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Why the San Francisco Giants Must Not Trade for a Starting Pitcher

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Why the San Francisco Giants Must Not Trade for a Starting Pitcher
Eric Risberg/Associated Press

To say the least, problems have been plentiful in San Francisco lately.

The Giants offense has gone cold, and as a result, the team's 9.5-game lead in the NL West has evaporated in less than a month. The team is currently behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West standings.

San Francisco hasn't scored more than five runs in 14 games, and it's reached that plateau only three times in that span. Even though promising first baseman Brandon Belt just recently returned from an injury, the offense has its issues.

Angel Pagan's back injury and Pablo Sandoval's minor elbow contusion mean that the team still has ample offensive woes.

Second base has also been a season-long issue, and while the team called up prospect Joe Panik, he isn't a sure thing at second base.

San Francisco's team OBP shows this immense problem. It ranks 25th in this category with a miserable .305 mark.

Because below-average players like Brandon Hicks, Tyler Colvin, Joaquin Arias and Gregor Blanco have been forced to play so much, the team's hitting numbers are down significantly.

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Injuries haven't helped, but it's still clear that even at full strength, the team needs an offensive jolt.

With the team's offensive funk resulting in this lengthy downward spiral, it's certainly a bit astonishing to think that the team would bolster its world-class starting rotation.

While there aren't many, there are certainly available hurlers. David Price and Ian Kennedy are among the premier targets. The Giants could trade for one, and it would add depth to the rotation.

But still, it wouldn't be a good idea.

Fifth starter Ryan Vogelsong has a 3.86 ERA, and the rotation's stellar 3.61 ERA ranks eighth in the league. Even though Matt Cain, who boasts a superb 3.39 career ERA, has struggled, the rotation is doing well.

With Cain, who has a 1.35 ERA in his last two starts, and Lincecum, who had thrown 23.2 consecutive scoreless innings before giving up a solo home run in his last start, finally on track, the rotation is poised for second-half dominance.

Because of these three and Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson, who have both been phenomenal, there isn't a starting pitcher who deserves to be replaced. There is a second baseman who does. Hicks is hitting .164, Arias has a deplorable .392 OPS and Panik has a mediocre .639 OPS.

2013 starter Marco Scutaro has begun his rehab period, but he might not be the same player he was last year. Either way, he has never been a power hitter, and the Giants still need offensive depth.

In other words, adding a second baseman would allow Scutaro, who has experience at shortstop and third base as well, to recover from his nagging back ailment by mostly pinch hitting and substituting for resting or injured players.

According to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News, Scutaro won't be a full-time player when he returns. This enhances the need for a second baseman. 

Luckily for the Giants, there are trade opportunities. All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy isn't garnering much attention, but he's been phenomenal for the Mets. He has a .344 OBP and .758 OPS, and he's scored 52 runs in just 86 games.

Gordon Beckham, who showed promise in his rookie season and currently has a .697 OPS, is also an option. Both players have had respectable seasons, and both would provide a spark to the bottom of the order.

But even if the Giants decide not to pursue one of these players (or Phillies star second baseman Chase Utley), the rotation shouldn't be the main issue to address. The bullpen has good numbers, but there is now a glaring weakness.

Sergio Romo was ousted as closer after blowing three saves in a span of 16 days. The former closer has five blown saves and a putrid 5.35 ERA. Now the Giants lack a true closer.

Santiago Casilla has been a solid setup man, but he also blew six saves in fewer than four months as the team's closer in 2012. Jeremy Affeldt, while a very good reliever, has never been a full-time closer, and Javier Lopez has always been most effective as a left-handed specialist.

That means the Giants could benefit from adding another late-inning reliever. Huston Street, who has just one blown save with the San Diego Padres, could be an option. He has a 1.13 ERA this season, and he could stabilize San Francisco's bullpen.

He is in the NL West, which would seem to make a deal less likely. However, he is also an impending free agent.

This deal likely wouldn't come back to bite the Padres, so it would make sense for the team, which at 39-49 is extremely unlikely to win the division, to trade him to whomever to get some value for him.

San Francisco could also pursue Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who has a 1.35 ERA and has surrendered an opponent OPS of just .469.

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He has a hefty salary, but if the Giants ate a large portion of it, they could land him without unloading the farm.

The team has holes, but those holes aren't in the rotation. There's a reason why the team has a 4-7 record in its last 11 games despite nine quality starts. The sputtering offense and the crumbling bullpen are to blame.

San Francisco needs to address second base, the closer situation and potentially outfield depth (if Pagan doesn't return soon) before adding a starting pitcher. Offense has hampered the Giants for a long time, and it needs to be solved.

The Giants have the resources to make these deals. Brian Sabean needs to pull the trigger if the deal is right, but he needs to make sure he's solving the right problem.

And right now, that problem is not in the rotation.

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