry Zito: 4-7, 4.88 ERA, 1.66 WHIP
If the Giants want to recover from a forgettable first half, they better shop around for a starting pitcher.
Unfortunately, the market is thin and only getting thinner. The Giants already lost out on Ricky Nolasco, who instead went to division rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The highly touted Matt Garza was recently traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers.
Let us assume, for a moment, that the Giants do indeed have a legitimate shot at both hurlers. The choice between Lee and Norris brings to mind the Giants' 2011 trade deadline strategy versus the 2012 strategy.
In simpler terms, Lee is to Beltran as Norris is to Scutaro.
The analogy is far from perfect. But on a basic level, it does work. A successful trade for Lee would make every headline; a trade for Norris is clearly more under the radar—not as much as the Scutaro trade, but definitely quieter than the alternative.
Norris is an excellent fit for the Giants for a number of reasons. He won't be a free agent until 2016 and thus has long-term value. He has youth on his side as well: Norris broke into the majors in 2009 and is only 28 years young.
Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong are free agents to be and San Francisco has to be concerned with Matt Cain's sudden implosion this year. With reigning NL MVP Buster Posey still performing well and Pablo Sandoval assumingly getting healthy over the All-Star break, don't be surprised if the Giants make a run at the up-for-grabs NL West. Their playoff odds are low but an acquisition such as Bud Norris could stabilize their rotation and allow them to try to trade Lincecum for outfield help. Edwin Escobar or Andrew Susac could pose as decent trade bait that Houston could ask for.
Even if the Giants lose any playoff viability, they still need to add a reinforcement to their rotation. Prospects Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn, while potential stars, are still a ways away from making their MLB debuts. Zito enters the free-agent market after this season, as does Lincecum.
This is an interesting transition period for the Giants pitching staff. With a starting five so rock-solid, considered by many to be the toughest in baseball, it is almost a false reality with nearly every starting pitcher struggling this season.
The status quo needs to change. Young arms are waiting in the wings, but the Giants need help and the need it now.
Sabean must start wheeling and dealing for Norris or another comparable young arm before the deadline approaches. Sometimes, the general needs to bring in some reinforcements.