San Francisco Giants Most Tradeable Assets for the 2014 Offseason
The last time the San Francisco Giants failed to make the postseason after winning a championship, general manager Brian Sabean improved the club with two excellent trades after the disappointing 2011 season.
Sabean's deals to acquire center fielder Angel Pagan and left fielder Melky Cabrera helped propel the Giants to their second championship in three seasons. After a huge letdown year in 2013, Sabean may have to find talent on the trade market this offseason to get the Giants back to their winning ways of old in 2014.
The Giants are loaded with pitching prospects at the lower levels of the minor leagues. Kyle Crick, one of the top prospects in baseball, heads a vaunted list of potential trade assets for the Giants this winter.
Let's take a look at each of the club's top trade assets.
No. 1 Kyle Crick
Kyle Crick is the crown jewel of the San Francisco farm system. Baseball America ranked him as the game's 49th best prospect in their mid-season rankings last year.
Crick posted a 1.57 ERA over 14 starts at High-A San Jose in 2013. He struck out 95 hitters in 68.2 innings of work. He features a mid-90s fastball that touches 99 mph, a power curve and a changeup.
The one weakness in Crick's game is his lack of control. After walking 114 hitters over his first 187 minor league innings, he's walked eight batters in 7.2 innings of work thus far in the Arizona Fall League.
Even with the control issues, Crick will likely be the most coveted asset in the Giants organization this winter. If the Giants pursue a blockbuster trade this offseason, any package of prospects they send out will have to be built around Crick.
No. 2 Clayton Blackburn
Clayton Blackburn doesn't have the same level of stuff as Crick, but he's more polished at this stage of his career. Blackburn was selected in the 16th round of the 2011 draft, the same year the Giants used a supplemental first-round pick on Crick.
Blackburn has only walked 56 hitters in 297.2 career minor league innings. He's gone 18-10 with a 2.87 ERA across three levels. He'll likely join Crick at the top of the rotation in the Double-A Eastern League next year.
Blackburn doesn't get his fastball up to the mid-90s, but he has excellent command of a three-pitch arsenal that includes an above-average curveball and changeup. His fastball sits in the high-80s, which limits his ceiling to that of a back-end starter.
Blackburn's command and polish make him a coveted asset despite his lack of top-shelf velocity. The 20-year-old righty is already slated to pitch in the upper minors, which makes him close to big league ready.
No. 3 Edwin Escobar
Edwin Escobar was the only pitcher in the stacked San Jose rotation to get moved to Double-A last year. After posting a 2.89 ERA over 16 appearances with San Jose, Escobar delivered a 2.67 ERA during 10 starts after the promotion.
Escobar is a lefty who features a low-90's fastball, a breaking ball and a changeup. He has well above-average control for a 21-year-old. He struck out 146 hitters against only 30 walks over 128.2 innings in 2013.
He's already proven that he's more than capable at the Double-A level, so any team acquiring Escobar wouldn't have to wait long to see him in the show.
No. 4 Brandon Belt
First baseman Brandon Belt would rank higher on this list if the Giants had any intention of trading him. However, it seems far-fetched for the Giants to consider trading Belt, whom they control for four more years via arbitration. He's estimated to make $2.4 million in his first year of arbitration next year, which makes him easily affordable still.
If the Giants were to deal Belt to plug holes on the pitching staff or in left field, that would only create a new problem spot at first base. After making long-needed mechanical adjustments, Belt hit .326/.390/.525 during the second half of last season. If Belt can maintain that performance for a full season in 2014, the Giants will have a star on their hands.
The Giants have Buster Posey locked up to a long-term deal, however. If the Giants could get a top-of-the-rotation arm for Belt, perhaps they would consider dealing him and moving Posey to first base to keep his bat in the lineup everyday.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Giants "might at least consider looking at [free-agent catcher Brian] McCann." If the Giants did sign McCann, they could go with a time share between Posey and McCann at first base and catcher. That would allow them to move Belt to left field, or trade him to bolster the rotation.
It seems unlikely that the Giants would deal Belt. However, he's probably less untouchable than Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain.
No. 5 Pablo Sandoval
Pablo Sandoval will make $8.25 million in his final year with the Giants next season. For a team needing a third baseman, gambling on Sandoval during a contract year would make a lot of sense.
Sandoval has been incredibly inconsistent during his career. After hitting .333/.381/.543 during his first two seasons, he slumped to .268/.323/.409 in 2010. Sandoval improved his slash line to .315/.357/.552 in 2011 before dropping back to .280/.341/.430 over the past two seasons.
Sandoval is only 27, so he still has the potential to get back to where he was in 2011. If he shows up in great shape and motivated next year, he could have a monster season. However, if he continues to battle his weight, he could be in for another mediocre, injury-plagued campaign.
Speculation has already swirled around the Giants possibly dealing Sandoval this winter. If the Giants trade Sandoval for pitching help, they could then turn to the free-agent market to find a long-term solution at third base.
Given Sandoval's inconsistent career and constant weight issues, it wouldn't be a shock for the Giants to decide they need to look elsewhere for an answer at third base.
No. 6 Andrew Susac
Andrew Susac emerged as the top hitter in the Giants farm system by hitting .256/.362/.458 with 12 home runs at Double-A in 2013. Injuries wiped out most of his second half, but he's making up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League now.
Susac has hit .379/.525/.483 over his first 10 games in the Arizona Fall League. The Giants are stacked at catcher with Posey and Hector Sanchez in the fold, which makes Susac an expendable commodity.
Good offensive catchers are hard to come by, and the Giants have three in their organization at present.
No. 7 Christian Arroyo
The Giants looked to have finally hit a wall with their success in the first round of the draft until Christian Arroyo came along last year.
The Giants nailed the first round of the draft over the last decade with the selections of Matt Cain (2002), Tim Lincecum (2006), Madison Bumgarner (2007), Buster Posey (2008) and Zack Wheeler (2009). However, 2010-12 first-round picks Gary Brown, Joe Panik and Chris Stratton haven't fulfilled expectations to this point.
The Giants used the 25th pick of the 2013 draft on Arroyo, a high school shortstop from Florida. He announced his presence with authority by hitting .326/.388/.511 over his first 45 games.
He has arguably the most upside of any offensive prospect in the Giants system.
No. 8 Chris Stratton
Chris Stratton went one pick after St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha in the 2012 draft. Wacha already has a National League Championship Series MVP Award on his mantle.
Meanwhile, Stratton is off to a bit of a slow start in his career. The 23-year-old righty spent his first minor league season pitching at Low-A Augusta. He went 9-3 with a 3.27 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 132 innings of work. Those were solid numbers, but they weren't spectacular for a college pitcher at such a low level of the minor leagues.
Stratton still has the upside of being a first-round pick with above-average stuff. However, he's a little older and further away from the big leagues than the ideal prospect.